I wanted to start this post off with an ecard I got from my friend Lisa over in Indonesia (that is the international connection for today’s post),
Filling out my bracket is always equal parts fun and frustration for me, and how you fill out your bracket says a lot about you. Thankfully my picks do not get as heavily scruntinized as President Obama’s, whose picks were described as “predictable and pandering” in Time Magazine. Obama (and perhaps myself) may have been better off following some of the tips outlined in a recent article on Barking Up the Wrong Tree, wherein science is used to inform bracket picks and eventual winners. Some of the surprising findings they suggest are that;
- Better looking athletes are more likely to win.
- Going to a game? Cheer. It does help teams win.
- Is your team high-fiving a lot? Teams that touch each other more win more.
- The “hot hand” exists.
- The home team is more likely to choke.
- The further away the away game, the more likely the visiting team is to lose.
- Teams with red uniforms do better.
Despite all the preparations and tips I follow when picking a bracket, I still manage to come up short and I feel as though this McSweeney’s letter is written to me. And while I might not have the best luck at the NCAA Tournament picks, maybe I can do better at one of the many other similarly designed brackets that are out there, such as;
- A bracket for picking bracket style (Two-tone boxes all the way!)
- Picking the best character on The Wire (I am going with Avon Barksdale for the upset)
- The best television drama in the past 25 years (The Wire)
- The best Will Ferrell character (Ron Burgundy)
- Or the worst science fiction movie (It pains me to pick it, but Star trek: Nemesis was really bad)
But all of this March Madness (and subsequent April Abjectedness) actually has the potential to teach us a little bit about evolutionary ecology. Last year io9 had a great post discussing a paper which compares the tournament to biological evolution. Their case makes some sense, and falls along the lines of “the rich get richer”, where good schools are more easily able to attract good players, which creates this feedback loop of sorts. More recently, this metaphor was taken even further with the use of Rock-Paper-Scissors (lizard-Spock) in a tournament style framework to demonstrate the eventual equilibrium obtained in an ecosystem, and the potential disruption by the loss of a trait (think about an “ecosystem” where the organisms with the ability to throw rocks were eliminated, you would end up with a lot of scissor yielding organisms). So even when spending time working out my bracket, it still counts as studying.