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Pick a winner

March Madness turns basketball fans into prognosticators

March Madness has swept over the Yampa Valley and local basketball enthusiasts are putting their money — maybe even their pride — on the line as they make predictions about the outcome of the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament.

The first round of competition started Thursday and many friends and co-workers are in battle for the teams they picked to win.

“It keeps everybody interested and nobody gets hurt,” said Brett Sperl, who organized a contest among himself and 15 of his friends.



He has organized the contest for the past 12 years or so, he said, because it is fun and gives them something to get excited about.

The way his competition works is participants pay $20 and draw one team from each of the four regions in the tournament. Then, there are payoffs for teams that proceed to the Elite 8, Final Four and championship game.



The participant holding the ticket of the tournament’s winner gets a $100 bill.

“Mine’s kind of the traditional pool for the old guys,” Sperl said.

Another of Sperl’s friends, Dave Pike, organizes a similar competition with a twist. Called a “steal pool,” if the favorite teams — those with a higher seed — don’t reach the point spread predicted, the losing team wins that rounds.

“Even if you draw a low seed, you can steal,” Sperl said.

The pool held at Victory Motors of Craig is based completely on luck as well. All 64 teams are thrown into a hat and, for $5 a draw, employees can take as many teams as they like. The person holding the champion team walks away with $320.

“It’s something to do, something to keep character in the dealership,” sales consultant Joe Lopez said.

On Sundays, Lopez can be found parked in front of his television, tuned to ESPN, drinking an imported beer and smoking a cigar. Sports are important to him, which is why he and Sperl are thrilled about the tournament.

“Some of us are just giddy with excitement,” Sperl said.

But there are some women who get into the sport as well. Sperl’s wife, Julie, and one of their women friends are participating in his competition. Sperl said one of them likely will win because they picked top-seeded teams.

The NCAA tournament is the one Sperl focuses on, though he’s gambled on other sports in the past.

“I just stick to the NCAA,” Sperl said. “If a person likes to gamble, there’s enough of that around, but this is my baby.”

So much so, in fact, that Sperl is glued to the television during game action, and especially immediately after the championship is decided.

CBS plays “One Shining Mom-ent” and replays highlights from the past few weeks of play.

“I have to get everyone quiet in the house so I can hear it,” Sperl said.

“It’s just so great.”


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