More than anything, Mark and I view The Final Four of Everything as pure fun.
We also believe it is packed with smart, unusual information, arranged in match-ups you wouldn't normally expect or imagine. All of it is designed to foment debates.
But, you can also improve your life through bracketology.
Want to know which national park you should go to on vacation? Consider the expertise of Scott Kirkwood, editor of National Parks magazine, who considered 32 parks (from Joshua Tree to Mt. Rainier to Mount Rushmore to Denali) and wrapped it up with a Glacier–Zion final.
Which roller coaster will give you the greatest thrills? Scott Rutherford, author of The American Roller Coaster, tells all, pitting Dollywood's Thunderhead against the Superman Ride of Steel at Six Flags New England.
What is the best strategy to keep looking young? David Leffell, a professor of dermatology and surgery at the Yale School of Medicine, bracketized 32 of them, from plant stem cell serum and daily moisturizer to silicone implants and facelifts. Finally, he narrowed it down to a Final Two of sun protection vs. Botox.
If you want to play the best board game, you couldn't find a better guide than Stefan Fatsis. His field of 32 included the likes of Candy Land, Strat-O-Matic, the Game of Life, and the Checkered Game of Life. (Believe it or not, there is a Rise and Decline of the Third Reich board game.) But when it was over, and the dice, the tiles, and the little men were put away, the last two standing were Monopoly and Scabble.
What could be more useful for teenagers than our SAT Success Strategies, by Laura Wilson, who runs WilsonDaily Prep? Her bracket mixes various forms of advice, to help with logistics and content, but her last two are: the confidence-building Understand Process of Elimination and remembering that the SAT is just one part of the application process.
Our bracketological expertise will tell you many more quite useful things: the best ski runs in America; the smartest motherly (and fatherly) advice; the worst sins of emailing; the best domestic beers, regional soda pop, wines, and cocktails; the most dangerous animals you'll encounter in America (biologist Chris Jenkins's winner will surprise you; I'll only say the winner is very small); the smartest/wittiest nuggets of Woody Allen and Yogi Berra's wisdom; the toughest golf holes in America; and the lousiest husbands around. And where else would you get this sort of pop culture service — not only the greatest screen cowboys but the greatest Dallas Cowboys.
Through Stefan Fatsis, I was introduced to the sports blogger Drew Magary of Deadspin.com, who didn't want a sports bracket. He wanted breakfast cereals. He's very serious about them. I suspect he's not very healthy. Still, you can start your day with Drew's advice (who divided his bracket into four very, very distinct regionals: irregular bowel, "purple is a fruit," bowlpourri, and kiddie mascot). He concluded with a Cap'N Crunch Crunch Berries–Cinnamon Toast Crunch smackdown. Drew's view: "The best cereals stay crunchy in milk; leave tasty-flavored milk at the end; have enough sugar to destroy your pancreas; and have not-too-challenging mazes on the backs of their boxes."
I shall now leave you with sizzling tidbits from one of our most amusing and unexpected brackets: It's Better with Bacon, by Peter Kaminsky. Peter knows his bacon, having authored Pig Perfect: Encounters with Remarkable Swine. To Peter, everything is improved with bacon, whether it's dark chocolate, tuna loin, collards, succotash, or mashed potatoes. And his final is a fight between the conventional BLT and something you may have never tasted before: bacon ice cream.
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Richard Sandomir is an award-winning sports television columnist for the New York Times. His previous books include Bald Like Me: The Hair-Raising Adventures of Baldman and The Englightened Bracketologist: The Final Four of Everything, also with Mark Reiter. Visit him online at www.bracketsmackdown.com.
Books mentioned in this post
Richard Sandomir is the author of The Final Four of Everything