Tuesday, December 12

How to Set Up And Host an N.C.A.A. Playoff Payoff Party

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Twenty-five years ago, four young men sat in their cubicles, missing the games on the opening day of the NCAA basketball playoffs.  To compensate, they decided to form a playoff tournament of their own.  Each day they submitted their picks and threw in a dollar.  At the end of the basketball tournament, the person who had made the most successful picks was declared the winner.  The next year, they took it a step further.  Each invited a friend.  They took the day off from work and met at a restaurant to watch the games.   At the end of the playoffs, the winner was awarded a small trophy.

Fast- forward to 2010.  Let’s just say that this party has evolved.  There are now lawyers, doctors, mailmen, carpet cleaners, consultants, etc. from all over the United States.  They meet on opening day and again on the Final Four game day.  What started out as a simple work week diversion has become a tradition; bonding friends, families, and college basketball into a lifetime of memories — and the promise of at least two weeks worth of camaraderie and hoopla to its members, young and old, every year.

If you’d like to make this a tradition, this is how to get your serious (but fun) game on.


In every group, there’s the guy who sets it all in motion.  He creates and sends out the invites and response forms to the attendees.  He chooses the venue, contacts the owners of the sports bar or restaurant and sets up the date and time for “the tipoff luncheon”.   Other responsibilities include collecting and managing the costs, ordering the trophies or plaques, and tracking the member’s picks.   The organizer can delegate certain tasks:  Charlie is in charge of the trophies; Bill takes care of the shirts; etc.   So most importantly, if you’re going to be the organizer – be prepared to do the footwork.  It’s a serious job. 


The invites state where the group will meet for the “tipoff luncheon”.  This should be a sports bar or restaurant with a satellite dish (to catch ALL the games) and multiple TV screens.   The organizer arranges the time and date with the manager of the venue so they can expect a party and ensure that the games are on all the televisions.


I repeat, all members should take the opening day off from work or leave early if possible.


The response forms and checks should be returned to the organizer before the “tipoff luncheon”.  Actually, there is no luncheon.  But, there is food, beer, wine and friends gathered together in the same place to watch 16 games.  Rare is the person who can drink and watch all sixteen games, so expect attendance to be fluid as well.  This is the day that everyone is on an even playing field, so high attendance is anticipated as well as high spirits.  


The check is submitted with the response form for the Final Four game day party (not the tipoff luncheon).  This covers the cost of food, drinks, and any tee-shirt orders (and size choices) that the members wish to buy commemorating that year’s playoff tournament. These funds are also used to purchase the plaque or trophy for the winner (and runner-ups).  This isn’t about money, but posterity.  The amount of the check should be in direct proportion to the number of members attending the party and the costs involved.


The picks are submitted to the organizer on a daily basis.  The organizer tracks each person’s picks to determine who is winning and who is falling behind.  These are tracked up to and including the Final Four game day party.  If there is a tie, then the following Monday night game is the decider and the winner will be declared then.


The party is held at one of the organizer’s or members home usually.  Potluck food and drink is encouraged.  The games are on; the drinks are flowing, so it’s good to have a designated driver in place, or several, to tow some of the guests home, if needed.    You can liven up the party with a split club, sales of apparel and mugs that represent the group. 

 The plaque or trophy is generally presented at the end of the games at the party.   The winner may keep it for one year, proudly displayed on their family room wall, or desk at work, wherever they wish, but it should be surrendered at the next year’s party to the new winner.


If you want to circulate a small humorous newsletter or blog about the members and the games, prior during and after the tournament, one of the members might volunteer their services to prepare it. 


The right to be a member is designated by the organizers.  It’s only fair since they do the majority of the work.  It keeps the group in order and keeps the relationships tight.  So, if you’re the organizer, this will need to be established early on.


The reason the original members stayed together for 25 years was because of the diverse membership and the desire to keep it going.  So, don’t take things too seriously and always remember that you’re doing this for fun.    You may just find that you have created a memorable lifetime tradition.


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