Celeste Headlee, The Takeaway
Celeste Headlee, is a former co-host of The Takeaway.
My esteemed colleague, John Hockenberry, doesn't participate in March Madness pools on principle. I also stand on principle on this issue: I always participate and this year, I'm helping to coordinate the competition at The Takeaway.
Here's my rationale, and it's simple: the NCAA brackets are fun and they encourage camaraderie in the office. As a journalist, I've often worked in newsrooms that were heavily dominated by males. I never felt unwelcome or undervalued, but I did sometimes feel like an outsider. The guys would complain about their wives, wonder why we have a greeting card industry in the U.S. and who's tried the fried Twinkie at the restaurant downtown. You can imagine how lonely I felt.
So I vowed that I would participate in all group activities at the office, and that usually meant sports pools. I had fantasy football teams, fantasy baseball teams, and an entry every March in the brackets pool. It started as a kind of chore for me, something I was doing as part of my work, but it ended up being really fun. I loved coming in and checking to see who had guessed right, ribbing the losers, and gloating when I'd chosen the right team. In fact, I started to see why sports are such a popular form of entertainment: as a group, we all had a common touch point and a topic of discussion that had no real dangers, nothing at stake.
Of course, we weren't invested deeply and therefore no one was personally upset when their team lost. I'm sure that happens. But for me, the office pool gave me a common interest with my co-workers. At last, we would go to lunch and talk about something other than work. And that's something to cheer about, isn't it?