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New York’s Greatest Tourney Tradition Is Dead

The NCAA announced its tournament brackets yesterday, and now, finally, March is duly heading into Madness. To commemorate the occasion, we asked Will Leitch — the editor of Deadspin and, we hereby proclaim, Daily Intel’s senior bracketologist — to share with us his tale of a New York tournament tradition now, sadly, lost to history:

A week ago, one of those only–in–New York traditions bit the dust; the famous “Jody’s Pool,” based out of Staten Island watering hole Jody’s, will be discontinued this year. The pool was notorious for its massive pots; last year’s grand prize was $1.5 million, making it the biggest pool in the country. The problem is, when you have a pool that’s worth that much, people tend to notice. First, the press; then, the IRS. And with three words from grizzled owner Jody Haggerty — “Definitely no pool” — it was over.

The Staten Island Advance first reported that the pool was endangered a couple of months ago, though with no quotes from Haggerty himself, who has long feared all the press attention. He was a little chattier in a story the Advance ran on March 5 — what with those three words and all — but as a bracketophile myself, I wanted to head to the epicenter of the madness.

Because I am nothing if not a diligent reporter, I hopped on the ferry and learned that, hey, they have cabs in Staten Island. I told the cabbie what I was up to, and he laughed. “Maybe I should just sit outside and wait for you. He ain’t gonna talk.”

Entering the bar, I was taken aback by just how modest it was; it really is a neighborhood joint, with pictures of Little League teams on the wall, a television devoted to keno, and lots of old men with a stack of bills next to a slug of whiskey. A weathered waitress winked at me as I wandered in. There was not a single indicator that this tiny, nondescript bar could possibly host the largest NCAA pool in the country. They didn’t even have ESPN on the television; it was on the Golden Globes preshow, for some reason.

It wasn’t hard to find Haggerty; within five minutes of my bellying up to the bar, at least six people had yelled out, “Yo, Jody, what’s up?” or something of similar local color. I finally snatched his attention.

Mr. Haggerty, hi, I’m Will Leitch. I called you yesterday. I’m doing a story about your pool.”

You look a little young to be a reporter.”

Well, thank you, sir. Anyway, I understand that you guys aren’t doing the pool this year, and I —”

I can’t talk about the pool. You guys won’t stop writing about it.”

And with a whoosh, he glided to the other end of the bar and entered, mid-streak, a conversation among several regulars. I spent the next half-hour sipping my Bud Light and trying to flag Haggerty down, with no success. He wouldn’t even make eye contact, and eventually, I left, knowing that people like me ruined a Staten Island tradition. Beer was cheap, though.

Final Word on the Demise of Jody’s Pool [S.I. Advance]

New York’s Greatest Tourney Tradition Is Dead