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Betting a billion bucks you can't fill in a perfect NCAA bracket

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Rochester Business Journal
March 21, 2014

I don’t mean to dump lake effect on anyone’s parade; Lord knows we’ve had enough of the white stuff already during this frigid, endless winter. But the odds of your filling out a perfect NCAA basketball tournament bracket and winning the billion-dollar prize being offered by Warren Buffett and Quicken Loans are 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 to 1.

That’s 9.2 quintillion to 1. (To be honest with you, I’d never even heard the word “quintillion” before. Once the figure exceeded 12 digits, I was totally lost.)

Forbes recently put Buffett’s estimated worth at $58.2 billion, so this isn’t exactly a huge gamble on his part. In other words, he won’t have to worry about filing for bankruptcy if someone pulls off the miracle. I’m not counting on Buffett writing me a check, though it was nice to fantasize for a fleeting moment about what I could do with a billion dollars. At this point, I’d just be happy if I got enough picks right to recoup a few bucks from a friend’s office pool. Given my track record, the odds of that happening probably are about 9.2 quintillion to 1.

NFL playoff expansion bad idea
It appears the NFL is going to expand the playoffs to include 14 teams by 2015. That’s good news for the Buffalo Bills, who currently have the league’s longest postseason famine—14 years and counting. I’m not sure if I like the idea, though. It further waters down the regular season and allows mediocre teams to receive playoff bids they really don’t deserve. I think the regular season should count for a lot.

The number of teams qualifying for the playoffs in the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League is a joke. But I understand this is all about money. Two more qualifiers means another playoff game to be televised, which means additional revenue, and that’s what it’s all about. If sports leagues keep heading in this direction, we’ll reach a point where they stage open tournaments and everyone will qualify. Wouldn’t that be grand?

Surgeon deserves enshrinement

It wasn’t that long ago that a major league baseball pitcher with a bum elbow had only one option: retirement. But that changed in 1974 when Frank Jobe M.D. performed experimental surgery on then-Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Tommy John. The operation, which came to be known as Tommy John surgery, was a huge success. It revived John’s career (he pitched an additional 14 seasons) and saved the careers of hundreds of other pitchers who came after him.

I bring this up because Jobe passed away recently. The Baseball Hall of Fame presented a special award to him last summer, but I’d like to see the sports shrine go a step further and induct Jobe into the Hall as a contributor. His revolutionary surgery positively impacted the lives of thousands of athletes, not only in baseball but in other sports, such as football, tennis and basketball. I can’t think of too many people in baseball history who had a greater influence.

I worry about ex-Patriots
The Bills have been quite active in the free agent market this offseason, and I like several of the signings, particularly Brandon Spikes, a physical inside linebacker who could help stop opponents from running roughshod over Buffalo. My only concern is that Spikes comes from the New England Patriots, and history teaches us to be wary of players whom Coach Bill Belichick doesn’t try to retain.

Two prominent examples of Buffalo ex-Patriots are quarterback Drew Bledsoe and cornerback Lawyer Milloy. Each enjoyed relatively brief success with the Bills but ultimately proved to be past his prime after leaving New England. Spikes reportedly had some philosophical differences with Belichick and his staff. Belichick usually makes the right personnel decisions, but he’s not infallible. Bills fans hope this turns out the way Wes Welker’s departure did. The speedy, sure-handed receiver left the Patriots to pursue free agency last year and wound up in Denver, where he enjoyed a highly productive season catching passes from Peyton Manning.

ACC tourney should be in New York

There have been reports that the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament will eventually include New York City in its rotation, and I think that’s fantastic. I hated to see the Big East become a shell of itself after Syracuse’s departure, but I understood the inevitability of the breakup, given the recent conference realignment movement in major college sports.

To me, the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden was by far the best of all the postseason tourneys leading up to the NCAAs, and a huge part of that was having basketball-mad New York City as the host. Nothing against Greensboro, N.C., and other Tobacco Road sites, but they aren’t the Big Apple. I’d love to see the ACC tournament permanently in New York, but that isn’t going to happen, so this is the next best thing.

Open the baseball season in U.S.

I don’t have a problem with Bud Selig scheduling some regular-season games in foreign countries. I think it is important in this global economy to expose other places to this great game. So I applaud MLB’s commissioner for scheduling games in Australia, which has embraced the game and produced a goodly number of major leaguers during the past decade.

I do, though, have a problem with the timing of these games. I still believe the opening of the big-league season should be played in the United States. It is, after all, America’s national pastime. It’s just so awkward when you have games played in March in a foreign country, then a delay before the schedule begins in earnest in North America. It really takes away from the luster of opening day.

Award-winning columnist and best-selling author Scott Pitoniak is in his 41st year as a sports journalist.

3/21/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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