Friday May 15th, 2009

Year-Round Madness

final-4-of-everythingIn a world of terrible sequels, here, refreshingly, is a great one: The Final Four of Everything. It’s a follow-up to The Enlightened Bracketologist. In both books, the national frenzy for brackets inspired by March Madness is put to use in settling (and starting) debates about everything from the best presidential speeches to the best breakfast cereal. The format is simple: Take 32 of anything, pit them against each other in a tournament-style bracket and see who or what is left standing.

In the new book, Second Pass contributor (and excellent saxophone player) Nick Trautwein considers the best jazz solos. Luke Dempsey — obsessive bird watcher, author of A Supremely Bad Idea, and another friend to this site — designs a tournament for . . . birds.

Other subjects among the book’s 150 include Supreme Court decisions, the worst movies by great directors, high school movies (criminally, Ferris Bueller and The Breakfast Club are made to meet in the second round, meaning one of them goes home way too early), sitcom dads and sitcom moms (teaser: one Huxtable comes out on top; the other doesn’t), and impressionists (not the painters, but people like Dana Carvey and Robin Williams. The finals of that one rightfully pits Frank Caliendo against Darrell Hammond. If you haven’t seen Hammond’s German-language Phil Donahue, you haven’t lived.)

One of the funniest concepts comes from cartoonist Roz Chast, who tries to determine an ultimate champion among her fears and phobias. Her final four: Going blind, plane crash, cancer, and — balloons.

There’s a blank bracket in the back, so I’ll have to come up with a subject of my own and fill it out. Perhaps R.E.M. songs, or contemporary novels, or obscure 1980s baseball players. Come to think of it, I might need to make some copies of the blank . . .