I wanted to share my bracket-predicting prowess with the world, but every time I published a blog entry on the subject this message kept showing up:
"[Editor's note: Nobody cares or even knows who you are. Try doing one single important thing in your life, and then maybe you can pretend that people are interested in your bracket strategies.]"
So instead of giving my own tips and tricks, I've decided to turn to Important People. And since we all know that filling out a bracket is more an exercise in prayer than in discernible rational strategies, I went straight to the people who are the most connected to God: a few of America's leading evangelical gurus.
Below are their strategies. It's not too late to adopt one of these and convert your bracket from the darkness into the light.
*just to be clear: all quotes below are fake.
Bell's strategy is simple: don't make anything definitive. Here's how he explains it (side note: he made me promise to use this specific formatting):
"I like to make my marks in pencil. Light, easily-dusted off pencil. The kind of pencil marks that make you
just so you can see it.
But mainly, just make sure you're able to erase it once you see the final score, and then write in the correct answer."
Through a Mars Hill document that was posted online, blogged about by Warren Throckmorton, and since then deleted, I was able to discover this unique two-pronged strategy:
Option 1: Hire a research assistant to do the bracket for you. If the bracket does well, take all the credit. If it does poorly, throw the research assistant under the bus for messing it up.
Option 2: Find a friend who knows a lot about basketball. Take their bracket and copy it. Your friend shouldn't mind, because what else are friends for, you know?
"The thing that really hurts me," McLaren says, "is that when I pick one team to win, I damage the feelings of the other team." This explains why McLaren hasn't filled out a bracket for at least twenty years, but still makes sure, every year, to wax eloquent about how great all the teams in the tournament are.
John Piper refused to comment, but there have been some reports that Piper confiscates brackets he finds because they are a waste of time. He uses them as kindling for the bonfire with which he burns Rob Bell's books.
Like Piper, Chan believes brackets are a waste of time. He collects brackets and then burns them, using the burning brackets as an illustration to explain the Holy Spirit's unquenchable fire.
"Creation care is the most important part of selecting your bracket," Claiborne told me. "This means replacing your carbon footprint. For every bracket you fill out, you must plant one tree. And for every online bracket, you must shut off someone's electricity for thirty minutes (this can be a neighbor's)."
Keller's strategy? Make selections based on the quality of each team's home city. After all, everyone knows that in God's kingdom cities matter more than rural areas, and large cities matter more than small cities. Suffice it to say, Keller's strategy usually fails except for that magical year in 1995 when a team from Los Angeles won it all.
Rachel Held Evans
"You're asking for strategies for both the women's and men's bracket, right?" Held Evans told me. "Because, you know, Jesus would not have taught a form of bracket patriarchy."
A random angry commenter then mysteriously appeared, shouting something about Obama filling out both a men's and women's brackets last year, and was Evans implicitly comparing Obama to Jesus?
Merritt's strategy is to pick whichever team would be most likely to lead to a twitter flame war with the Gospel Coalition crowd. Is there a "University of Just Bake the Cake"? If so, Merritt said to pick that team.
I actually can't reveal Jakes' strategy, because it is soon to be released as a self-help book. You might be able to sneak a preview of a tip or two if you catch Jakes' book promotion on TBN, though.
Her strategy is actually quite helpful: don't focus on the pick itself, or you'll just beat yourself up, and you'll never be able to forgive yourself for that one time you selected Duke to win it all and they lost to Lehigh. Instead, clear your mind, think positive thoughts, focus on the now, trust God that he has forgiven you for your terrible brackets in the past, and then go out and pick with the confidence of a new woman in Christ.
Dobson keeps it focused on the family by selecting the most godly university to win. This backfired last year when he selected Liberty University to win it all.
That Random Young Pastor In His 20s Who Always Talks About Being "Missional"
This guy might actually have the best strategy yet. The key is to pick a different bracket for each context in which you find yourself. Is your next-door neighbor from Indiana? Pick the Hoosiers so that you can celebrate with him if Indiana makes a run. What if a couple co-workers really like Kansas? Make a bracket for them too, and then you'll be able to bond over your shared joy if the Jayhawks advance. How about that random guy you just met at the coffee shop, who happens to be wearing a Duke shirt?
Actually, just leave him be.
Some people are beyond redemption.