With the Final Four just finishing up, I feel obligated to report on a trend that, like many things, probably started out as good, clean, innocent fun, and then got taken to extremes.
Every year, tens of millions of people fill out their NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament bracket sheets in the hope that, by some major miracle, they'll still be in the running for the office-pool prize after the first of three weekends.
At the same time, tens of people fill out bracket sheets for the NCAA Women's Tournament. Actually, a friend of mine called this year and asked if I would like to join a pool on the women's tournament. I said, "Who is this, Torquemada?"
It's weird. I've been coaching high school girls' basketball for more than 15 years, and it's my absolute favorite thing that I do all year, but I care about this much for the women's college game. And you'd have to give me the Alex DeLarge treatment (strapped in a chair with my eyelids propped open) to get me to sit through a WNBA game.
It's not that I don't like women's sports. I go to see women's track, volleyball, gymnastics and softball at the UA on a regular basis, and I could sit all day and watch a high school tournament. One of these years, I'm going to have to go all snake-eyed and get inside myself to see what the deal is. Fortunately, that's not the topic of the day.
It's this whole bracket-thing-gone-wild that I would like to discuss. With the magic of the Internet, media outlets (mostly radio shows and magazines) have been putting together nonsports brackets on which the Lonely People out there can vote. This is a way of generating interest without having to do a whole lot of creative heavy-lifting. The first one that caught my attention was done by Colin Cowherd, who is on ESPN Radio. (He injects a little bit too much of his obvious right-wing political leanings into a sports-talk show for my taste. I mean, if you want to be Rush Limbaugh, just switch networks, and start calling young women really insulting names.)
Anyway, Cowherd did this bracket of living movie stars. He named the sections after legendary dead actors (John Wayne, Marlon Brando, James Stewart and somebody else; I wasn't really paying that much attention). I thought it might be fun, but then I realized that the voting was skewed. I mean, Tom Cruise won a first-round matchup. The only good acting Tom Cruise has ever done involves convincing some people that he's at or near the low end of the range of normal-sized adults. I gave up on the whole thing when odds-on favorite Sylvester Stallone was upset in one of the early rounds.
(I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.)
Then, two of Cowherd's radio cohorts—a couple of pasty-faced white guys named Scott van Pelt and Ryen Russillo—decided to do a bracket on the greatest rappers of all time. Now, there's nothing wrong with white people listening to rap music. How else are they going to form healthy, well-rounded impressions of how the average black American lives?
However, I'm more than a little bit wary about somebody who blows the spelling of the name "Ryan." I mean, think about it: R-y-?-n. They're spotting you three of the four letters.
They put together a 32-person bracket. Actually, it was a 32-act bracket, because some of the entries were groups like A Tribe Called Quest and the Beastie Boys. (They even let 2 Live Crew in; how sad.) It was ridiculous; they had Wu-Tang Clan as one entry. If every member of the Wu-Tang Clan had voted just once each, they could have won the whole thing. Plus, Ol' Dirty Bastard definitely deserved his own entry.
The early voting went pretty much according to form, with a couple of exceptions. First of all, they had Eminem matched up against Kanye West in the first round! That's some serious hate. I can't stand Kanye West, but he probably should have gotten to the second round, at least. You could have given him Redman or Talib Kweli, who were matched up in another part of the bracket.
Snoop Dogg beat Naughty by Nature. I guess not everybody's down wit' O.P.P. And in the only major upset, Lil Wayne lost in the first round to Del the Funky Homosapien. Del is a cousin of Ice Cube, who used to be relevant, but now makes delightful family movies.
Del was then beaten by Outkast, which, in turn, lost to Biggie (The Notorious B.I.G.). Biggie was matched up against Tupac Shakur in the semis, which kinda sucked, since they were both probably at least partly responsible for each other's deaths. At press time, Tupac was trailing in the finals against Eminem. There you go again ... white people stealin' everything.
I was thinking maybe we could do one—I never said it was a bad idea—with Arizona politicians. (Mo Udall vs. Barry Goldwater in the finals?) We could start by doing one with local politicians and maybe have a contest to see who could best predict the outcome of the voting at each level. First prize would be lunch with Regina Romero. Second prize would be lunch and dinner with Regina Romero.