Every year on seemingly every website and sports talk radio station in the country, we become unilaterally obsessed with brackets. God bless us.
If it were just the NCAA tournament bracket, March Madness would be far less mad than it is. Something about the reminder of how much joy we get in filling out a bracket has led writers and talkers deep into the great time-wasting ether, creating brackets on everything you could possible dream of bracketing.
Recently, Grantland.com put out a much-discussed bracket to determine the best character on the HBO show The Wire, a somewhat haphazardly assembled bracket evidenced by putting a multi-layered character like Bubbles as a No. 7 seed. Seriously, Grantland, get a freaking clue on that one.
Last year, the indefatigable Spencer Hall of EDSBS.com created the inspired "Condiment Bracket" that had the Internet abuzz for weeks debating how Sriracha could ever beat out ketchup and wondering if butter is actually really a condiment at all.
I'm still upset about the criminally poor seeding of ranch dressing.
I digress. This is not a debate about condiments as much as it is a debate about whether debating the best condiment is more or less entertaining than debating the best character on The Wire.
The Ultimate Bracket Bracket is bigger than one debate, however, as we've included a field of 68 different bracket ideas, including everything from best Seinfeld quotes to best sports sneaker to a reference of Jezebel's controversial cake vs. pie tournament two years ago, wondering if that's better than a bracket full of sugary breakfast treats. (Note: It is not.)
Those are just a few examples. This is not actually a bracket about any of those things, which is to say it's a bracket about all of them.
The Ultimate Bracket Bracket is separated into four regions (which we'll present below, with a PDF of the entire bracket available at the end). Each bracket is filled by 17 seeded bracket ideas. Some of the brackets already exist, while others have been suggested just for this bracket (feel free to take any of the ideas and run with them).
After much thought, the four regions came down to the four things we seem to debate the most: TV and Movies, Food, Pop Culture and Sports.
Within each region, as you will see below, the selected bracket ideas were seeded based partly on which debates would be the most heated and which topics have the widest audience appeal. Feel free to add your own "last four out" in the comments.
TV and Movies
1. Mob Movies vs. 16. Chick Flicks – A classic top seed headlined by a potential Final Four of Goodfellas, Godfather, Godfather 2 and Scarface against a plucky 16 seed that would be filled with copious amounts of kissing in the rain.
8. Best Muppet vs. 9. Best Western – This is not the Kermit the Frog runaway you might think. And for Best Western, I don't mean the hotel chain. Or do I mean the hotel chain?
5. Seinfeld Quotes vs. 12. David Milch Monologues or J.J. Abrams Conspiracies (Play-In) – The play-in game in this bracket is fascinating. Listening to a bracket full of Milch Monologues would be amazing, but only if more than half are read by Ian McShane.
Still, either would get destroyed by an under-seeded Seinfeld quotes. That probably should have been the No. 2 seed.
4. Simpsons Quotes vs. 13. Judd Apatow Projects – Another landslide setting up a strong second-round matchup between Seinfeld quotes and Simpsons quotes. Not that there's anything wrong with that, so don't have a cow, man.
6. Cross Dressers vs. 11. Gratuitous Nude Scenes – Obvious upset alert, though cross dressers in film and TV provides an amazing depth of field. Still, for every Will Ferrell clip, you might get an American Pie or Revenge of the Nerds shot that will probably win the popular vote.
3. Movie & TV Cars vs. 14. Worst Spin-off – The best TV spin-off is hard, but the worst is much more fun. Still, the debate between K.I.T.T. and the General Lee alone would take no less than eight hours to properly dissect. And can either of those cars go back in time?
7. SNL Characters vs. 10. The Wire Characters – I had the Sopranos here but cut it for SNL because the top seed was already mob-related. SNL has so many great characters in its history. The Wire is a great show, but the Grantland bracket was smacked together so loosely it put a sour note on a great idea, lowering the seed to No. 10.
That's the problem with these brackets: Once someone does them, it's impossible to do them again even if you think there were flaws.
2. Super Hero Movies vs. 15. Best Criterion Collection – We could have an entire region just dedicated to Batman movies. Billy Zane's The Phantom would be a total sleeper.
1. Beer vs. 16. Vegan Meat & Dairy Substitutes – This is the biggest landslide in bracket history.
8. Things in a Can vs. 9. Best Non-Food Item Used as Food – I feel both of these categories are perhaps under-seeded, making it one of the strongest first-round games in the field.
5. Pizza Toppings vs. 12. Best Burgers or Best Fast-Food Joint (Play-in) – This was a play-in only because the debate is impossible to decide. The Best Burger is clearly based on where you live in the country, so the Final Four would be impossible to get right. The Best Fast-Food is also a bit of a regional category, but still could be fun to debate.
Pizza toppings are an age-old debate people have every weekend of the year. A bracket would be fun to see.
4. Condiments vs. 13. Things at a Deli – We could have an entire region just for salamis.
6. Cheese vs. 11. Best Dip – The real question is where queso would be ranked in either…or both.
3. Sugary Breakfast Cereal vs. 14. Desserts – Desserts could be higher, but the idea is so subjective it makes it impossible to have a real winner. If you like chocolate, some things will do better than if you don't. Also, is a cinnamon bun dessert or breakfast?
Give me a debate between Cookie Crisp and Super Golden Crisp any day of the week.
7. Midnight Snacks vs. 10. Diner Favorites – This actually could be almost the same list, just in different order.
2. Best Use of Bacon vs. 15. Best Use of Ranch – The Elite Eight matchup of Bacon vs. Beer is something the world deserves to witness.
1. Drunken Facebook Status Updates vs. 16. Darren Rovell Twitter rules or People Who Use Google+ (Play-in) – The most epic play-in game ever that would have Twitter all abuzz…or atwitter I suppose...for a topic most of the world has no clue even exists. Drunken Facebook updates would destroy all comers in the first round.
8. Internet Memes vs. 9. Twitter Hashtags – Meh. LOLZ. #Weaksauce
5. Animals Playing Instruments vs. 12. Wedding Songs that Eventually Become Break-up Songs – There is a lot of potential for the plucky No. 12 seed here, but keyboard cat and friends have eyes on a deep tourney run.
4. Funniest Person (Not Named Louis CK) vs. 13. Things that Look Like Jesus – It's widely recognized that Louis CK is Jesus, right?
6. Animated GIFs vs. 11. Taiwanese YouTube Animation – An amazing first-round matchup. I wonder if the Taiwanese YouTube people would make an animation of this entire bracket for me?
3. Annoying TV Catchphrases that Infiltrate Everyday Life vs. 14. Reality TV Characters Who Become Famous In Real Life – Did I do that? Deal or no deal? That's hot.
7. Vintage Lunchboxes vs. 10. Celebrity Weddings & Funerals – What is it with our need to watch people get married and die? I don't understand why we like watching famous people's funerals. When I die, bury my ashes in an old Batman lunchbox, please.
2. One-Hit Wonders vs. 15. Worst Indie Rock Songs People Pretend to Like to Seem Cool – This No. 15 seed could upset the second seed, if only people wouldn't be ashamed to vote for it in fear of not being considered cool.
1. NCAA Tournament vs. 16. Most Hated Athlete or Best Athlete Turned TV Analyst (Play-in) – No bracket tops the actual bracket.
8. Best Goal (Any Sport) vs. 9. Best Dunk – This combines the two most debated actual sports topics of all time, so it had to be a first-round game.
5. Toughest Sport to Master vs. 12. Worst NFL Starting QB – Who cares who you think the best quarterback is? Let's find the worst. And while quarterbacking is hard to master, it's certainly not as hard as golf, or hockey, or skiing slalom or hitting a baseball or…
4. Athlete You Would Least Want to Fight vs. 13. Most Confusing Advanced Stat – This matchup does help us answer the centuries-old question of what Georges St-Pierre's xFIP is.
6. Best Comeback vs. 11. Best Cinderella Story – This is an obvious setup for the Cinderella to make a run.
3. Most Athletic Athlete vs. 14. Least Surprising Athlete Who is Now Broke – It turns out Allen Iverson may not actually be broke. Funny, in his prime he may have been the pound-for-pound most athletic athlete, too.
But who is that athlete now? It has to be LeBron James, doesn't it? Could it be a tennis player?
This is one of the brackets that really should happen.
7. Best Sports Trophy vs. 10. Best Athlete Sneaker – Of course we would have an entire Jordan region. For best sports trophy, it's a really hard call. The Stanley Cup has an aura about it, but the BCS trophy is the only thing that organization has gotten right. Let's not forget about the Lombardi Trophy. Also, the World Cup—that's not even an actual cup—could be a sleeper.
2. Best Ballpark or Stadium vs. 15. Tiger Woods Mistresses – A year ago, the Tiger Woods category would have been a No. 5 seed at worst, but it certainly still makes the list because he's probably the only athlete alive where we know of nearly 68 mistresses. That's not to say there aren't others (athletes, not mistresses), but Tiger's ladies became a part of all of our lives for months.
As for the Best Ballpark or Stadium, it's the age-old sports debate that everyone in America loves to have. There are a handful of places that could easily win, making a clear winner a near impossibility. Still, the debate—sight lines, food, parking, etc.—would be so much fun to have.