Going through hoops: 9 alternatives to March Madness


college-basketball-tournament-bracket-graphic
What drives Americans’ March Madness mania? Is it a love for the game of basketball — or merely a love of games? Team bragging rights or the individual’s need to always be right?

Humans are compelled and impelled to make choices. When presented with empty boxes to check or blanks to fill in, we cannot resist. Combined with social media madness, our penchant for picking and sharing is off the charts these days — the act alone is satisfying, as if pressing the button is what presses our buttons, not the treat that gets dispensed or the victor’s glory.

Facebook itself has its roots in a simple either/or flow chart: It sprung from Mark Zuckerberg’s simple face-off program to determine the “hotter” Harvard chick.

democracy---people-votingIf only such selection fever translated to 100% voter turnout come election time. If democracy went 100% digital, maybe voting, too, would prove irresistible.

In the meantime, to fill the check-box void before Round 3 of the NCAA basketball tournament begins Thursday, I’ve scoured the universe for interesting alternative brackets for non-hoops fans to play favorites.

 

ENTERTAINMENT SHOWDOWNS

 

  1. Only hours to go before the Philadelphia-area public media provider WHYY wraps up its NPR vs. PBS “Public Media Madness” contest. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey host Neil deGrasse Tyson seems on top of the edutainment world lately. Can he rule as brainy talking head? Your other three Final Four contenders: Mister Rogers, Terry Gross and Peter Sagal. I pick Tyson over Rogers because he’s a LIVING legend (or soon to be).new-trailer-for-cosmos-featuring-neil-degrasse-tyson
  2. Minnesota Public Radio steps up the pace with music match-ups every half-hour from 9 to 5 through Friday’s final round. “The Current March Madness” started with 64 recording artists, featuring close shaves between such bands as U2 and Hüsker Dü, The Roots and Public Enemy. Today, see who challenges Elvis. Keep in mind: Times listed are Central Time.
  3. Pearl JamBeckA catty rivalry pits female characters from a defunct TV drama. The “Dallas” Divas Derby will keep you occupied through April 14. Or not. Like life down under in Dallas, it moves pretty slowly.DallasDivas

ANIMAL MAGNETISM

It’s not quite natural selection. These two popularity contests are playing out on Facebook, where you simply “Like” the picture of the species you prefer. Trash-talking takes place in the comments sections.

4. You’d think there’d be more kittehs at odds in the cybersphere, but drooling dogs drool in NatGeo Wild’s “Doggie Breed Bracket,” licensed by Cesar Millan of “Cesar 911.” This inaugural struggle is pretty much an ad for his show.

DoggieBreed

5. Anyone who knows or reads me knows I’ve plugged Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “March Migration Madness” before. But someone over there finally listened to my complaints: In previous years, organizers picked birds who don’t actually migrate. This year, there are nifty baseball cards detailing the birds’ feats. Visit today for a chance to vote in the “Airborne 8” round between this year’s vastly popular snowy owl and the spectacular painted bunting.

MarchMigrationMadness

6. OK, OK. I found a bracket featuring cats. But it’s something you need to register for, and we all learned our lesson with the Warren Buffett-Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket, did we not?  A glimpse of Apartment Therapy’s Pet Madness entrants, just to satisfy you rabid pet owners.

PetMadness2

FOOD FIGHTS

7. Sweet! This is just a sampler of what’s out there.  Foodsided.com’s “Starch Madness” will surely whet the appetite. In fact, this game can be played alongside the NCAA tourney. Spread out a spread of these and watch your points spread. Recent highlights from the blog:

  • In the Entree Region, an epic battle of cheese. 4-seed Grilled Cheese takes on upstart 5-seed Mac & Cheese, who is coming off a decisive, yet somewhat unexpected, Round One victory over Boneless Wings.

  • After years of being paired together in perfect harmony, Peanut Butter and Chocolate will face off as Peanut Butter Anything takes on Chocolate Cake in the 4/5 match-up in the Dessert Region.

Starch madness8. Somebody alert Chris Christie. The Trentonian is sponsoring an eat-off among New Jersey pizzerias. This one requires some insider knowledge. You wonder if it’s helping to boost the newspaper’s restaurant ad sales.

Pizza

 TOURISTY

9. That last one was touristy, but no one can trump The Washington Post‘s“Monuments Madness” for places that “place.” This civil civics war features 15 statues and one obelisk. The Elite 8 begins today, and a champion will be crowned on April 1. Which begs the question … why?monumental

Sheer madness.

P.S. Go, Spartans.basketball_data

 

 

 

 

 

Torn between two hovers

Snowy owl vs. Yellow warbler.

Snowy owl.

Image via Wikipedia

I have no real-world experience with either of these birds, so rather than argue for one over the other to snatch a perch in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “March Migration Madness” Airborne 8 bracket as I have for previous contenders — fairly persuasively, if I do say so myself, and I do, totally alone on that  — I think I’ll use a lifeline.

HELP!! I can’t choose.

(I really think the snowy owl should have gone up against the bald eagle; might have been a fairer fight, two raptors, white heads, golden eye orbs and all …)

OK, FOCUS. Don’t forget this isn’t just a popularity contest, be scientific, there are scientists behind it, ya know.

We’ll compare in list form.
Both the snowy owl and yellow warbler have their pluses and pluses.

The Snowy Owl

1. Served as a pivotal plot device last year in “The Big Year,” a movie just out on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Copy … and sorely snubbed by the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, SAGs, Critics’ Choice, Rotten Tomatoes, MTV, Rondo Awards, etc., etc. In 1998, the snowy owl was the one bird eluding champion birder Sandy Komito, represented as Kenneth Bostick in the flick, played by Owen Wilson. The quest canned his marriage. If he’d just waited about 15 more big years, global warming would have made spotting a snowy owl much easier.

Wol.

2. Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood, one of the best characters was indubitably Owl. What kind of owl was he? A brilliant one. Could spell his name: Wol. I loved his squiggles, and his throat-clearing.

3. The whole Harry Potter thing. Honestly, though, the U.S. Postal Service might take note.

4. They are possessed by the devil and their heads spin around.

5. Before my aunt Susie was into eagles (see previous post, “Stateliness vs. Subterfuge: A slam-dunk”), owls floated her boat. She collected anything and everything owl-inspired, and for each holiday gift, uninspired relatives fed her addiction. Note to self: Don’t ever tell people what your favorite species is. Susie had owl hand towels, owl corkscrews, owl running mats, even owl sunglasses. This was before those hoarding shows became popular.

The Yellow Warbler

1. It is yellow.

2. It warbles.

SEE? Feels like a sequel, Hedwig and the Angry Finch, Oh, I know it’s not a finch.

It’s clear I need help. Someone, please, buy my vote.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler (Photo credit: A. Davey)

English: Male Yellow Warbler (Dendroica aestiv...

Black-capped chickadee vs. Dark-eyed junco: I’ll take the underbird, with the pretty underbelly

Scout first visited my deck on an unseasonably warm Thanksgiving Day 2011.

Day 1 of March Migration Madness, and there’s tension in the air. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has pitted last year’s champ, the beloved black-capped chickadee, against the low-seeded dark-eyed junco, a phantom bird of winter.

C’mon, peeps. “Migration”! It’s in the game’s title! Have you all been conned by the charming chickadee, who is brave and smart enough to light on your heads or feed from your hand? Close encounters with curious chickadees, though wondrous, are a dime a dozen … plus, can you be so sure that the “black-capped” chickadee you so admire isn’t a genuine impostor from down South, say, Carolina? Like twin cousins of “The Patty Duke Show,” they will charm and con you.

That bird you swoon over is not always what you think. And blink, he’s gone, and yet … always there. A commoner, a year-round, non-migratory bird.

The dark-eyed junco is just as brave, if understated, and needs courage for his long journey ahead, back to wherever he goes off-season. When I first encountered this jewel last Thanksgiving Day, a lone scout junco poked his blushing-pink, pearl beak right up to my back door and sunned himself on the deck, a true blessing. First describing the species as a chocolate-coconut macaroon, with more familiarity I’ve begun to think of them as quarter-moon birds, or sparrows dressed for a masquerade ball. He will always surprise you; when you’re looking for something else, he hops into view. I’ll take the underbird, with the pretty white underside and the tux-like “tails,” any day. Especially TODAY.

The C/BC chickadee, or whatever it is, has had its day in the sun. Knock him off his perch (oh, he’ll be back) and give a bottom-feeder a taste — just a nibble — of the limelight.

Get in on all the action at Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Facebook page. And to vote on today’s matchup, peep here. At the time of this writing, chickadee had the home-cooked advantage, 509-236.

GO, JUNCO, GO!!