Cut it out — Business hates hoops

With March Madness™ underway, my favorite predictable crap news stories are the ham-handed hang-wringing about how many work hours the tournament costs American business.

Well, to paraphrase an old Onion headline, how many leisure hours are lost to working in today’s economy, with unpaid overtime, answering e-mails and Blackberries at home, with conducting business while driving and talking on your cell phone, while surfing the Web at home to gain an edge on business the next day?

But no, the five days of handicapping and watching the first round (after which, interest drops waaaay off) is killing American business? I’m not sure this isn’t a plot by CBS to get the NCAA to move all the tournament games to prime time, just like all the other sports, even if it means extending the tournament by four weeks — well, won’t that be accommodating for the “student-athletes” — and, of course, a plot by Corporate America to further wring every penny out of your body and soul before discarding you to the retirement pile.

Meanwhile, Slate (blessedly and wisely) re-runs Jack Shafer’s column debunking the math, myth and hysteria surrounding the annual and always predictable news stories about work-hours lost to the NCAA Tournament.

The Wall Street Journal joins the fray with a blog piece today making fun of the $1.7 billion supposedly lost this year, predicted by the firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas. That same firm, the WSJ says, predicted this same NCAA tournament would have cost Corporate America $3.8 billion (not a typo) in 2006. Guess we all got more productive in two years, despite the rise in online video broadcasting.

My favorite quote from Challenger Gray’s press release (the WSJ provides a link), regarding the difficulty in estimating this “lost” time: “…most people are not keeping a detailed time sheet on minutes wasted during the work day.” Yeah, because they probably gave up hope in keeping track of how much time Work sucks out of their non-work day.

Watch for Challenger’s next press release (and the resulting gullible news stories) on Productivity Lost to eating lunch, breathing air generously provided by Your Company, getting a vasectomy and taking a shit.

In Shafer’s 2006 column, he quotes another Slate post that further proves the “workplace interruption” stats are bogus.

Still, it’s sad to see how many media outlets still buy this line of bullshit, though thankfully, fewer seem to be swallowing, and some actually sound balanced, if not all benevolent masterly.

But with many news outlets falling for this year after year with predictable and repetitive stories, it’s a wonder they just don’t re-run last year’s stories, like Slate did with Shafer’s piece.


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