Fans look to get off work to watch march madness

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COLUMBIA - Employers throughout the United States every year may see work productivity slip just a bit in late March, and mid-Missouri is no different.

Thursday marked the start of the round of 64 for March Madness, college basketball's annual men's Division I tournament. 

With games going on all throughout the first day of the tournament, many people look to see if there is any chance they can get time off from work. 

"It's kind of like opening day in baseball," said Jim Clark, a Kansas City resident that's in Columbia right now for business. "It's almost like a holiday, where you plan. I have friends who plan to take Thursday and Friday off of work."

In Columbia, several residents gathered at local bars and restaurants on Thursday to watch the games and, of course talk to other people about their brackets. 

"You could be sitting next to somebody you don't even know, and on an ordinary day you wouldn't even give them your attention," Clark said. "But with March Madness, you're talking to people and carrying on like you're old friends."

Some people may call in sick or simply ask time off for work to watch all the basketball, but others, like Clark, have the luxury of taking off time when they want to. 

"As the boss, I tried to tell my guys today that if anything comes up, call me," Clark said. "But, they realize I'll be out of pocket today."

With so much interest in the tournament, Clark said many businesses might not get quite as much work done as usual.

"Work productivity goes down huge during March Madness," Clark said. "Everybody knows you're not going to get much done on the Thursdays and Fridays in March. You're going to be somewhere watching the games."

The NCAA men's tournament will be going on through the first week of April, with the national championship taking place on April 6.