This week, about three million Americans will spend a few hours of their work day watching the NCAA Tournament at their desks. It’s said that it will cost the American economy $134 million in lost productivity. Some writers believe such numbers are inflated — but isn’t the real problem that the number should be higher? We’re only losing $134 million? Even though every game can be live-streamed on six different gizmos? That’s unacceptable. March Madness is too amazing for us not to be losing $124 billion due to college basketball watch parties at desks across the country.
So how can you become an official member of the basketball-obsessed cubicle class? We’ve dug up a few things you’ll need to turn your desk into March Madness central — and to keep your boss from ever finding out.
1. A laptop
Every game of the tournament will be streaming live on the internet. All you really need is a laptop to watch. (Or a desktop, if that’s what’s at your desk.)
Just bookmark this link: NCAA.com/MMOD. Every game will be streaming live from that link. That URL will be your best friend this month.
2. A cable or satellite TV login
Every game that airs on CBS will be free for you to watch online, on your computer, tablet or phone. (Or, you know, on your television.) This is amazing.
But there’s a catch: Any games that air on the other three networks — TBS, TNT or TruTV — will ONLY be available to cable or satellite TV subscribers. All you need to get past the paywall is a login from your cable/satellite provider — just the email address and password you use for your account with them.
If you’re not sure what it is, check with your provider. There’s nothing worse than being stuck at the office not watching a game because you couldn’t remember what email address your Comcast/Time Warner/DirecTV account is under.
Don’t pay for TV? Some advice you didn’t hear from us: Find a friend with cable and get their login. The March Madness app will allow multiple logins under the same email address. (Just don’t abuse it and get your friend kicked off the site, okay?)
3. The “Hide Everything On My Screen Instantly” Chrome extension
This is a crucial bit of browser magic: Install a Chrome extension called OneTab. It puts a little button in the top right corner of your Chrome window. Click it, and all of your windows suddenly disappear.
So when your boss comes walking by your desk, you can hide everything on your screen with a single click. When your boss leaves, you can restore every window with another click.
(Of course, if you start screaming after a big shot, your boss is probably going to be smart enough to figure out what’s up anyway.)
4. A second screen
This is the game-changer. On Thursday and Friday, the early games tip off as follows: 12:15 p.m. Eastern, 12:40, 1:40, 2:10. After that: 2:45, 3:10, 4:10, 4:40. You will want a second screen for watching games.
But also, thanks to the staggered start, two screens are really all you need at the office. Basically, only two games will be happening at once during the afternoon sessions. (A third will usually be at the half, thanks to the stagger.) It’s up to you to keep the best games rotated between your two screens.
Need to know when/where your team is playing? Here’s a handy list of every first-round matchup, organized by TV network and time.
5. A tablet
The March Madness app for your tablet is really great. It can be used to watch games — they look gorgeous in full-screen mode on an iPad — or as a crucial third screen to keep track of stats. When your cubicle neighbor wants to know why Cincy’s taken a late lead on Creighton, you’ll have all the numbers right in front of you on the app.
6. A smartphone
The fourth screen should be used to keep the basketball-related clutter to a minimum on your other screens. If you’re in one of the rare three-games-at-once situations, you can monitor stats on your phone. You can watch a fourth game, if necessary, on this screen.
7. A college basketball Twitter list
The smartphone’s a really good way to follow Twitter — which is absolutely built for live events like the tourney. Not sure which college basketball accounts to keep tabs on? Try this Twitter list we’ve built just for the Tournament. From @JayBilas to @NativeFlash22, these 64 accounts will keep you plugged in to March Madness.
8. A breaking news text alert system
Use IFTTT — a web app short for “If This, Then That” — to stay on top of every breaking news update from ESPN. Sign up for a free IFTTT account, then use this IFTTT recipe to push all those updates directly to your phone. When an injury or big news breaks, you’ll get it first.
9. Something to shoot on
Obviously, you’re going to be excited after a March Madness buzzer beater, so having something to get your nervous energy out on is crucial. If you can’t get your hands on some official ESPN swag (see above), Amazon.com has toys like this or even this that can keep you on your game at the office.
And if you don’t want that on your desk: Just make sure you’ve got a trash can nearby for practicing your jump shot.