Rebellion Rules in a Conformist World

Last year, our correspondent entered a March Madness pool with brackets filled out by his mother, who knows nothing about NCAA men’s basketball. He won. Now it’s time for lightning to strike twice.

Rick Giles, Basketball, 2010. Courtesy the artist and Eleven Fine Art, London.

Pasha: Hi.

Sue: Hi!!

Pasha: Do you remember what we’re doing?

Sue: Sort of! Picks, right? Which I have absolutely NO IDEA about, as in minus zero.

Pasha: I won my pool last year with your picks. Mostly because you liked Butler so much.

Sue: Just goes to show what a fraudulent scam it must be! Right?

Pasha: A scam? Interesting... Like, you think the whole thing’s fixed?

Sue: Well who knows, but if I, with ABSOLUTELY MINUS ZERO knowledge, can nudge you toward a win—one has to wonder!

Pasha: But how would that explain your ability? Unless you were in on the fix.

Sue: Let us get this straight: I have absolutely NO ability in this regard—unless you believe in divine intervention or intuition or “signs” in the sky?

Pasha: What signs? Are you seeing signs?

Sue: I know you are trying to get me to admit to “seeing things that aren’t there” but even I am not that gullible &/or stupid!

Pasha: I didn’t suggest you were stupid!

Sue: I know, I know—let’s get this show on the road! Just returned from this huge pancake breakfast…

Round One

Pasha: So basically in the first round the highest seeds play the lowest seeds, with winners advancing, and you have to pick winners, right? Keeping in mind #1 seed has NEVER lost to a #16. 

Sue: I am taking notes!

Pasha: The first game is Kentucky Wildcats (a #1 seed) vs. the winner of a play-in game between Mississippi Valley State and Western Kentucky, who’ll be a #16.

Sue: Sorry, you said WHO never loses?

Pasha: #1’s. I mean, so far in history.

Sue: Should that mean that Kentucky will win?

Pasha: Probably.

Sue: OK, let’s go with them.

Pasha: Want to go with all four #1 seeds in the first round?

Sue: Sure… Though it sounds like you are steering this ship already.

Pasha: Not too much; other than this it’s all up to you.

Sue: I hate this level of responsibility, especially when I don’t have a f—ing clue what we are talking about! But that’s why you invite me to do this, for the lite relief, right? Hey, I saw Pina last night! It was quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen! Remarkable!

Pasha: Great.

Sue: I can’t remember… Are we talking about baseball?

Pasha: Basketball.

Pasha: College basketball.

Pasha: American college basketball.

Sue: Oh, right—sorry! I know you think I’m joking but sadly I’m not!

Pasha: I didn’t think you were joking. Anyway. Next: Iowa State (8) vs. Connecticut (9).

Sue: I always liked the word “Connecticut,” but I prefer dogs over storms… Let’s go with “Huskies”!

Pasha: That’s the same team. There is no contradiction in those preferences.

Sue: Pardon?

Pasha: UConn it is.

Sue: OK! 

Pasha: Wichita State Shockers (5) vs. Virginia Commonwealth Rams (12)?

Sue: I prefer “Shockers” over anything to do with the Commonwealth, given my anti-colonial stance!

Pasha: Indiana Hoosiers (4) vs. New Mexico State Aggies (11). You liked the Aggies last year, for reasons I can’t remember.

Sue: What is a “Hoosier”—sounds vaguely inappropriate!

Pasha: Are you picking NMSU then?

Sue: Honestly I’m vaguely lost! 

Pasha: UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (6) vs Colorado Buffaloes (11)?

Sue: I love rebels, let’s go for them!

Pasha: Which rebels do you love? Like James Dean?

Sue: Rebellion rules in this conformist world.

Pasha: Baylor (3) vs. South Dakota State (14)—Bears vs. Jackrabbits.

All this is such BS! It’s hard to believe that this has anything to do with watching a good game of b-ball.

Sue: Is it possible to have a tie?

Pasha: No.

Sue: OK… Baylor & Jackrabbits.

Pasha: Wait, no, those are two different teams.

Sue: I’m saying those would each win! 

Pasha: But... please pick one.

Sue: J’rabbits. And I like your “please.” It sounds deferential & desperate!

Pasha: Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7) vs. Xavier Musketeers (10).

Sue: Irish every time!

Pasha: But you’re British. Aren’t they your enemy?

Sue: No! I am entitled to my biases, which transcend other considerations.

Pasha: Duke Blue Devils (2) vs. Lehigh (15).

Sue: Who or what is: Lehigh?

Pasha: I’ve never heard of Lehigh before. Let’s go with Duke.

Sue: WHAT? You mean you are overriding me?

Pasha: We’re in the West Region now: Memphis (8) vs. St. Louis (9).

Sue: Whatever! You decide!

Pasha: No! I just thought since there was some existential doubt about Lehigh, it didn’t make sense to pick them… Please keep going.

Sue: NO!!!

Pasha: What, really?

Sue: Yes. 

Pasha: Memphis (8) vs. St. Louis (9)

Sue: Whoever you think!

Pasha: Tigers or Billikens. (I don’t know what a Billiken is.)

Sue: Me neither!

Pasha:—that vs. a tiger, seems an easy choice.

Sue: Let’s go Billikens!

Pasha: New Mexico (5) vs Long Beach State (12). Lobos vs. 49ers.

Sue: LOBOS—because Lobo, Ontario is so near to London!

Pasha: Isn’t Lobo only a general store? Do people actually live there?

Sue: Hey! Don’t make fun. The last time I was there the Lobo General Store provided an amazing amalgam of the necessities of life!

Pasha: Louisville Cardinals (4) vs. Davidson (13). Last year you picked birds, always, with great success.

Sue: I am a hokey old birder—what can I say? 

Pasha: 6 Murray St. vs. 11 Colorado St.

Sue: Why two addresses? This makes me nervous!

Pasha: What? Two addresses? What are you talking about?

Sue: Seems way too personal.

Pasha: Oh! No, no—“St.” means State, not Street, and the numbers are seeds, not house numbers.

Sue: Previously you put the numbers (which incidentally I ignore anyway) in parentheses! This time around you made it seem like street addresses E.g. 6 Murray Street & 11 Colorado St. 

Pasha: Let’s just take Murray State.

Sue: All this is such BS! It’s hard to believe that this has anything to do with watching a good game of b-ball.

Pasha: Marquette is a #3 seed who plays the winner of another play-in game—as in, we don’t even know who they play yet.

Sue: Between?

Pasha: BYU and Iona.

Sue: Iona!

Pasha: But can they beat Marquette’s Golden Eagles (birds)

Sue: Who knows—certainly not me!

Pasha: Do you want to use your bird logic?

Sue: If you like. Go for the birds, I say!

Pasha: Should I just pick ALL the bird schools?

Sue: That works as well as anything else.

Pasha: Florida Gators (7) vs. Virginia Cavaliers (10)?

Sue: Hey, no birds!!!

Pasha: Not this time.

Sue: OK—Gators!

Pasha: Missouri (2) vs. Norfolk State (15).

Sue: Go for Norfolk!

Pasha: Any reason?

Sue: Yes. Norfolk is a county in the UK.

Pasha: OK, moving to the East…

Sue: Have to get a snack!

Pasha: You’ve already picked Syracuse, a #1, and Southern Miss (birds).

Sue: Yum, guacamole & corn chips—delicious! Sorry, what were you saying?

Pasha: What about Vanderbilt or Harvard?

Sue: V’bilt.

Pasha: Just out of interest, do you know who Jeremy Lin is?

Sue: No idea—should I? Though on reflection there is a resonance in my tiny brain… A famous basketball player?

Pasha: Good. Cincinnati vs. Texas?

Sue: C.

Pasha: Florida State vs. St. Bonaventure?

Sue: B.

Pasha: Why?

Sue: ‘Cos.

Pasha: They’re called the Bonnies.

Sue: There you go!

Pasha: Ohio State Buckeyes (2) vs. Loyola-Maryland Greyhounds (15)?

Sue: Greyhounds!

Pasha: But they’re a 15 seed.

Sue: But they are dogs!

Pasha: So?

Sue: What is a “buckeye”?

Pasha: Good question. As with the birds, should we also always pick dogs?

Sue: YES!

Pasha: OK. What about Ohio Bobcats vs. Michigan Wolverines? Michigan used to be my team, remember? I had lots of Michigan stuff—hats, sweatshirts, shorts.

Sue: I do remember—vestiges still in the basement! Let’s go with Ohio.

Pasha: NC State Wolfpack vs. San Diego State Aztecs?

Sue: Aztecs it is.

Pasha: St. Mary’s Gaels vs. Purdue Boilermakers?

Sue: Go for the “Gaels,” very Celtic sounding!

Pasha: Since you already picked Georgetown, as their mascot’s a bulldog, and Kansas (Jayhawks), Creighton (Bluejays) and Temple (Owls), that’s the end of Round One.

Sue: How many “rounds” are there?

Pasha: Six but they get shorter, thank god.

Round Two

Sue: Will you reproduce this conversation in its entirety for general human consumption?

Pasha: Most of it, yeah.

Sue: Perish the thought! I just ramble on, but when I stop to think about it this all becomes truly humiliating. Who sees this stuff?

Pasha: No one really.


Pasha: Maybe a few people. But moving on: Kentucky Wildcats (1) vs. Connecticut Huskies (9)?

Sue: Dogs win over cats. You should have been at the beach yesterday—stray dogs, potentially terrifying! Is it raining there?

Pasha: Not yet. Wichita State or New Mexico State?

Sue: I think we did them already.

Pasha: Teams play again if they win.

Sue: OK, just remind me…

Pasha: Wichita are the Shockers, vs. the Aggies.

Sue: Go for Aggies—reminds me of Grandpa’s live-in nanny who came to stay with us every year for two months during the summer. In those days in England known as “the family retainer”… LONG STORY!!!!

Pasha: What about your Rebels? Do you think they can beat the Jackrabbits?

Sue: They can try! That is all one can ask!

Pasha: I’ll pick them then.

Sue: OK.

Pasha: What about the Fighting Irish against Duke?

Sue: Go for the Irish!

Pasha: A gutsy pick.

Sue: Really? Isn’t it fortunate I have absolutely NO IDEA!!!

Pasha: Michigan State vs. St Louis Billikens.

Sue: I really like those Billikens.

Pasha: Why?

Sue: Name recognition!

Pasha: I’m taking Louisville over New Mexico because they’re birds (Cardinals). Same with Marquette Golden Eagles.

Sue: Keep reminding me of animal associations because I will not remember!

Pasha: Norfolk—there’s no way they can beat the Gators, right?

Sue: Alligators are related to birds, aren’t they? Via dinosaurs?

Is this really SO random that someone like me, who did not even remember at the outset of which sport we were speaking, can “win”?

Pasha: Syracuse Orangemen vs. Southern Miss.

Sue: ???

Pasha: This is interesting because of your affinity for the Irish.

Sue: Right. Syracuse then!

Pasha: Vanderbilt or Wisconsin Badgers?

Sue: Badgers have been endangered in the UK in recent history, though they are currently supposed to be making a comeback!

Pasha: What about the Bonnies? Can they beat Cincinnati, who you so unequivocally chose in the first round?

Sue: More info please.

Pasha: A #6 seed vs. a #14.

Sue: No, no, as in unique characteristics.

Pasha: Cincinnati are Bearcats, finished 5th in the Big East.

Sue: OK—go for them, I guess, though I’m not having a good vibe in this regard.

Pasha: We’ll have them lose to Gonzaga right away then. What about UNC and Creighton? Tar Heels vs. Blue Jays.

Sue: What—remind me—is a Tar Heel?

Pasha: No idea.

Sue: Just tried looking it up: no info. Go for Tar Heels for their mystery!

Pasha: Rebels vs. Fighting Irish?

Sue: Always the Irish.

Pasha: OK. UConn vs. New Mexico State?

Sue: New Mexico.

Pasha: Oops, I already picked UConn for you because they’re Huskies.

Subsequent Rounds, Final Four & National Championship

Sue: Is this really SO random that someone like me, who did not even remember at the outset of which sport we were speaking, can “win”?

Pasha: Apparently.

Sue: Doesn’t it make the farce of “pools” like this explicated?!

Pasha: Here’s a tough one: Louisville Cardinals vs. Marquette Golden Eagles. Birds vs. birds!

Sue: You pick.

Pasha: OK. I’ll pick Louisville, they just won the Big East tournament.

Sue: That would have been my choice because I always go for the underdog & eagles are stronger than cardinals!

Pasha: Huskies and Fighting Irish? This is for the Final Four!

Sue: Huskies—reluctantly…

Pasha: OK, we’ll have them lose right away next round to Louisville. Syracuse and Gonzaga?

Sue: Give me some clues!

Pasha: Syracuse might be the best team in the whole tournament.

Sue: AND?

Pasha: And Gonzaga are maybe Top 25 in the country on a good day.

Sue: No, no, I want animal and/or bird associations.

Pasha: Gonzaga Bulldogs. Syracuse Orangemen—like your compatriots who persecuted the Irish.

Sue: Bulldogs!

Pasha: Interesting.

Sue: But you can overrule me.

Pasha: I’m going to. And next they play the Jayhawks.

Sue: Who plays the Jayhawks?

Pasha: Syracuse!

Sue: Whichever—I have no strong feelings.

Pasha: Kansas? Any thoughts?

Sue: I’ve never been there so how could I?

Pasha: Who do you like as National Champion: Kansas Jayhawks or Louisville Cardinals. A battle of the birds. I can pretty much guarantee no one else in the world is going to have this as their national final.

Sue: I could go either way. But ultimately would say… Cardinals!!!

Pasha: Great. Your 2012 National Champions: the Louisville Cardinals. Now you just have to pick a score for the final game.

Sue: 79 - 84

Pasha: Awesome.

Sue: How much fun has this afforded you to make of me?

Pasha: Hey, you made wacky picks last year and they won. So the only person who should be laughing is you—all the way to the bank.

Sue: Not likely to happen two years in a row.

Pasha: Perhaps not. Anyway, thanks for doing this! Did you have fun?

Sue: Fun? Not sure. It is all a bit beyond me but I guess that is the point—right?

Pasha: Sort of. Thanks again.

Sue: The pleasure is mine! (I think?)


TMN Contributing Writer Pasha Malla is the author of four books. He is also the head of TMN’s informal panel of film critics. He lives in Toronto. More by Pasha Malla