Let the Madness Begin … March Madness That Is …

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Yup, it’s that time of year again, when leprechauns (and bookies) make merry while bracket spots are agonized over as the office pool $ grows — yes, it’s March and let the NCAA March Madness begin!

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament begins today, and for the first time, every game of the 19-day ritual known as March Madness will be available live — and free — over the Internet.

Free? Did you say free?

Well, maybe there’s a cost somewhere along the line …

The federal government has 1.8 million civilian employees, raising the prospect of the government’s business slowing to a crawl — or its computer systems doing so — if workers click to the Webcasts from their cubicles. Michael Orenstein, a spokesman for the Office of Personnel Management, which oversees federal workplace matters, said each agency sets its own policy on personal Internet use at work.

Howard Tipton, a spokesman for the Department of the Interior, said the department permits its 77,000 employees to have “limited use” of the Internet, so long as it doesn’t interfere with their jobs. Only in rare instances — often because of a disability or other special need — are employees allowed to view streaming video, he said.

I wonder what kind of special need one has to have for streaming video rights?

Note to self … check ACLU guidelines for “special needs” listing.

“It’s a phenomenon that businesses have to live with forever now,” said Raul Fernandez, co-owner of the Washington Capitals and chairman of ObjectVideo, a security video software company that employs 85 at its headquarters in Reston. “We are living in a world where it’s not just the NCAA, but you can watch ‘Desperate Housewives’ or other games remotely through the Internet. For me, it falls into the category under trusting the employees to get their work done.”

“We have a workforce that is Web savvy and knows how to get to what they want to get to, and we don’t stop them,” said John Buckley, executive vice president for corporate communications at Dulles-based America Online Inc. “We have a big belief that people will use the Web appropriately over the course of the day and get their jobs done.”

Second note to self … download AOL employment application!

But CBS SportsLine will offer one escape hatch for workers whose bosses might frown on them spending too much time watching the games. Riethmiller said the Web site will display a “boss button” in addition to the action on the court. Click on it, he said, and the sound will shut off and the screen will switch from basketball to a spreadsheet.

Last note for the night … develop “multi-task” boss button 🙂

Ok, so who did you all pick?

My respective picks for the final two … Texas and Villanova.

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