28 March 2010

Autistic Teen has Perfect NCAA Bracket

Back Porch Fanhouse

How is your bracket for the NCAA Men's basketball tournament looking right now? Lots of red ink (or "Xs," or whatever you do to signify a missed game), I presume? Well, you obviously didn't fill it out the way Alex Herrmann did.

His secret, as you can see from the video below, is that he loves the numbers. As a person living with autism, he apparently studied numbers so much that he found the winning combination, at least to this point.

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com/video.

"I'm good at math," Alex told NBC Chicago. "I'm kind of good at math and at stats I see on TV during the game."

Northern Iowa over Kansas? Check. Ohio over Georgetown? You bet. Mr. Herrmann hit every single game and has a perfect Sweet 16. His apparent affinity for all things numerical along with some luck -- after all, there were a few close calls in the first 48 games, no -- has him in position to make a historic run among the massive amount of people who fill out a bracket religiously each March. You'd think he's destined to see things fall apart soon (he has Purdue winning it all), but I don't know anyone who has picked every game correctly thus far. Why doubt him now?

Perhaps he should have pursued something more lucrative than entering CBS' free bracket competition. Unfortunately, that was his only entry. He could have won up to $10,000,000 with a perfect bracket on FanHouse, a cool mil on Yahoo!, and a whopping $13 million on sportsbook.com. Of course, since Alex is only 17, he wouldn't have been allowed to collect any of these potential jackpots.

To wit, Alex's mother told NBC Chicago potential financial gain wouldn't have made much a difference anyway.

    "If he would have won any money he would have just saved it," his mother Diane said. "He's a big saver."

Not shockingly, it hasn't taken long for the anonymous skeptics of the internet to start levying accusations against Alex and his brother (a 24-year-old Purdue grad who is in charge of the CBS "bracket manager" game in which Alex entered his bracket). Deadspin, due to the apparent outrage of a few readers who emailed them, illustrated how easily you could change picks in the CBS bracket manager portal, though they did not accuse the family of doing this.

Frankly, this kind of thing is very aggravating. No one can just enjoy a story anymore without trying to find the negative in it. For the cynics out there, though, I'll humor you. It's possible. Here's my question, in response: Why now? If the family was going to pull the wool over the eyes of the nation, why didn't they wait until the Final Four or even later? And what did they have to gain in terms of finances? No one is paying anything for a perfect bracket through two rounds that could easily fall apart in one game. If they really wanted to hit it big in a nefarious way, they'd have waited. Additionally, the family of a person with autism knows that large amounts of attention only cause said person to shut down, as sticking with a set routine is what keeps them centered. They wouldn't have brought this hoopla upon themselves just for kicks. In fact, the family politely declined an interview request from FanHouse.

Alex referred to how his picks have fared thus far as "amazing," and I believe everyone with a heart should agree and leave it at that. Remember, being incredibly unlikely doesn't equate to impossible.

According to some research, the odds of a perfect bracket throughout the competition could be around 150 million to 1. Sure, it's one of the most incredible long shots you'd ever hear about, but it's not impossible. Also, it's important to note Herrmann hasn't yet come close to doing this. There are still 15 remaining games in the NCAA Tournament.

Maybe it's emotion that takes Herrmann down eventually. He came across as a methodical thinker in explaining his success to this point, but, as I mentioned earlier, his pick for national champ is Purdue -- the team that is his favorite due to his brother having attended there.

His Elite Eight teams are: Northern Iowa, Tennessee, Syracuse, Kansas State, Baylor, Purdue, Kentucky and West Virginia. In the Final Four, Alex has Tennessee, Kansas State and Kentucky joining Purdue, with Kansas State finishing as the runner-up.

Finally, I hope Alex would be proud of me. While I'm not even in the same ballpark when it comes to his prowess in prognostication, I did do enough to win $1,000 for Autism Speaks (my four-year-old daughter is autistic) in a charity picks contest on RichardGardner.com -- by having the most points after two full rounds.

Solidarity, brother.

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