Starting March 18 and running through April 7, thousands of American workers will come down with a particularly virulent malady. It’s difficult to say whether this strain is viral, genetic or bacterial in nature, but one thing we do know is that it lasts about three weeks and occasionally results in random shouting and bouts of uncontrollable face painting. Yet despite these troubling symptoms, most workplaces don’t recognize March Madness as a sickness at all. Below are five ways to treat your condition without being persecuted by your tourney-denying corporate overlords.
1. Use the “boss button”
The NCAA takes March Madness seriously, and also understands the fact that not all workplaces recognize college basketball’s biggest tournament as a national holiday. The games have been available via streaming for years, and since 2006 the site has incorporated the “boss button,” which allows worker drones to switch their computer screen from the game to innocuous-looking spreadsheets and emails at a moment’s notice. It’s not a particularly effective ruse, seeing as how it has historically been pretty static and Windows-centric. This year there will apparently be three different modes for work, home and class. Just hope no one looks at your screen too closely.
If you work in an office, chances are your trips to the bathroom aren’t that closely monitored. Before game day arrives, do some lavatory recon.
2. Create a diversion
Now, we’re not suggesting you pull the fire alarm or call in a terrorist threat to get out of work for a few hours so you can watch unlikely one-seed Wichita State’s unbeaten season continue, but it can’t hurt to take a page out of the office ninja’s handbook and employ some calculated misdirection. If you’re a teacher, this might mean putting on the latest episode of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos for the class. If you’re a stevedore, it might mean stashing a power source and a tablet in a crate near some local wi-fi hotspot and throwing an impromptu storage-crate viewing party. You work in an office? Maybe bring in donuts and send everyone scurrying to the kitchen, or treat your boss to lunch at a bar that just happens to have four giant TVs. Easy.
3. Sacrifice the visuals.
Discretion is often the better part of valor. It’s far easier to get caught watching an HD video feed of Duke pasting Mercer than it is were you instead merely listening to the massacre with your earbuds. Under the guise of listening to music while you work—more often than not an acceptable workplace practice—tune into a live radio feed and accept the spoils of a minor victory well won.
4. Use the March Madness Live app
If you work in an office, chances are your trips to the bathroom aren’t that closely monitored. Before game day arrives, do some lavatory recon and find a suitable hiding spot, be it above a ceiling tile, below the sink or inside a Ziploc bag at the bottom of the garbage. This approach is not without risks, but with the March Madness Live app, you can spend decent chunks of time watching the games from the bathroom. Your cover story should be extreme constipation. That way people won’t look at you funny when they hear you cheering from the stall.
5. Stay flexible
Obviously the situation varies job to job, and you have to adapt your strategy to the situation on the ground. There’s a good chance your boss doesn’t even follow sports and could give two shits about college basketball. If that’s the case, then the best move might be to use a few sick days or volunteer to work from home. Alternatively, you could pay your babysitter extra to call into your work claiming to be the school nurse. Little Harper is sick, apparently, and she needs to be picked up from school immediately. If you work at Best Buy, find out who is working the TV section and make sure the display channels are set to TNT. Check and mate.
6. Make sure you have the right mobile device
If you can make Tips 2, 4 or 5 work for you, it goes without saying that you’ll need an appropriate mobile device, as the necessary viewing subterfuge or mobility might find you on foot, crouched under a desk, inside a large trash receptacle, etc. If you don’t have a device or want to upgrade, the tourney is the perfect excuse to make a baller move: We dig the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 ($349.99) and Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 ($249.99) for their big screens and excellent picture quality.