March 18, 2016

AKABAS | Bracketology: Who/What is winning 2016?

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There are many things that literally everyone on Earth hates, such as hangnails, hotels that charge for WiFi, late-2000s M. Night Shyamalan films, and that moment when you don’t check your phone for an hour and there are 257 unread messages from a single group chat when you come back. There aren’t many things that literally everyone on Earth loves, but one of those things is March Madness, the NCAA basketball tournament. A single-elimination bracket – the concept that you need to win every single game to stay in it – is ingenious.

I support using the bracket concept whenever humanly possible, so let’s make a bracket to determine who or what has had the best 2016 so far. The competitors were determined subjectively by me, and the seeds, listed below, were determined primarily by number of Twitter followers (credit to former Grantland-writer Rembert Browne for this idea).

#1 seed – Taylor Swift

#2 seed – Leonardo DiCaprio

#3 seed – Donald Trump

#4 seed – Kendrick Lamar

#5 seed – Stephen Curry

#6 seed – Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright

#7 seed – Chris Rock

#8 seed – John Oliver

#9 seed – Bernie Sanders

#10 seed – Peyton Manning

#11 seed – Spotlight / Mad Max: Fury Road

#12 seed – Deadpool

#13 seed – Dank memes

#14 seed – Artificial intelligence

#15 seed – Gravitational waves

#16 seed – Aaron Gordon / Emmanuel Lubezki

Just as in the actual NCAA tournament, we’ll have completely unnecessary play-in games to determine who claims the 11 and 16 seeds.

Spotlight vs. Mad Max: Fury Road

While Spotlight won Best Picture and Mad Max: Fury Road failed to notch a victory in any major Academy Award category, the fact that a car chase took home the most Oscars was much more surprising than a well-acted drama winning the grand prize. Both were nearly flawless films, but since we’re talking about success in this calendar year, the one that’s still stirring up conversation advances.

Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road


Aaron Gordon vs. Emmanuel Lubezki

Gordon placed second in possibly the greatest NBA Slam Dunk Contest of all-time, while Lubezki won his third consecutive Best Cinematography Oscar for his work on The Revenant. The latter is certainly no small feat, but it’s harder to impress the masses with long takes of scenery shot with natural lighting than by jumping over a mascot and putting the basketball under your legs before stuffing it into a ten-foot high hoop backwards.

Winner: Gordon


Okay, on to the first round matchups!

Taylor Swift (1) vs. Aaron Gordon (16)

T-Swift has more Twitter followers than all participants of this tournament combined, and she also has her second Grammy Award for Album of the Year. Some say Swift didn’t deserve to win for what was far from her best album (she also won in 2016 for an album released in 2014, but whatever), and Gordon did deserve to win over Zach LaVine, but the fact remains that she won, and he lost.

Winner: Swift (1)


John Oliver (8) vs. Bernie Sanders (9)

Both peaked in recent weeks (Oliver with his scathing 20-minute take-down of Donald Trump that racked up 22 million views on YouTube and Sanders with his out-of-nowhere victory in Michigan), but have since cooled off. Despite Oliver’s video going viral, Trump’s polling numbers hit an all-time high last week, and Sanders’s chances of winning the Democratic nomination are decreasing. His popularity, however, isn’t. On New Year’s Day, Hillary Clinton was leading national polls by 24 points, and in the past two months, Sanders has cut this deficit in half, nearly to single digits.

Winner: Sanders (9)


Kendrick Lamar (4) vs. Dank memes (13)

To hear Kendrick’s new album (about which I’ve heard great things), I would have to buy it, whereas – although I’m still unclear on the definition of a dank meme – I cannot go 15 minutes without seeing a dank meme.

Winner: Dank memes (13)


Stephen Curry (5) vs. Deadpool (12)

Deadpool was a ton of fun, and its R-rating was a welcome change of pace, but it wasn’t nearly as innovative as it thought it was. Other than a few fourth-wall breaks, it had the same damsel in distress, underdeveloped villain and generic action that you’d find in any comic book movie. Curry, on the other hand, is literally making the NBA consider changing the rules because his shooting abilities are unparalleled.

Winner: Curry (5)


Donald Trump (3) vs. Artificial Intelligence (14)

Google’s computer system beat world-class Go player Lee Se-dol in a best-of-five series. Instead of using a brute-force, computation-heavy approach, Google developed one more dependent on machine learning. The creation is groundbreaking, fascinating and has major implications for the future of artificial intelligence beyond board games. If you’re interested in technology, you should look it up and read about… yea, who am I kidding? Sigh…

Winner: Trump (3)


Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright (6) vs. Mad Max: Fury Road (11)

If you inexplicably haven’t seen the most critically acclaimed action movie in years, people might still forgive you. When I still hadn’t finished the new House of Cards season a mere seven days after its release, two different people asked me, “What are you doing with your life?” and I honestly didn’t have an answer. The show is back, arguably better than ever, and its two leads still pull off the impossible feat of making me root for them despite their immoralities. Wright is as much the star this season as Spacey — she directed three of the best episodes (4, 9, and 10) and is showing us a whole new side of Claire Underwood.

Winner: Spacey and Wright (6)


Leonardo DiCaprio (2) vs. Gravitational Waves (15)

I think we can all agree that the following fact is awesome: two black holes colliding millions of years ago distorted space-time on Earth for a brief instant in the present. (Also, shout out to Albert Einstein for being able to figure this stuff out by just sitting around and thinking about it, when proving it took years and years of experimenting and over a thousand authors on the paper.) Be honest, though — before the discovery a month ago, you had no freaking clue what a gravitational wave was. Meanwhile, poor Leo (and the rest of the United States of America) has been waiting for that elusive little gold statue since he stole our hearts in Titanic nearly twenty years ago.

Winner: DiCaprio (2)


Chris Rock (7) vs. Peyton Manning (10)

Rock’s performance as Oscars host tackled race issues, poked fun at how seriously the Oscars takes itself and didn’t hold anything back. It wasn’t his best piece of comedy, however, with some jokes falling flat. While it’s still unclear if Peyton Manning wasn’t the worst starting quarterback in the NFL last season, he retired a Super Bowl champion, which isn’t something most get to say.

Winner: Manning (10)

Check back in a few weeks to see how the remainder of the tournament plays out. For now, we have these Elite Eight matchups. Things are going to get interesting!

Taylor Swift (1) vs. Bernie Sanders (9)

Stephen Curry (5) vs. Dank memes (13)

Donald Trump (3) vs. Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright (6)

Leonardo DiCaprio (2) vs. Peyton Manning (10)