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Workplace takes a back seat to college basketball during March Madness

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BEAUMONT -

Today marked the first day of the collegebasketball frenzy known as March Madness, and fans wasted no time packingrestaurants and bars before noon to catch game one of the NCAA Basketball Championship.

It's the tournament Warren Buffett recently made headlines for, teaming up with Quicken Loans to give away $1 billion to anyone who perfectly predicts the winner of all the games.

Sounds nice, but there's a pretty small chance there will be a winner, since 64 teams will be playing 63 single-elimination games over the next few weeks.

Some fans have their picks down to ascience and then there's those like 7-year-old Jared Shield who choose their favorite teams more simply.

"I love when theyput the balls under the nets and then they dunk it when they're in theair," he said.

Either way the championship's popularity is increasing and with the ability to stream the games from your phone or tablet it's easier than ever to watch from anywhere.

But that didn't stop fans from skipping out on work, or taking longer than usual lunch breaks to catch day one of the madness.

Andy Mena caught up with some friends for lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings, but promised he wasn't "playing hooky."

"Maybe a littlebit," he said. "Definitely taking our lunch break, it's the first day of the tournament Ididn't want to miss the first couple of games because I'm sure things wouldhappen right off the bat so I wanted to be there to see what I could."

USA Today reports NCAA tournamentviewer ship was up 11 percent in 2013 compared with 2012. Also, that tournament viewer shipaveraged 10.7 million viewers per telecast last year. This year networks will broadcastmore than 200 hours of live game and studio TV coverage.

It's a phenomenon that many fansconsider the most exciting sporting event of the year.

"Raw passion forthe game," Mena said. "Obviously there's not much money in it for the players or for theschools or NCAA, but you just see a lot of kids out there loving to play thegame."

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