When online writing really started taking off in the early mid-aughts, there was an arms race to create new ways of looking at old material that would get readers to come back again and again. Polls became popular. Then the nuclear bomb pop culture and sports juxtaposition reached its height and some energetic “content creator” put something you could rank into a bracket. “This is great!” bored office workers cried. “I’d much rather argue over the merits of fruit pies versus custard pies with strangers on the Internet than actually do any real work. Make another one!” And so websites kept creating them. Not just in March, but all year round. Brackets of movies. Brackets of politicians. Brackets of cats. Brackets of dogs. Brackets of bands. Brackets of potato chips. If there are more than 64 variations of any item on this planet, someone has made a bracket of it.
Now we live in the nuclear winter of not one, but two Nic Cage brackets in 2014 thanks to sites like SBNation and The Wire. The seedings and setup are often off — looking at you Hitfix and your 1 vs 2 seeds in the second round until everyone told you to fix it — because they are put together by people who have never actually done any sports reporting. Enough. Fuck all of your lazy, meaningless, empty-calorie posts of pop detritus. They are disgusting, and the worst part is, they should disgust the people who make them too. You created nothingness, and will spend the next three weeks begging people to continue voting in polls they no longer care about on Twitter, on Facebook and in every subsequent post on the topic. The long tail on these brackets? They don’t exist. As the tournaments go on, the clicks go down and sites are catering to nuts who really do want to make sure a Marvel character beats a DC character in the Elite 8.
Brackets attempt to rank items and experiences that at best can only be described by individual tastes and preferences, not by actual results, which is why they are an endless loop of draining debate. There are few things in this world that make me wish we could truly achieve an utopian society than the posting of a Girl Scout cookie bracket. It’s a cookie and everyone has one, no cookie is ranked higher than any other cookie because creating an artificial, subjective increased value of a cookie over another cookie is just another form of oppression. But look. Nearly four thousand social media shares. Well done, USA Today Sports Media Group. You’ve click-baited enough to live another day. The final? 2300 social media shares. There is that lack of long tail mentioned earlier.
Every March I hope to see a bit like this in The Onion:
Area Woman Completely Forgets To Fill Out Actual College Basketball Bracket
Charlotte, NC – Sources have confirmed that self-described “bracket expert” Sandy McDonald completely forgot to fill out an actual NCAA tournament bracket after spending the past five days filling in every bracket she was presented. “Time just got away from me,” McDonald said as she looked over her bracket of garden herbs. “I spent so much time researching my bracket of Dolly Parton wigs the basketball tournament just completely got away from me. Maybe if I hadn’t put so much effort into my North American constellations bracket for NASA.gov, I would have had a few minutes to at least go chalk in the men’s tourney.”
Shaking her head while reviewing her notes on the bar-versus-liquid soap tourney posted on feminist site Jezebel, McDonald admitted she hadn’t even seen an actual basketball bracket on the entire internet.
So fuck your Best Sports Ball bracket, your bitchest fans bracket, your GIF tourney, your privilege bracket, and even our own ugliest NFL player bracket. (Is that thing ever going to wrap up, RobotsFightingDinosaurs? For fuck’s sake, players have changed teams in the time it has taken to get that thing to the second round.) When writers in other mediums say the internet is full of meaningless garbage, this is what they are talking about. Stop adding to the trash heap and talk about some actual goddamn basketball in March.