PITTSBURGH - Finally, there's a good reason to agonize over brackets in the NCAA Tournament.
Forget about bragging rights or the money in the office pool. Now there's a real incentive.
Warren Buffett will pay $1 billion to the person who wins his pool. All you have to do is be perfect.
That's it. Just call every game correctly, and he'll write the check.
Think about what you could do with a billion: Buy the New York Yankees. Hire someone to bring in the mail. Wear a new pair of socks every day (just like Jerry Lewis). Hire Jimmy Buffett to play all of your birthday parties. Buy a lifetime subscription to the Mirror.
Dreams do come true.
This is a great gimmick, and not much of an opportunity. The statisticians say the odds of having a perfect slate are one in 9.2 quintillion. There's not enough room to print the actual number, but there are 18 digits after the nine. That's more than the Boston Red Sox payroll.
It's two to the 32nd power. Let's keep it simple: It's pretty much impossible.
The contest is sponsored by a loan company, whose name will be mentioned everywhere but here. They're getting a lot of publicity out of this and, of course, they won't have to pay out on the big prize anyway.
ESPN has been running a contest since 1998. They've received 30 million entries, and none of them has been perfect.
But it doesn't cost anything to enter, other than jumping through some online hoops that will probably lead to unwanted advertising e-mails.
Who can resist? There will be entries from grandmothers who don't even know about the three-point arc. Why not? It's worth a shot.
Just imagine the stress for someone who gets through the first round with a perfect sheet. What's it like to have your entire future hanging on whether some skinny kid who should be in biology class can make a free throw?
It's a fun little diversion that presents no risk yet potentially offers a life-changing reward.
Something for nothing appeals to all of us.
On the other hand...
There's a contest that offers a much better chance to win.
That's the annual Guess How Many Games The Pirates Will Win This Season, which is conducted at the "Mainly Mehno" blog at altoonamirror.com.
You only need two numbers - your prediction for how many games the Pirates will win, and - the tiebreaker - how many home runs they'll hit during the season.
Details are over at the blog, and we're open for entries beginning at 3 o'clock on Thursday afternoon.
The prize is a box of leftover Pirates promotional stuff. While that may seem like a modest reward in comparison to $1 billion, remember that you won't need to hire financial planners or increase household security if you win this contest.
You'll be able to maintain your lifestyle and the kind of realistic perspective that comes from winning a bobblehead of a long-gone player. So be sure to enter.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org