The Final Four of Everything
would not have been possible without the work of the experts and other smart folks who provided 132 of the brackets (Mark Reiter and I did the rest). There is no yellow pages for bracketologists, so I thought I'd tell you how we wrangled some of them.
Take P.S. Ruckman Jr. I hadn't heard of him until I was listening to an NPR show where he was discussing presidential pardons. He was so smart about a subject that probably doesn't have too many experts; I learned that he runs a blog about presidential pardons, emailed him, and he very quickly created one of the best and most educational brackets in the book — and one where famous pardons like those of Richard Nixon, George Steinbrenner, and Marc Rich didn't make it to the final. Instead, it was the pardons of 12 FALN Puerto Rico terrorists against the infamous Wall Street tycoon Charles W. Morse.
How about Jan Van Meter? I was browsing in a Borders store (sorry, Powell's!) and saw the book Tippecanoe and Tyler Too: Famous Slogans and Catchphrases in American History. As John Madden would say, "Boom!" What great bracket possibilities the book promised; I tracked Jan down and he really delivered, with the Enduring One-Liners bracket. It includes "Wait 'til next year," "Go west, young man," "Remember the Alamo," and "I shall return." But it came down to Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" vs. Thomas Paine's "These are the times that try men's souls."
On our list of bracket possibilities was "American Psychos"; on another list, this one of people we wanted to create brackets, was Willie Geist, the young co-host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe." I pretty much knew I could find Willie since his dad, Bill Geist of CBS News, had already contributed his Bill/William bracket. When Willie and I got in touch, he said he had a better idea than psychos: "Celebrity Mugshots." Great! I said. But I had one rule: Nick Nolte's picture, universally regarded as the worst ever, couldn't win; I told Willie that Nolte could be a finalist, but he had to lose. And he did.
I really wanted a Game Show Hosts bracket. Mark wanted a Reality Show Stars. In high school classmates, I secured both. I recalled how two of my high school French classmates, Steve Leblang and Robert Boden, were obsessed with game shows, and that Steve was paritcularly obsessed with Bill Cullen. I also recalled hearing over the years that both guys were in the TV business and that Bob had been with the Game Show Network. When I tracked down Steve at FX, he immediately agreed to do Game Show Hosts (where Cullen met Tom Kennedy in the final) and told me that Bob had left GSN for the Fox Reality Channel. Boom! again. Bob did Reality Show Stars, matching the inseparable twosome of Paris and Nicole against Omarosa.
Mark was especially lucky to find the right person to do a bracket on George Carlin. Would it be his best lines? His best routines? He could have found an admiring comedian for the job. Instead, he found a writer named Kelly Carlin-McCall, George's daughter, who witnessed the creation of many of her father's routines — which he called "hunks" — at home. George's most famous routine, 1972's "The Seven Words You Can't Say on Television," plays the final matchup against 1992's much angrier, but equally profane hunk, "Rockets and Penises in the Persian Gulf."
Finally, one of the disappointments of our first book, The Enlightened Bracketologist, was that we never found anyone to do the teeth bracket. Teeth? Of course! All our brackets have 32 entrants — and we each have 32 teeth. For the new book, I heard about a dentist-turned-comic, but he never responded to my requests, but Mark found an obvious candidate: his dentist. And where else, but in bracketology, would you find anybody debating which one would a final matchup: the lower right canine or the lower left canine? Admittedly, Dr. Hudson had a hard time with that one.