Look out: the madness is coming! Three weeks of furious b-ball fun, all essential viewing, all inconveniently scheduled during “work hours.” (Seriously—whose idea was that?) With March 15 rapidly approaching, the annual quandary presents itself: how to catch every last second of the March Madness action without winding up newly unemployed?
By now, you know all about the NCAA’s Boss Button—the handy get-out-of-jail-free card that with one quick click will transform your screen from basketball bonanza to bland, standard workstation. Well, unfortunately your boss knows about it too, and can spot that magically appearing fake spreadsheet from 20 cubicles away. And nobody believes you’re doing research on those business websites.
Last year, you treated each of your colleagues (one for every day of play!) to lunch at that Italian place down the street—the one with huge TVs on the walls. Which worked great, except that by the time the last buzzer sounded you were beyond broke and ready to swear off calzones for life.
This year, it’s time to think outside the basket. Here are five strategies to keep your job while keeping at least one eye on the ball.
1. Stream Every Game Live to Your Devices
Laptop, desktop, smartphone, tablet, or all of the above—whatever your weapon of choice, keep yourself courtside with March Madness Live. This cross-platform app hooks cable TV subscribers up with all the live coverage they can handle (67 games, to be specific). And even if you’ve already cut the cord (or never had cable in the first place), there’s good news: all pre-Elite Eight match-ups will be broadcast on CBS, which means no-restrictions streaming of those games for any fan with an Internet connection.
2. Set Up March Madness Alerts
Even if streaming just isn’t an option, there are still plenty of ways to keep updated on every slam dunk, dribble, and traveling call. CBS Sports members can get regular updates sent straight to their phones, while ESPN Alerts offers a similar service. Even better is the free NCAA Sports app, which allows fans to customize updates based on their favorite schools. Meanwhile, the official NCAA March Madness Twitter account and Facebook page will be firing out enough breaking stories to keep even the most fanatical fanatic happy.
3. Talk A LOT About Other Sports Events Happening in March
Hard to believe, but other sporting spectacles have the gall to take place while the NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball Tournament is unfolding. Use this to your advantage! Nothing will throw your supervisors farther off the scent than interrupting their trip back from the water cooler to express your excitement for the Monster Jam World Finals in Vegas, the Australian Grand Prix, or the World Indoor Athletics Championships in Portland. And loudly voicing your belief that Wales will likely destroy Italy in the final round of rugby’s Six Nations Championship will make your complete lack of interest in the planet’s greatest tournament more than clear, and should lay to rest any suspicion that you’re putting b-ball before work.
4. Stockpile Emails and Completed Assignments to Send Out During Games
Remember the survey from HR that dropped into your inbox a while back? The one about improving efficiency around the office? Get it done and dusted long before the action begins, but don’t submit until right in the middle of a Sweet 16 game. Ditto any projects you’ve been working on: wrap them up by March 14, but don’t ping them to your boss until the 20th or later. And since games don’t start tipping off till noon, spend your mornings drafting thoughtful email replies that you can send out at intervals throughout the afternoons. “Kudos to this guy, working not watching,” the recipients will think—fools!
5. Achieve Zen, Avoid Detection
Meditation, mindfulness, Zen mastery—these days, we’re all supposed to be working hard at staying calm. But nothing shatters inner tranquility faster than the agony of seeing your team fall victim to a fluke three-pointer right at the buzzer. In fact, even if it’s your guys snatching victory at the last, the surge of adrenaline and euphoria that follows is likely to have you screaming like a crazy person and punching the air like a jogging boxer. Either way, you’re causing a scene and blowing your cover, big time. The solution? Begin the day with some meditative yoga or deep-breathing exercises. Find that inner peace. Remind yourself it’s just a game. That way, no matter what happens on the court, you won’t go drawing unwanted attention.