Confessions of an Ameteur Bracketologist

Walk up to a stranger who knows nothing of the chicanery and heartbreak we call March Madness and tell them you’re a bracketologist. They may form a rather flattering and highly incorrect picture in their mind. Listening simply to the scientific sounding name, people are more likely to assume you own a Phd from Princeton or Yale than a life of sorting the RPIs of Wofford and Pepperdine. 

How does one even become a Bracketologist? Are there courses out there? Can I declare KenPom and Sagarin studies as my double minor? Or is it simply a matter of hours? If a hundred hours of super smash bros melee-ing earned us the right to play as Mewtwo, perhaps endlessly watching Tar Heels, Hoyas, Wahoos and Utes makes one the ultimate authority on everything bracket. 

It is clear to us March Madness victims That the Bracketologist is no scientist at all. You trusted the Bracketologist when you argued vigorously against various acquaintances that Temple would be in the first four. You believed the Bracketologist when he told you to put Iowa State in your final four. When you eventually lose your bracket challenge, office pool or remaining scraps of sports fan pride, you will curse the ‘Palm readers’ and ‘Joey Brackets’ for deceiving you, hoping to sue them for ‘bracketeering.’

Hey, at least the people who listen to the experts have someone to blame besides their own inadequate, and quickly greying, head. The rest of you denounced the Bracketologist’s pseudo science and embraced a more creationist method. Hell, you’re just as smart as some sports nerd with a byline right? And so you carved your wayward path to the final four that was paved with the likes of UC Irvine (because they have a really tall dude) and Davidson (because Steph Curry’s still in college right?). How’d that work out for you? Despair, regret and an endless supply of Alanis Morissette albums? yeah, that’s about right.

But you didn’t need me to tell you how that story played out. You already knew. In fact you knew a week ago, when you hemmed and hawed over Purdue/ Cincinnati, teetered and tottered over Ohio State/ VCU or eeni meeni minied and moed over NC state/ LSU. You knew that March Madness would soon become a march to the liquor cabinet to drown your sorrows and smash the Baylor shot glasses you thought were such a good idea at the time. March Madness is an inevitable disappointment every year. The only people who come out happy are casinos and over-priced grief counsellors.

I don’t mean to patronize. In fact I feel nothing but empathy towards you. I’m a (not so) proud owner of 16 brackets, all of which were dead after the second game on Thursday. After the all-nighters on team stream, wasted Saturday afternoons watching conference tournaments, and enough sleep deprivation to think Doug Gotlieb had all the answers, I created a bracket that gave me a rather depressing resolution: I will never go 63 for 63.

If the first step is admitting I have a problem, then I am 1/12 of the way to a peaceful spring. Why research the history of 12/5 upsets, title winning coaches without I’s in their name (none), or why Virgina is sometimes called the cavaliers and sometimes called the Wahoos (missheard song lyrics)? I have just as much of a chance to win my bracket pool by picking each round based on the team with a menacing mascot, most hyphenated last names, or highest ranked jeer of January. The day I record a perfect bracket is the same day that Gonzaga stops sounding cool, March Madness has no teams named ‘Wildcats,’ and Jay Wright has bad hair. 

If your bracket pool is still within reach, power to you, but more likely you’re wallowing in self pity and licking your wounds. In that I will join you. After all I still have 11 months to recuperate my unfounded confidence. And with that, I have little left to offer you outside of sympathy for your predictable plight and a lighter to burn your latest March mistake.

To the novice, the ‘expert’ and the ameteur Bracketologist, I wish you good luck, good basketball and mild debt. See you next March.


Inspiration and confusion: the daze of a funeral

Inspiration. Inspiration is an undeniably abstract concept: one that is often said to light a motivational fire that could certainly be lit internally. To me, with my tenuous at best grasp of language and life, it is a moment, or a person that provides such overwhelming but graceful strength that it forces change from within you. It’s not an aesthetic tinkering that makes us look in the mirror, but a transformation so clear that it makes us recognize we don’t need one. We can be inspired to chase our passion, find our compassion or simply to try a little harder to carry some inspiration on to others. We are all strong enough as Human beings to take inspiration in and carry it out to our friends, our family, our society. In fact, we are so similar to one another that we can relate and in turn empathize with nearly everyone. But then why is it that so often we are inspired the most by people in situations so grave we only hope never to relate to?

I went to, and had the honour of singing at, the funeral of a fourteen year old girl today. I never got the chance to know her very well, but our parents were close. Over the course of the last few months and more specifically the last few hours I still found myself seeing a vivid picture of the hope, the happiness and the inspiration she brought to our world. Her only worries in her last few weeks were that her family and friends could move on without worry or sadness but with celebration for the far too short time she was here. She planned out the majority of what I was a part of today and it truly was the celebration she wanted, one she deserved. Her love and passion echoed through the room louder than any crackling voice I, or any other singer or speaker had to offer. We left inspired. I can’t exactly say how, nor can I honestly speak for anyone else there today, but I know I truly feel different about the life I’m leading than I did yesterday. It’s invisible but certainly tangible.

So I circle back to wonder, why is it that we are most inspired by people in the most compromised of positions. Is it in us that we only care in times of the most desperate measures? Do those facing the most extreme hardships gain an extra element of strength and motivation that we feed off of? I don’t know, to be honest I don’t ever want to. But I know that the girl this world lost today did not deserve her fate in any way at all. And I know that it is in the incredible people like her that we find the most inspiration.

I am admittedly an agnostic leaning heavily on the door of an atheist, so the easy explanation is that there is no rhyme or reason, no meaning or answer to why she is no longer with us. But if there is a higher power, which she firmly believed there was, then why her? Maybe if there is truly some order behind the madness, then it is the best of us that are destined to inspire the rest of us. Maybe her strength is meant to push us forward and this is the way it must be for that to happen. If that’s the truth then I know she is in a better place than all of us. And she lifted the rest, a category I am certain to be found in, along with her.

Having over- analyzed and questioned myself into a twister board over the last few hundred words I have clearly rendered the words ‘don’t worry about a thing,’ which Eight of us sang today, at her request, hypocritical. I don’t know what to believe in, and that’s scary, but it’s reality. Do any of us? Not absolutely, no. But I do believe in you Cam. Thank you.

The war on gender: a disclaimer for ‘antisocial’ media

Typically I use this space to fill the internet with bad puns, posts about the life of  a complete stranger no one likes or cares about (yeah, that’s me) and generally irksome top five lists. But as an active user of social media there’s a real issue that seems to be coming more and more to a head everyday, particular in the ‘twittisphere’ and the online world. The ‘war on gender’ is becoming real. If I log on to my twitter page right now I’d be hard pressed to scroll for a minute and not see links supporting feminist groups; tweets some would call feminist activism,- others ‘male bashing’- and of course the oft maligned and equally oft retweeted @Meninisttweets.

Many would say that we are far closer to a society of gender equality now than ever, so why has this become such a hot button issue of late? Aside from the clear fact that there is still a large gap in certain areas between respect and empathy for genders, there is no doubt the influence of social media has only put fresh wood on the fire. Now there is lots to love about the technological age’s ability to spark important debate and progress in areas of crisis and inequity. The evolution of the Arab spring and movements such as  ‘Occupy’ were undoubtedly aided by social media. But feminist ‘media movements’ such as #yesallwomen have been largely blackballed. Why?

I am far from an expert in social media tracking or feminist activism, but as a lifelong theatre kid I can say that a majority of my closest friends are of the female gender (yes, stereotype, but sometimes they’re true). This gives me the somewhat unique perspective of forming a ‘bridge of the river guy’ (yes, I’ll still make some puns)  in the ‘gender war.’ With some of my best friends extremely passionate about the issue I feel that I can be more sympathetic to the female side of the argument than many. However, I still found myself getting somewhat defensive when I see these ‘man hating’ posts.

I was struck by a minor epiphany recently though, as I read one of the many twitter links raising awareness and accountability for the everyday instances of catcalling, the constant bypassing of pay equity legislation and deep-rooted persecution of women in human culture. It wasn’t that my views changed, but that my thought process towards these posts clicked into place.

I vehemently support pay equity, and gender equity within the workforce, the media and executive legislation. And while I cannot firsthand attest to the impact of catcalling and persecution women face, there is no justifiable reason why myself, or any other man, has a justifiable need to make our equals feel uncomfortable or persecuted against. So I realized, that core feminist values  and movements are really nothing to be afraid of or feel defensive about, but highly reasonable pleas to abide by as humankind.

So why were some of these issues hard to get behind in the past? Perhaps a lot of it is me being part of an age-old story of the over-privileged white male holding on to what wasn’t ours to begin with and not letting go until Jackie Robinson stole it back, along with second base. But more of it perhaps lies in the aggressive and often unproductive way in which these debates play out over  the social medium.

In a world of anonymity in blogging, it is easy to let stretched opinions fly for the goal of entertainment and sparking controversy. Even ‘tweeters’ that carry their own name find it far easier to hide behind the screen, saying something they may not otherwise believe when talking face to face. The lack of vulnerability carried through social media sometimes reflects in poorly thought or offensive posts which are found on both sides of the ‘feminism debate.’

True feminist activists I would imagine would join me in denouncing a sizeable portion of gifs, vines and tumblr reblogs that say to ‘promote equality.’ And these certainly bother a large portion of the males that would otherwise jump on board. Now many, I myself find to be funny- not productive- but amusing. Perhaps though, the point isn’t to make your post tolerable to one who isn’t as easily offended, as it is to reach out to those who are looking for a reason to join your movement.

Now this is where we get to the highly controversial ‘meninists.’ First of all, let’s be clear, there is no such thing as a meninist ‘movement’ if the ideology centres around eating sandwiches on the couch as a birth right. I realize that many of these are meant merely as sarcasm- and I’d be hypocritical if I didn’t acknowledge that I’ve had a few chuckles at some of them- but if these are men who truly feel that these posts are fair game by virtue of women’s previous antagonization, then they are missing the point.

Any progressive thinking, or competently thinking, male would agree with core liberal feminist values. Many, including myself for a time, feel defensive when confronted by radical or ludicrous statements that stray from ideals of equality for all genders, a cease of female persecution and discrimination, and firmly practised equal work for equal pay. If feeling antagonized is the problem, then the productive way to solve it isn’t to fight back with far more ludicrous statements, it’s to reach out to those that are trying to make a positive difference.

Feminism isn’t only for women in my opinion. If being emasculated is the issue in embracing it, let the male readers refer to themselves as ‘gender equalitarians’ from this point forward. For all of the years that women have struggled for recognition and respect, ‘uncharacteristic’ males have also been subject to social stigma and persecution. Gay rights have been fought for, and achieved legislative success, but continue to be abused. Transgendered, bisexual or even physically weaker and ‘less masculine’ males have been pigeon-holed to fit a mold that they don’t want to belong to. Feminism, or ‘Gender equalitarianism,’ at it’s core is a way to set an even playing field for all humans, and eliminate divisive tendencies in gender stereo-typing, something I can certainly get behind. Can you?


Disagree with me?  Think I’m a brilliant writer? brilliantly handsome? I don’t care, feel free to comment below and tweet at me: @JLsand16 Also please submit your poll answer at the bottom. that’s today’s clause, I’ll be back with some more puns soon! Auf Wiedersehen everyone



Veggie Tales

A half month into becoming a newly minted vegetarian, or ‘veggie person’, as I once called them, I am officially 1/24 better of a person than you are. You know, because I’m humane, compassionate and kind with a bitter aftertaste of self-glorifying pretention… oh I guess that’s what I’m doing now. Anyhoo… the real beauty of it is that for all of you carnivorous, rabbit skinning folk, rest assured that I still lie far below you on the scales of human decency. In fact, I’d be remiss not to mention that one of the leading goals in ‘turning veggie’ is to find out if the bamboo wearing, Mondragon inhabiting (yeah, I miss that place too) hippies really begin to see me as one of their own.

Perhaps this ulterior motive puts me akin to the scholarship applicant conveniently showing up at a soup kitchen just in time to put some hours on the application, (never done that…) or more hyperbolic, the man who evangelizes just to bang a few nuns. Well, I could always say a few ‘Kale Mary’s’ to get out of that one.

Point is, I am the last person one would expect to make the transition; approached by other ‘veggie people’ I often postured that there are “other ways to hate yourself.” My favourite veggie skeptic reminded me of that and I countered with a quote about change being good for the soul… I seriously question my life-choices. Nonetheless there has been an array of positives, as well as regrets, since switching to ‘vegco’ (ironically leaving ‘guyco’). For the brave, the bored and the beautiful that continue to read about my humdrum life, full disclosure would dictate that perhaps there are more of the regrets.

It was all going so well in my journey from 17 year old curmudgeon to resident humanitarian. I had taken out the cookbooks, learned tofu… later learned that it’s not a martial art… and even started juicing. All Kale the magic bullet! But on day 15 I was faced with my biggest challenge… the famed Santa Lucia meatball.

If you’ve had it, you know. Get the Lasagna form Santa with meatballs and discover the mouth watering sensation that is the largest, and most delicious meatball in Manitoba. While my fellow diners were literally ‘having a ball’ (I should start up a pun count’) I was having the alternate lasagna with marinara sauce. It was fine, but ultimately the plain ‘tomato-engulfed mediocrity’ was nothing compared to my meaty Bae. (poll: which part of that phrase was less desirable???)

Bottom line: I honestly feel like I’m doing something somewhat worth while, and if a cynical meat-ball lover can do it, you can, or already are. But trapped in phases of doom, gloom and legume- with more meatloaves than sugar plums dancing in my dreams, there’s just one thing left to say. Tell me when the lamb chops stop screaming…


The Inagural Top 5 tuesday

Now is the time you don’t even know you’ve been waiting for. It’s the first top five Tuesday from ‘the clause.’ On the first Tuesday of every month I will break a down a top five of something that has caught my fancy and I’ll do my best to keep it interesting and maybe even humorous.

This week in Friendly Manitoba we watched our infamous five cabinet ministers ‘resign’ from their posts having been ‘unable to work with’ Premier Greg Selinger any longer! For years the term of “resign” has been little more than a way for prideful power players to put a more eloquent spin on “You can’t fire me, I quit!” A saving of face for the fallen from grace, the charade is akin to the drunk and desperate ‘dumpee’ who looks at his girlfriend’s decision to see how things go with his brother as a mutual breakup.

So in that vein- being an angst-ridden, impoverished and bitter university student- I can certainly come up with the top five things in or around my life that I would love to simply ‘resign’ without a trace, a vengeful post-breakup letter or a severance package. And we’re off…

5. The next five months: If you don’t live in the godforsaken land some call ‘River city,’ or more endearingly ‘murder capital’ you don’t truly understand. Simply put, “I predict pain” in a winter that’s sure to be a little more Ice-T than Mr… While other cities stress over mundane happenings like ‘snow,’ and ‘freezing’ temperatures, we are left to turn ‘Polar Vortex,’ ‘Plough Parking ban’ and ‘lethal wind-chill’ into water cooler discussions- assuming the water doesn’t freeze that is.

4. Avicii: I know this phase is nearly by the wayside, but I still feel the need to make a comment on it. ‘Wake me up’ was perhaps the most annoyingly over-played song since “You’re beautiful.” It plagued me wherever I went this summer, I even heard it’s all-too catchy riff in the unlikely venues of farmers markets, iPods of the middle aged, and even British Golf coverage. Just when I thought I was through with this beast, it arrived upon my ears at the dentist last week combining two of my favourite things. So please, just wake me up when it’s all over…

3. Kraft Singles: Do I need to explain this one? A combination of yellow dye #5, plastic encasement and pre-sliced rubbery molds do not make up cheese. As an off and on health enthusiast, this is one item that has always disgusted me to my very core. The ugly step-child of Velveeta is nothing to be admired in the taste department either, as Kraft’s delightful array of cheese-like choices: KD, singles, and RITZ bring about no solace in any viable judgement category of food. BUY SOME REAL CHEESE!

2. TSN fantasy football commercials: “I’m the champ… who’s the champ?… I’m the champ.” This is the quality of advertising that our nation’s number one sports network can provide. From ‘The Cursed’ to ‘The Commish’ to the  much maligned ‘trash-talker’ nothing about forced karate kid quotes, Cabbie staring at Xrays or Retired O-lineman in bad suits makes you want to play fantasy football.

1″Turnt”: I have never considered Lady Gaga as the beacon of social class in society, but back in 2008, she at least had the decency to say she’d “Had a little bit too much.” Long after I had more than too much of “Just dance,” the narrative of the over-beveraged has changed in cruel fashion. Gone are the glory days of friends stating their compromised abilities with a “can you come pick me up? Drank too much” or even the straight forward, “hammered LOL.” Now people send their ‘bae’ the ambiguous and all-together irritating message of “Hella Turnt af rn.” Soon this too will go the way of the dodo and the yolo, but can we please expedite this eventual death sentence?

‘Pce out bruh,’ I resign! That’s the clause for today. See you next time!


The ‘Fleet’ing legend of the purple penis

… None but a true demon barber could have laid such misfortune upon my innocent hands… err, my hair…

‘Twas the eve of all saints day, twenty aught eight- Or for the for less pretentious, Halloween 2008. A young man, inspired by the recently ‘Deppified’ Barber of Fleet street, was to embody the notorious Sweeny Todd. Fully Invested, and in vest, he was aiming to be crowned best costume at Windsor Elementary’s annual middle school costume contest.

One sweaty Friday afternoon, his smoky black hair, wandered into the gymnasium. The bleachers, smelling quite similar to human meat pies, housed zombies, devils, family guy characters and even a 12 year old playboy bunny. Soon after that misguided rabit’s eviction from our mansion, the motley crew of Mr. and Mrs. dress-ups meandered in circles around the basketball court providing the viewing excitement of a caution- flagged nascar race. One by one, the inferior were taken off the track until the best of the best remained. Our young barber raised his scissors to the sky with triumph as he was crowned ‘scariest costume.’ yes, ‘at that moment, he was infinite.’

However, as pumpkins were squashed, and the autumn leaves fell in this crooked little town, his once blonde locks were lost, and never found. The coal-coloured hair that had brought him so much pride just one day ago, was now to become the foundation of a less than endearing nickname- the purple penis.

How you ask? Well, knowledge of the under-priced, temporary hair dye colour wheel would suggest that on an angelic blonde canvas, an eggplant hue is left behind the charcoal masterpiece, and it won’t come off. Not even after the canvas lathers, rinses and repeats… and repeats. And so, this poor twelve year old walked in to school the next monday with hair that had transformed from ultraviolet gold, to just plain violet. Why he decided to wear a matching purple shirt is something known only to him. With the ‘purple’ portion of our nickname firmly established, all that was left to be added on was some junior high immaturity. Upon entering 9:00 AM science, a cry was heard from the back table that stated: “hey purple penis.” And so that became the first day of the rest of his grade 7 life. And ladies and gentleman, it wasn’t a pretty one. So let there be a lesson garnered from this momentous calamity.

*** Don’t use cheap hair dye***

Don’t do it- don’t you dye it from a box, don’t you put that in your locks, don’t use cheap hair dye on a train, don’t even use it on a plane. get rid of any inner Nike, and Just DON’T do it. Because if you do, then you may spend the first leg of All Hallow Tide, or for the less pretentious, Halloween, writing the sad tale of your ineptitude in a blog, rather than out dressing up embracing the holiday of the devil. Enjoy you’re candy, enjoy you’re parties, just as they are now. You don’t know how lucky you are.

That’s today’s Pundamental Insanity Clause. See you next time.