Stephen Nessen, Reporter, WNYC News
Stephen Nessen reports for the WNYC Newsroom and can often be heard live on Morning Edition.
Talk about real March Madness!
Joe Pearlman of New Brunswick, New Jersey, had never ventured into the heavily competitive world of online NCAA brackets before this year — but it has paid off grandly.
On a whim, the 50-year-old who works in IT spent 10 minutes filling out the brackets at ESPN.com. In an amazing piece of luck and smart guessing, he found himself to be one of two people out of 5.9 million who correctly selected all four teams in the final bracket and won $10,000 as a result, according to an ESPN spokesman.
This year, 5.9 million people filled out the brackets — a 24 percent increase from 2009, and the highest number since ESPN started doing online Final Four brackets in 1998.
Pearlman follows basketball but has only ever played in office pools. He saw his 15-year-old son selecting teams online and decided to fill out his own bracket, he told ESPN.
Pearlman signed up for an ESPN profile this month and has seen his profile flooded with comments that range from congratulatory to credulous since he picked all four correctly.
One commenter, who goes by jwharmon asked, "how the heck did you pick this final 4 exactly?" Another called him the "King of the World." Someone else asked if he could borrow Pearlman's octopus, a reference to the marine animal that picked the winning World Cup teams.
As a fan of the University of Southern California, Pearlman transferred his loyalties when they were beaten by Virginia Commonwealth University in what proved to be a fateful move. The No. 11 seed VCU beat out top-seeded Kansas.
As for Connecticut, it's his home state. Kentucky? The coach used to head up the New Jersey Nets, his hometown team. As for Butler, the spokesman said Pearlman just likes the coach.
The other top bracket-pick winner has not been named, and the second-highest score at ESPN.com goes to a man using the moniker “dawgpound513 9.” He will receive $5,000.