March madness is upon us, and everybody, including the president, is relishing the chance to fill out some brackets, in order to predict the winner of the 64-team tournaments in men’s and women’s NCAA basketball. While I will gladly concede that I am quite mad, I am afraid that I am immune to that particular form of madness that accompanies the approach of the vernal equinox. My philosophy, callous though it may be, is “wake me up when they get to the pros.” There’s few things in the sports world that I dislike quite so much as seeing a bunch of greenhorns in their late teens and early 20s busting their ass to make other people a great deal of money. It is difficult to see college basketball as much more than exploitative and amateurish schlock.
But that doesn’t mean that bracket-style, single-elimination tournaments cannot be harnessed for other purposes. Accordingly, I and some of my Singapore colleagues have worked on a number of other brackets that can be filled out for things other than college basketball teams. I started out with a 1970s music bracket, choosing the best song from the decade. I then branched out into a Greatest Bromance in Fiction bracket, a Supervillain bracket, and at the behest of one colleague, a Broadway bracket. While this was designed as an indefensible waste of time, it turned out to be a great way to engage with my colleagues and figure out how they think, how they scrutinize, how they evaluate. Brackets force you to make tough choices and defend their merits to your incredulous friends, after all. One colleague attempted a 19th and 20th century Authoritarians bracket, while my fiance designed a very clever Modern intellectuals bracket.
One of my first attempts involved trying to predict Mitt Romney’s running-mate (working on what is now the very reasonable assumption that he will be the nominee.) To figure this out, I came up with 64 (yes, 64) possible candidates. I divided them into four “conferences:” sitting senators, sitting congressmen, sitting governors, and a final “Wild Card” category that includes retired politicians, generals, businessmen, and so on.
If you like, you can see the fruit of my efforts here.
And my own choices with the Veepstakes bracket:
Veepstakes Bracket my choices. To resolve who made each cut, my criteria included–
1) Ability to balance the ticket by region, race, gender, and/or religion
2) Charisma and ability to rally voter enthusiasm– either independents, or a conservative base not entirely sold on Romney
3) Likelihood of being sought after as a candidate, the likelihood of their submitting to the vetting process, and the likelihood of their surviving the vetting process intact.
4) Experience (and let’s face it, these days, that’s a pretty remote criterion.)
For some more blank brackets to fill out, here is the animated movie bracket, and Greatest NBA Player of All Time bracket. It was a great deal of fun to figure out conferences and seedings. the animated film conferences are Golden Age Disney, Disney Renaissance, Computer-animated, and non-Disney/Traditional Animation. NBA players are divided between the 60s/70s era, the post-merger years after the NBA and ABA pooled resources, the 1990s era, and the 21st century. If my rather limited readership likes this, then I will gladly put up some of the others that I have been working on. In the meantime, feel free to fill these out, and send me your responses.