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The Football Pool

Sunday, September 12, 2004
Football season (American) started today. To be precise, it started on Thursday night, but since we never had football games on Thusday nights when I was growing up as a kid, I tend to pretend this doesn’t happen.

A few years ago, my interest in pro football was on the decline. This was around the time when football began to morph from being a team sport into a form of modern dance, and players began to augment their costumes with cellular phones and permanent markers. Plus, the Steelers can never seem to get back to the super bowl, so, really, who cares?

One way to make anything interesting is to have a pool. A pool is where a bunch of people will put money into a pot and predict the outcome of some event, like football games. Whoever picks the highest number of game winners correctly wins a percentage of the pot.

Being in an office football pool is not about winning money, which might be enough to buy lunch for two. It’s about winning the pool and having bragging rights for a week. Winning means going to work and pretending you really knew what was going on when you made your winning selections, even though you might not have done it alone.

Me: “Alex, who do you think will win – the Eagles or the Browns?”

Alex (my now five year old son): “What is a Brown?”

Me: “Well .... it’s basically a dull color”.

Alex: “Eagles!”.

A few years ago I started a little pool at the office by sending an email to the staff@ alias (first mistake). This brought a response from the human resources department that football pools fall into a ‘legal grey area’ and I should refrain from mentioning ‘football pool’ at work. No problem, I thought, I had an email list of 30 people interested in a little fun, so I fired off an email to this list without actually checking who was on it (second mistake). Well, it turns out our CFO was on the list, and I’m not sure why, because he never actually played in the pool, but he did, it seems, mention to HR that I was running a football pool.

The next day I stood in the office of the Supreme Ministry Of Human Resources and explained why I disobeyed a direct order. I had to cross my heart, and swear that I would not be using company resources to run illicit gambling activities. It was the last pool I ever ran, and my time spent watching football is asymptotically approaching zero. If the Steelers make the playoffs, somebody please let me know.