John Challenger is a business consultant, but he's really so much more than that. He's the self-appointed Dean of the School of Completely Made-Up NCAA Basketball Economic Stats, a University that really should have lost its accreditation as a story in 2006 when Jack Shafer from Slate completely debunked the annual myth that the NCAA Tourney makes a specific and quantifiable dent in the American economy.
And yet there he is, springing up from a bed of statistical nightsoil like an invincible mushroom again. The numbers have changed, somewhat, though. Based on his 2006 claims, March Madness cost employers a whopping $3.8 billion in lost productivity. That figure over the past five years has shrunk somewhat. Viva math!
Challenger estimates that total online viewership during work hours is likely to reach at least 8.4 million hours. Multiply that figure by the average hourly earnings of $22.87 among private-sector workers and the financial impact exceeds $192 million, Challenger said.
Given those numbers, either the economy has shrunk by somewhere around 95% since 2006, or this statistic is completely bogus year in and year out, and you can go ahead watching the tournament without worrying whether you're singlehandedly destroying the American economy. After all, distraction is itself an economy, and playing Angry Birds while watching the tournament and chipping in payments to sports networks pays for jobs that wouldn't be there anyway. (See? Distraction isn't a negative: it's downright patriotic, America. CLICK AWAY FOR FREEDOM.)