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

 

 

 

 

 

Tweet THIS: March madness for bird brains

A Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) perched ...

Superhero Cedar Waxwing. Image via Wikipedia

While the chirp of squeaky sneakers, sports commentators flapping their gums, the howl of the crowd and shrill buzzers and whistles invade our home this month, I’ll heed a different breed of calls: the call of the wild.The Cornell Lab of Ornithology reminds us it’s not only peak hoops season but peak beak season … something for the rest of us grousers. It will unveil its organically “seeded” brackets  March 12 (tomorrow!), for a March 13 tip-off of its second annual “March Migration Madness.”

Last year, the Black-Capped Chickadee ruled the roost, fending off a full-fledged threat from the wild card Cedar Waxwing. Who will horn in this year — an actual Gamecock? A mutant Jayhawk? An Oregon duck?

I’ve traditionally been pretty flighty filling out my NCAA brackets — picking my favorite colors and mascots first. But an entire bracket dedicated to colorful birds? Close to heaven. The beauty is, Cornell plucked the top 8 seeds from last year’s fittest and tossed in 4 wild cards, leaving the rest of the Tweet 16 up to us fair/foul-weather fans. We’re being asked to nominate our top bird, then move the flock through its paces with “likes” on Facebook, all the way to choosing the Final Feathered Four and ultimate Chirpion.

Don’t wanna ruffle any feathers here … so which bird is my pick?

Lately I’ve become enamored with the Carolina wren, but as an anti-Tar Heels fan, that’s bad karma. Looking at the actual NCAA brackets provides little inspiration: Louisville Cardinals, Long Island Blackbirds, Creighton Bluejays, Temple Owls, Lehigh Mountain Hawks, Marquette Golden Eagles … hmm.

What birder can forget the thrill of spying an unknown species through the glass? That happened when I first recognized a yellow-bellied sapsucker out my bay window. But as the official mascot of the Cornell site, that cries fowl.

Most recently, my eyes and heart were opened to a lowly (not really) sparrow — dismissing what at first I thought was a song sparrow, until the wondrous jolly beard and clownish crown of the White-Throated Sparrow materialized in my backyard, then again in my mother’s backyard this past weekend. Let’s lift up this sparrow to the Tweet 16. (Below, is the discovery as seen in my mother’s Norfolk, Va., yard yesterday. S/he eventually hops up onto the little pedestal s/he so deserves.)

Meanwhile, back to the NCAA mating dance. One thing’s clear: My birds and I are rooting against all cats — domestic and wild. (Sorry, Hubby, whose Kentucky Wildcats are top-seeded; I’ll overlook the whiskers on the mascot of my own alma mater — good ol’ Sparty of Michigan State — who is both top-seeded and seedy.)

Perhaps this year I’ll have more than March Migration Madness to crow about. Comparing the view outside the window to my husband’s 60-inch flat screen, though … no contest.

Click here (starting March 12) to view the full Cornell Tweet 16 bracket. And here’s an early halftime show: