Tag Archive | bracket

Do Animal Instincts Make the Best Brackets?

In one of my favorite Cheers episodes, dorky Diane wins the bar’s pro football pool by selecting the victors according to which cities have the best symphony conductors.

I am pretty much in the same boat when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. I have no one to root for—my hometown Memphis Tigers didn’t make the cut, and my Division III alma mater, Centre College, is hardly a Sports Center staple.


Bet against Carolina? That’s nuts!

Luckily this weekend I volunteered at a wildlife rehab center, where, while cleaning up squirrel scat, I learned those little guys are #1-seed North Carolina’s state mammal. Which gave me a slightly nerdy idea for my bracket. What if I based it on official state animals?

After all, the animals are selected for their strength, smarts, and contributions to state culture. Many of the options seem like obvious winners. Kansas (Kansas, Wichita State) has its bison, and Miami and Florida Gulf Coast are represented by Florida’s state reptile, the alligator.

Others are a little more surprising, but kinda make sense when you think about it. Second-seeded Oklahoma’s state amphibian is the bullfrog, which is America’s largest frog–aggressive and even believed to be resistant to snake venom. That’s one potent game plan.

Washington has perennial competitor Gonzaga back in the running this year, along with the Pacific tree frog. This clever state amphibian is wiggles its toes to attract its meals. (May also explain all the Tevas in Washington.)

Ohio, with Xavier, Dayton, and Cincinnati in the tourney, boasts the spotted salamander as its state amphibian. No need to worry about injuries here–when attacked, it can grow back missing limbs and even parts of its brain. Its BRAIN!

Tennessee is fielding four squads this year—Vanderbilt, Tennessee-Chattanooga, Middle Tennessee, and Austin Peay. Though seeded merely 11, 12, 15, and 16, maybe the teams can look to Tennessee’s state commercial fish, the channel catfish, for inspiration. They have highly evolved sensory systems and can size up rivals from sex to social status just by smell alone.


Eat me. (No, really, I dare you.)

Thirteenth-seed Hawaii’s state fish, the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa, actually has two spines! One braces the other when the fish shelters in small spaces, and predators can’t get it out. What coach wouldn’t want that kind of defense?

Kentucky’s state insect is the viceroy, a butterfly that mimics in its color patterns the more delicious monarch, but instead—like Kentucky’s shooting—gives predators heartburn with its high concentrations of salicylic acid.

Finally, though nowhere near an ocean, Utah’s state bird is the seagull. As the story goes, when Mormons settled the state, locusts attacked their crops until, like a miracle, gulls appeared and ate them. As a 3-seed, Utah probably won’t need any miracles, unlike 15-seed Weber State of Ogden. But with the praying mantis as Connecticut’s state insect, maybe 12-seed Yale will get a miracle of its own.

As for me, I’ll be praying for mercy when I call in sick to watch hoops.



Got Balls? (And Don’t Want to Use Them Anymore?)

College basketball brackets aren’t the only thing people are slicing and dicing this week—how about…testicles???

Vasectomy Challenge

Dr. Shin prepares to operate on Mike. Maybe he can afford to do laundry now. (Photo courtesy of Junkie Eric Bickel, Twitter)

Yes, today was the culmination of the second annual VASECTOMY MADNESS Challenge from Washington DC radio jocks (ha, yeah I said it) The Sports Junkies of station 106.7 The Fan.

(Want to enter next year? Remember the URL 1067TheFan.com/BALLS. I can’t make this stuff up.)

Desperate area men submitted their stories in hopes listeners would vote for them to win a free vasectomy from Doctors Paul Shin and Jason Engel, of Urologic Surgeons of Washington. The three finalists included:

Mike, whose wife underwent successful in vitro fertilization, resulting in their three kids. Annnnd, that’s enough he says. Plus having more kids would put his wife at serious risk because of a fallopian tube disorder.

Eric, whose wife’s third pregnancy resulted from a party hosted by the Junkies themselves. Now she is on bedrest with an I.V., and he’s taking off work to care for the kids—so less money for growing costs. And then there’s our winner…

Cowboy Mike, who sort of defies explanation beyond, as one Junkie put it, “dirty.” For one, Mike lives in an actual  “yurt,” sort of like one of those “Game of Thrones” tents, minus the wine and wenches.

Mike has two kids with his “woman.” According to his entry on the website, they “love the tiny bastards but aren’t equipped to raise a third” since they live on her family’s farm and she, apparently, “keeps getting more animals for us to care for when we don’t have the money or time to care for ourselves. I’ve had sex ONCE since she had the second kid and I’m terrified that the one time it happens again will lead to another bundle of endless joy. You know you need to get laid when watching a conga line of male hogs is truly entertaining.”

“Woman” has several jobs, and Mike is a builder (“but I don’t have insurance–don’t tell the government, please!”)

His pleas paid off in a live morning procedure, described play-by-play by the Junkies as Dr. Shin “assisted” this man who showered the night before, but arrived for his procedure in dirty socks.

Well, now he can get down and dirty all he wants. Congratulations, Mike!

And don’t forget, college hoops brackets are due Thursday noon ET. There are many free sites out there – ESPN and the Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge, just to name a few. So pick by point guards, team colors, mascots, whatever, just make your picks and you could win a fortune.

Or at least an intensely personal medical procedure. For thousands of people to hear.

The 11 Easiest NCAA Bracket Tips EVER! (Sorry, Ted From Accounting)

No winnings for you this year, Accounting Department!

No winnings for you this year, Accounting Department!

In one of my favorite Cheers episodes, Diane infuriates Sam by choosing game results according to which city’s orchestra conductor she prefers. And winning.

Which is why when it comes to making a bracket, I think casual fans actually have an advantage; they haven’t been barraged with two prior months of BRACKETOLOGY! and Hoopdemonium with Hal! (brought to you by Taco Bell and Wells Fargo and…)

A bracket’s possible winning outcomes are 147.57 quintillion (more cool tourney factoids here). Even insiders have joked to me they have considered uniform color as a parameter. So don’t overthink it – get to pickin’! But here are some tiny guidelines just in case:

Don’t believe the hype. (#1)
The mind-numbing math is a lot to grasp even for experts. Don’t worry about all the algorithms, just stick with the basics—wins, seedings, and experience.

Then again…(#2-3)
It doesn’t hurt to consult some pundit pals. CBS Men’s College Basketball Analyst Greg Anthony shared with me he relies on strong seniors and road wins:

“Teams that have at least three starters who are seniors averaging double-figures are a good idea. Teams who have lots of road wins—those are the upset specials.”

Go with guards. (#4)
CBS Radio’s 106.7 The Fan host and George Mason University play-by-play voice Bill Rohland recommends a solid backcourt. “Guards win tourney games. Trust a team with above-average guard play.”

Just a few guards to consider: Peyton Siva (Louisville); Joe Jackson (Memphis); Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse). Sports sites like CBS and ESPN will give you quick looks at rosters and schedules. Note: “Vs.” a team means “home”; “@” a team means “away.” And for help on understanding the five basic basketball positions, allow my family photo album to assist.

Not-sweet-sixteen seeds. (#5)
It’s a classic rule-of-thumb not to pick a 16 seed to win even one round. It could happen, but not so far.

Then again (again)…(#6)
Don’t put all four 1-seeds in the Final Four either. This has only happened once in modern tourney history (2008). I personally pick at least two upsets for each of the four regions and cross my fingers from there.

What’s a good upset? (#7)
Teams are paired from end to end – 16 vs. 1, 15 vs. 2 etc. If I have particular vitriol for a 4-seed I might have them go down to the 13 just for fun, but I only have an 18% chance of winning.

However, a 12 has beaten a 5 almost every year since 1989. Pick an 11 over 6 and your odds are 32%, and they get better from there. If you’re looking to pick an upset, look in the 12-9 range.

Pick more than one bracket. (#8)
Spread the fun around. I always do a sentimental one that advances my favorite teams, no matter how many unicorns they have to ride, and a second bracket based on reality. Either way, I win.

You don’t have to bet or join a group to participate. (#9)
Find free blank brackets at any sports website (CBS, ESPN etc.) where you point and click your choices, then track them online as the tourney proceeds.

Location, location, location. (#10)
Teams are supposed to play at neutral sites, but it’s almost impossible to pull this off as the tournament progresses. A (hypothetical) top-ranked New Jersey team might struggle to travel three time zones and play a (hypothetical) 16-seed Santa Barbara at noon in Los Angeles, UCSB fans’ backyard. Take note.

Go with your gut. (#11)
If picking a perfect bracket were easy, and all the rules applied, then burger and bubble gum companies wouldn’t offer millions in contests seeking one. Go with your alma mater, the furriest mascot, your gut, your heart, your kid’s heart…you never know.

Because in the end, taking part in this grand, silly, exciting ceremony unites you with an entire country for three weeks – far longer than a one-day Super Bowl. You have common ground with your kids, your co-workers, your mechanic, that cute guy on the morning train. So get on board, and get those brackets done!