April 02, 2009 |

Rebuilding Infrastructure, ‘Bracketology’ Style

I was surfing the U.S. News and World Report website (www.usnews.com) the other day, and a story about the NCAA college basketball tournament caught my eye. As I write this column, the Sweet 16 is about to commence and all people can talk about is the condition of their “bracket” and how many teams they still have in the title hunt.

One part of the story that intrigued me was this: The Nevada Gaming Commission estimates the legal amount wagered on the tournament to be somewhere between $80 and $90 million. Pretty impressive! What really boggled my mind, however, is that a noted sports gambling analyst estimates more than $7 billion is illegally wagered on brackets from pools distributed among friends and co-workers, online betting outlets and bookies. The NCAA itself estimates that one in 10 Americans will complete brackets. That got me to thinking. Why not use “bracketology” to rebuild our transportation infrastructure?

Create a bracket made up of critical projects, each project would be represented by a team in the tournament. When a team wins, that project moves on as well. The last project standing then gets a cut of the billions generated by pools and other ill-gotten booty to make necessary repairs.

Sound ridiculous? Maybe, but since legal gambling and state-run lotteries are little more than regressive taxation anyway, what’s the difference? Besides, a match-up between “Upper Mississippi locks and dams” vs. “Northern Montana corridor rail repair” just might generate a lot of interest. Plus, all games could be covered live on DTN, thus providing unlimited sponsorship opportunities — “let’s break now for the FEED & GRAIN game changing play of the day!”

My point is this: Relying on government programs probably won’t solve all our problems. Market knowledge, building relationships, hard work and sound management is where the smart money has best served our industry.

Nevertheless, just imagine what could be accomplished if a nation that can muster $7+ billion in a three-week span every March, put its focus and resources on something more constructive and vital to our nation’s future.

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