With a vocal fan base extending from Facebook to the First Family, Omar Little was always the favorite to win our highly subjective Smacketology tournament. The incomparably gracious Michael K. Williams — the man behind the shotgun — took some time away from filming the third season of Boardwalk Empire to bask in his victory, and hopefully enjoy a well-earned bowl of celebratory Cheerios. (They’d best be Honey Nut.) Funny and humble, Williams’s only request was that we shout out his Twitter followers so they could take part in the virtual championship parade. Follow Michael here — but remember one thing: If you tweet @ the King, you’d best not miss.
Well, obviously. It’s Omar. It was probably always going to be Omar, even if we hadn’t juked the stats and put our thumb on the coke scale last week by framing this whole bracket experiment as an Omar-vs.-everybody tournament; in retrospect, asking if there was anyone who could beat him rendered that question essentially rhetorical.
But maybe it would have been rhetorical anyway. David Simon’s always denied that Omar’s role in the show was expanded based on audience response to the character and/or Michael K. Williams’s performance in the role, because paying attention to audience response and acting accordingly is what TV hacks do. But Omar’s still a rare example of Simon & Co. giving audiences the kind of thing audiences always want — a wish-fulfilling, shotgun-toting, Robin Hood/Man With No Name; a badass-with-a-code that you could root for. He’s the closest thing to a mythic figure on this prudently myth-averse show. Even — spoiler alert, I guess, although, seriously, if you haven’t watched The Wire yet, it’s weird that you’d feel invested enough in the outcome of this poll to click on this post — his death is less of a thus-always-to-murderers moral judgment and more of a forget-it-Jake-it’s-Bawl’mer freak occurrence; he’s denied a blaze of glory, but the suddenness of his murder means we don’t see him brought low, either.
Obviously, I can’t prove that. Moreover, I have no vested interest in the outcome, and I haven’t voted in any of the preliminary matchups (and I won’t vote in this one). But Omar is going to win, unless thousands of people decide to vote for Stringer Bell simply to contradict my prediction. Since its inception, our tournament has transpired in a totally predictable fashion; there have technically been upsets, but no genuine surprises. If an actor’s face appeared on the DVD box, he did okay. No minor character inexplicably dominated because her mother’s friend was killed by an arrow or because he best represented the ideals of Lacanian Marxism. What has happened is this: The show’s four most central characters advanced to the Final Four, and the two most meaningful archetypes subsequently advanced to the title. Stringer Bell represents the notion of a rational criminal operating as a traditional authority figure; Omar Little represents the possibility of a rogue criminal self-creating a moral framework superior to that of mainstream society. As a voter, you will have to decide between someone who craves legitimacy and someone who craves autonomy (unless, of course, you’re only reading this because it’s on your computer and you have no idea what you’re even supposed to be deciding, which is a wholly reasonable way to feel).
One of the more prescient observations made by Chuck Klosterman, the brash Herc to my more forgiving Carver, in our Wire-centric podcast this week was that we were unlikely to see many upsets in the Smacketology tournament. The reason being The Wire was much more than a mere entertainment to those who watched it; immersing oneself in the ebbs and flows of the heroin trade in West Baltimore became something of a social obligation, a sign to the world that you were a person comfortable with moral gray areas like the war against drugs and the insane way people in Maryland say “pony.” So even though this bracket was cooked up by a bunch of overworked soup-slurpers in Los Angeles, a city where people think Old Bay means a double feature of The Rock and Pearl Harbor, The Wire’s loyal marching band of social scientists, Go-Go fans and Dickens-riders took the voting nearly as seriously as David Simon takes himself. Sure, sentimental favorites like Bubbles and Cutty were able to score a surprise TKO or two in the early rounds, but Smacketology, like Marlo’s corners, is no place for upstarts. Even an Emmy voter could have predicted this Final Four. Omar, McNulty, Stringer, and Avon? In the words of an immortal State Senator ... well, you know. If you come at these kings, you’d best not miss. And if you’re an unmemorable Ukrainian enforcer that even George Pelecanos probably had to Google when the bracket went live, well, you’d probably best not come at all.
It was perhaps inevitable that the Smacketology competition would eventually draw the attention of its esteemed participants, who would then take to social media in an effort to influence the results, especially as we entered the money rounds. (That we might have sprayed @-replies at some of them like bullets at a crew slinging on the wrong corner to inspire such a response is besides the point. That's just how The Game is played.)
What about my boy Scott Templeton? Scottie boy! The intrepid Baltimore Sun reporter who conjured maudlin newspaper gold out of thin air — you want a wheelchair-bound kid sitting outside Camden Yards on opening day? Boom! How about fabricated nights under the overpass with Baltimore's down-and-out population, cowering under the specter of an (also fake) serial killer who targets the homeless? What, you say? Templeton, along with Jimmy McNulty's season-long manic episode and David Simon's positively tumescent self-righteous streak, submarined the final season of the best TV show ever made? Well, you know what? You're wrong, idiot face. I am loud and I am right! Did you even watch The Wire? Yeah, Templeton made up his stories and got caught, but he got the Pulitzer anyway! Can't you see he won THE GAME? He's more trill than Stephen Jackson firing his biscuit outside an Indianapolis strip club. Templeton FTW. Can't believe we left him out our damn Smacket. Smmfh.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, because of the vagaries of the selection criteria for the Field of 32, an accidental tapping of some kind of seeding-related Zeitgeist, or some factor as unknowable as where McNulty and Bunk might choose to place their penises at the conclusion of any given bender, there were a mere three upsets in the initial 16 Smacketology matchups. Omar slaughtered Ziggy, Stringer outmaneuvered Herc, Prop Joe stashed Frank Sobotka's body in a can full of poorly pimped Russian hookers. Such is life in The Game. The coin-flip in a pair of 4/5 games came up tails, with Cutty advancing at Chris Partlow's expense in the West, and Freamon overtaking Wee-Bey in the East. Good guys win. That's not necessarily a narrative paradigm The Wire embraces, but there you have it.
We've already recapped Day 1 of Smacketology for you earlier this morning, but let's take another opportunity to address our reader feedback. Say what you will about the seedings, the individual matchups, the apparent and crazy-making oversights in our Field of 32, but our Wire bracket has certainly gotten you talking. (If by "talking," you mean "cyber-ululating with grief about outrageous miscarriages of tournament justice" and "@-replied death threats to everyone associated with Grantland in any discoverable capacity.") This was, of course, to be expected. The Wire's universe contained literally millions of characters (the show was nothing if not sprawling in its unparalleled dramatic scope), so narrowing that down to a mere thirty-and-two contestants was an impossible task, akin to keeping McNulty off the sauce, getting Bunk away from cigars, or separating Landsman from a suspiciously battered copy of Irish Lasses. We get it. The stats were juked.
Before we review yesterday’s voting results, I’d like to say a few words about Brother Mouzone. Due to widespread bureaucratic failure and alleged ballot stuffing, Brother Mouzone snuck into Smacketology as an 8-seed. I’d like to say before God and David Simon that the seedings found in Smacketology do not reflect the views of the entirety of the Grantland staff. Were it up to me, Slim Charles, Beadie, Syndor, Fruit, or even Telly from Kids would have made it in over Brother Mouzone. In my head, show business is some Illuminati conspiracy in which the man at the top of the phone tree screams phlegmatically to “make it shorter!” and turns every good idea into a two-minute spot where the Idol finalists drink Pepsi and drive around in fuel-efficient Ford subcompacts. As such, I’ve always blamed the character of Brother Mouzone — The Wire’s only misfire — on that illuminati head and his severe lack of imagination. What else could explain why the creators of the show, after three years of brilliantly paced, patient character development, would throw in a cartoon character who speaks in clichés and doesn’t jive with any of the show’s internal logic? I could accept Brother Mouzone chasing Cam and Ben around the Lower East Side in an episode of How to Make It in America, but I cannot accept him walking through the low-rises. And neither should you.