March Madness is special--it's a time to watch too much basketball, eat too many chicken wings, and scream too loudly at television screens. But most importantly, perhaps, it's the time for outlets to celebrate their love of bracket competitions. It's time we put them to the test.

Brackets make something as unnatural as March Madness (unnatural and special aren't mutually exclusive) palatable for human consumption. Think about it: an elitist tournament with "invitations," risk-taking against terrible odds, fleeting love affairs with teams (and chicken wings) you'll forget by the end of April. And if you're lucky enough to have your alma mater (or favorite team) invited to play, well, that's two hours of anxiety you'll never get back. Brackets in all their simplicity and linear beauty bring some sanity and order to this weird phenomenon, and maybe that's one reason we so enjoy brackets drawn up with some of our other favorite things: food, movies, pies, The Wire, and television dramas, to name a few. Yep, we admit it. We love brackets. 

Using a tri-pronged criteria of scope, fan excitement, and pop culture relevancy, with bonus points here and there for creativity, we searched for this season's ultimate 16 brackets and seeded them accordingly (some may say unscientifically, and we'll take it). And for the next few weeks, we'll be pitting the brackets against each other, and generally doing what makes each year's NCAA tournament exciting (think Cinderellas, specific seedings, intriguing matchups, upsets, and so on) to give you a picture of where The Atlantic Wire sides. But it's up to you as well: Do you want to see Jezebel's Sex and Chocolate battle get into the second week or watch as Grantland's Smacketology bracket reigns supreme?
Without further ado, we present The Atlantic Wire's Inaugural Battle of the Brackets...and our first round matchups:
    Matchup #1
Scope: The NCAA is tasked with trying to determine the best 68 teams in the country. Sound of the City, run by The Village Voice, is matching up musicians like Nicki Minaj (an 11-seed) with Billy Joel (a 6-seed) to determine the "quintessential New York City Musician."
Fan Excitement: Do you know anyone who went to Iona or Western Kentucky University? A fan of either, perhaps? You will now. Part of the beauty of the tournament is identifying a hot-shooting lower-seeded team and hoping it takes down one of the big bad state schools, or even better ... Duke. Sound of the City on the other hand is using the Village Voice's online readership to help determine the winner of matchups like the aforementioned Minaj-Joel showdown. Judging from the turnout for Gene Simmons versus Neil Diamond, those diehard Neil Diamond fans aren't exactly coming out in droves.
The Intriguing Matchup: We deferred to ESPN and SBNation, who said that the possible round of 32 matchup between Missouri and Florida would've been the game to watch this weekend, but an upset ruined what could've been. Sound of the City had an 8-9 matchup between the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and A Tribe Called Quest.
The Cinderella:  Mariah Carey hobbles into the SOTC tournament as a 10-seed. Minaj, as we mentioned, rolls in as an 11-seed, and the biggest pop music star in the world right now, Lady Gaga, is a 7-seed. When the NCAA draw first came out, critics were split between New Mexico State, Murray State, and the ousted-before-the-first-round Iona Gaels.  But now that the dust has settled, Ohio (which faces a depleted UNC team) might be the Cinderella to watch.
Why the NCAA Should Win: The NCAA tourney is the biggest, baddest bracket in the country. It beats out Sound of the City (and probably every other bracket in existence) when it comes to participation, ergo it's a bit more inclusive an experience than SOTC (and again, every other bracket in existence). 
Why the SOTC Should Win: New York City bragging rights mean a lot, right? And you'd be hard-pressed to find a poll that brings together Lady Gaga, John Coltrane, Cyndi Lauper, and Patti Smith for one all-out rumble. While it can't really compete with the excitement of the NCAA tournament, it's a great reminder of the music and talent that New York City has produced--something we might not have thought of otherwise.
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Matchup #2

#1 Jezebel's Sex vs. Chocolate vs. #8 The Name of the Year

Scope: Jezebel has asked readers to not only determine where the missionary position falls in the swirling hierarchy of sexual positions and practices, but to weigh in on whether any of those acts beat out the most-favored chocolate item in the competition. It's funny, irreverent, sort of raunchy, and for the most part, pretty safe for work (depending on where you work). On the flip side, The Name of the Year contest is basically what it sounds like: "Name of the Year was founded in 1983 on an Ivy League campus. Its mission has remained unchanged: to discover, verify, nominate, elect and disseminate great names." This year is no exception--the team at NOTY has been researching names, running their brackets, and tabulating results for 11 months. And the competition now comes down to two amazing names: Courvoisier Winetavius Richardson and Taco. B.M. Monster. 

Fan Excitement: Jezebel's announcement post already has nearly 40,000 views and more than 400 comments. And judging by its predecessors, Pie vs. Cake and Cats vs. Dogs, Sex vs. Chocolate has the staying power. NOTY's votes aren't shabby (the semifinals drew almost 5,000 votes). They just dont have the robust fans of Jezebel.

The Intriguing Matchup: There was a bit more separation in the matchup between Neptune Pringle III and Taco B.M. Monster than we thought there would be, so we're going to have to go with the final between the aforementioned Courvoisier Winetavius Richardson and Taco Monster. Jezebel, on the other hand, has intriguing first rounds between chocolate ice cream and a chocolate milkshake and missionary taking on beach sex. 

The Cinderella: We're going with frosting, which garnered a 10-seed in Jezebel's bracket. It's only got lowly drugstore chocolate to take care of before possibly taking on the second-seeded brownie. Yolanda Supersad, a 15-seed, tore through the NOTY bracket this year and was only 12 votes away from making the Final Four.

Why Jezebel Should Win: Pedigree and history. Jezebel knows how to get its readers involved and how to articulate a topic that will get people talking. From the very controversial Pie vs. Cake (cheesecake, which is considered a pie came out victories) victory to this year's bracket featuring sexual positions and truffles--there won't be any lack of humor or conversations that might border on TMI. 

Why Name of The Year Should Win: Hard work pays off, right? This is the bracket you back if you're a fan of esoteric research and a year's worth of perusing through some of the most ridiculous names America has to offer. 

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Matchup # 3

#4 Consumerist's Worst Company in America  vs. #5 Muppet Madness

Scope: There's a bit of rage behind Consumerist's competition. For seven years, the site has sought to find the worst company in America. From Sallie Mae to Bank of America, Consumerist banks on consumer rage to get you clicking. The winner joins last year's Champion and oil spill extraordinaire BP as the most hated company in America. Muppet Madness rolls into its third year with the momentum of a very successful movie.  The bracket is pretty straightforward--pick the best muppet from each region (New characters, Classics, Celebrities, and Old Favorites).

Fan Excitement: Like we mentioned--it's not really fans voting in Consumerist's brackets. They're really tapping into the pulpy marrow of men and women who want to, for lack of a better term, stick it to the man. Oppositely, Muppet Madness is the work of three niche and fiercely devoted Muppet blogs: The Muppet Cast, Tough Pigs and The Muppet Mindset.

The Cinderella: We're going with Rowlf. The characters in Muppet Madness aren't seeded, and it seems like the Celebrities and New Characters on the other side of the bracket will just be fodder for whoever comes out of the scuffle between The Old Favorites and Classics.  Rowlf won't have to deal with titans like Miss Piggy and Kermit until the Final Four.  In the Consumerist bracket, we're picking the U.S. Postal Service.  It manages to hit the sweet spot between obsoleteness and inefficiency, yet still scores very well in the anger-inducing department. It's also going up against paper tigers like Facbook, Sprint, and UPS.

The Intriguing Matchup: The Consumerist matches pairs up All-American bad guys Bank of America and Chase. Muppets face off Miss Piggy and Gonzo's meeting in round one.

Why Consumerist Should Win:  Unifying America is not an easy task, and Consumerist found perhaps the easiest way to do it: the search for a common enemy

Why Muppet Madness Should Win: If you admire devoted fans. 

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Matchup #4 

#4 Esquire's Hottest Woman vs.  #5 io9's Worst SciFi Movie

Scope: We have a battle right in each publication's wheelhouse. It should be noted that this Esquire competition is not to award its "Sexiest Woman Alive" declaration (which currently belongs to Rihanna). So we'll let you mull over the different ways "hot" is different than "sexy." That said, Esquire's bracket feature women from the very-different spheres of "Movies", "Royals", "Television" and the amorphous region, "Models + Music". io9 grabbed a lot of attention for last year's Greatest SciFi Movie Ever Made bracket and is back again with its snarky and fitting opposite with options like Wild Wild West and Bicentennial Man up for your consideration.

Fan Excitement: Sure, Esquire's hotness contest has the nifty hashtag and its own Facebook page. But io9's initial announcement  has already spurred over 26,000 views and over 400 comments from fans in anticipation for the competition.

The Cinderella: For Esquire, it's Taylor Kitsch circa John Carter.  As the 15-seed, he's taken out the highly ranked Emma Stone, proving that Esquire readers might not be taking his hormone-baiting contest as seriously as one might otherwise think. Over at io9, the mildly esoteric Santa Claus Conquers the Martians has already scored an upset over the fourth-seed Sound of Thunder. Yes, we're not sure what this even means, but read this IMDB synopsis and tell us that isn't a movie worth rooting for: "The Martians kidnap Santa because there is nobody on Mars to give their children presents." 

The intriguing Matchup: Aside from the Kitsch-Stone upset, Esquire's results have been blowouts.  They did pit Lady Antebellum versus Lady Gaga (in which Antebellum came out on top), which is somewhat intriguing considering two of Antebellum's members are men.  Over at io9,  Hugh Jackman is in a battle with himself as they stack the cringe-worthy Van Helsing against the brain ipecac better known as X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Why Esquire Should Win: It's an unapologetic plea for man-clicks.  While the NCAA tourney is already a dude-bro congregation of sorts, why not take it a step further?  

Why io9 Should Win: Because someone on the staff actually watched what's going to be the worst science fiction movie ever made. 

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Brackets by: Millie Tran