Other March madnesses

March 16, 2011

It's the most wonderful time of the year for
fans of collegiate (men's) sports. I'm not one, but I can appreciate the thrill
of a single-elimination tournament. I also enjoy the creative ways people use
March Madness to bring attention to other subjects.

Tim Schenck, an Episcopal priest and blogger in
Massachusetts, is hosting the second annual Lent Madness, in which saints from the
Episcopal Church Calendar compete for "the coveted 'Golden Halo'" by way of
blog posts comparing their legacies--and inviting readers to vote on a winner.
Here's Schenck:

Last year George Herbert pulled off an upset in the
finals against Julian of Norwich to claim the illustrious title - click here to view last year's final bracket.

To win in 2011 will take grit, determination,
holiness, and perhaps some good old-fashioned ballot stuffing (this is
discouraged, of course) to claim the hallowed crown. Lent Madness 2011 features
an entirely new slate of saints ancient and modern, Biblical and
ecclesiastical. So if your favorite saint didn't make it into the tournament
last year you might just be in luck. And if not? Your favorite saint may be
pretty lame. Better luck next year.

Silly-sounding stuff, but the individual posts are pretty
informative. It's a fun way to get us Protestants to consider some of the great
women and men of the faith. "Why should college basketball fans have all the
fun," asks Schenck, "while we're sitting around
giving up chocolate?"

The NCAA tournament is a fraught subject for those in the
higher-education field, but two leading trade publications are having fun with
it. The Chronicle of Higher Education
invites readers to fill out a "Tweed Madness"
bracket, "select[ing] winners based not on such practical considerations as
shooting percentage, ease of region, or senior leadership" but instead on "the
geekiest, most-obscure factoids you can muster."

The Chronicle offers
this helpful example: you might pick North Carolina to go far on account of its
general toughness, as evidenced by the fact that the team's (ovine) mascot committed fratricide to get where he is today.

Inside Higher Ed takes a
more barbed angle, presenting its sixth annual Academic Performance Tournament.
The publication takes the NCAA's initial match-ups and completes the bracket
according to who would win "if teams advanced based on their outcomes in the
classroom."

The point is to highlight controversies over
academic standards for student athletes. But interestingly, the academic
bracket's past winners have ranged from long shots to heavyweights in the
tournament itself. This year's winner? Butler University--which, Inside Higher Ed points out, is taken a bit more seriously on the court than they were
a couple years ago.