In past brackets I've completed, the hardest part has never been picking the winner. Sure, who comes out on top is the lasting image, but nothing has proven to be more important and difficult than narrowing down the field, be it the initial 64 ("Best Outkast Song") or 16 ("Best Commercial featuring Rappers"). In this, the "#Winning 2011" bracket, nothing was further from the truth. In a year in which everyone seemed to lose at an alarming rate, the most difficult aspect of this project was identifying anyone who happened to find success and then keep it.
It wasn't until I attempted to fill a draw of 64, and got stuck at 7, did I realize what a huge year this was for losers. If you weren't getting financially screwed over, you were probably getting divorced, locked up, or pepper sprayed. That's how I'll always remember 2011. With that said, I was still determined to identify and either celebrate or hate on the winners of 2011. After days of Googling "best _____ of 2011" and "who still has a credit score going into 2012", a draw of 32 was completed, with people, innovations, events, and other assorted nouns spread over four categories: sports, celebrities, technology, and movements/phenomena.
Before displaying the bracket, there are a few things I should just throw out there from the jump:
The Deceased: Not included. I'm mainly talking about Steve Jobs and Amy Winehouse. Although their untimely deaths did create a boost in their popularity and influence, they did die, which just can't be called a win.
The Minaj: Not included. Her November 2010 release of Pink Friday (much like Kanye's November 2010 release of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy) did remain popular throughout 2011, but I still consider her year of "winning" to be 2010. This is not a bracket of "Who rode their 2010 wave the best." If it were, there would be no reason to have a bracket, because she would win in a landslide.
The Sheen: Not included. Yes, the term "winning" existed before 2011, but Charlie Sheen made it a catch-all phrase with his antics in the early half of the year. One would think the "#Winning 2011" bracket would have to include him for that very reason, but it doesn't. You can't end the year a bi-loser, get replaced by Ashton Kutcher, and expect a seat at the table, brother of Estevez. Bye.
The Friday: Sort of included, but not really. I know 14-year-old Rebecca Black was the most Googled person in 2011, but she still would make the Elite Eight of my "Who Lost 2011." When you are irrationally despised by hundreds of thousands of people and you haven't even taken the PSAT, that's not a great year. Trust me. I'm 14.
The Biebs: Not included. Canadian male heartthrob quota already filled.
The Obamas: Not included. Nuclear Black family quota already filled.
The Cut Missers: The aforementioned individuals weren't really that close to making the cut. Those who were: Kemba Walker, Kristen Wiig, The Conspiracy Theory That Beyoncé Was Faking Her Pregnancy, Louis CK, Big Ghostfase, GIFs, Bert Blyleven, and Detroit (it's all relative).
The Seedings: Objectively Subjective. How so? Seedings were based on number of Twitter followers — objective. If an entry did not have a verified Twitter account, however, I gave m'self the freedom to pick any semi-related account to determine their placement — subjective. Sometimes this rewarded the entrant, but more often than not it's a much-deserved punishment.
OK, no more disclaimers. Time to man up. On to the winners.
Categories (Twitter stats as of the morning of 12/19/11)
Tim Tebow: QB, Denver Broncos. @TimTebow. 711,935 Followers.
David Freese: Third Basemen, St. Louis Cardinals. @Dfreese23. 95,588 Followers.
Aaron Rodgers: QB, Green Bay Packers. @AaronRodgers12. 428,693 Followers.
Novak Djokovic: Professional Tennis Player. @DjokerNole. 463,037 Followers.
Dirk Nowitzki: Power Forward, Dallas Mavericks. @Swish41. 364,806 Followers.
Abby Wambach: Forward, U.S. Women's Soccer. @AbbyWambach. 97,342 Followers.
Tony Stewart: NASCAR Driver. @Tonystewart. 43,391 Followers.
David Stern: NBA Commissioner. @Fake_DavidStern + @DavidSternaHoe. 2,487 Followers.
Adele: Singer. @OfficialAdele. 2,740,421 Followers.
Ryan Gosling: Actor. @RyanGosling. 229,829 Followers.
Trey Parker/Matt Stone: Writers. @BookOfMormonBWY. 20,212 Followers.
Kate Upton: Model. @KateUpton. 143,111 Followers.
Michael Fassbender: Actor. @Fassbender_Way. 3,476 Followers.
Pippa Middleton: Sister. @MiddletonPippa + @pippasass. 21,615 Followers.
Chris Brown: Guy. @ChrisBrown. 6,265,967 Followers.
The Knowles-Throne Family: Blacks on Blacks on Blacks. @Beyonce + @Kanyewest + @S_C_. 8,917,325 Followers.
Occupy: The 99 percent. @OccupyWallSt. 140,566 Followers.
Swag: Noun, Verb, Adjective, Interjection. @souljaboy + @fucktyler + @LILBTHEBASEDGOD + @_ASAProcky. 4,241,995 Followers.
Music Festivals: The great outdoors. @sxsw + @coachella + @lollapalooza. 343,138 Followers.
P90X: The awkward indoors. @P90X. 32,798 Followers.
The Buildup and DROP: 2011's Musical MVP. @skrillex + @LMFAO. 1,800,396 Followers.
Posing: Recurring nightmare. @PlankSociety + @Tebowing + @LeisureDive. 7,327 Followers.
NBA-Hogwarts: Team full of Urkels. @Amareisreal + @DwyaneWade + @KingJames + @KDTrey5 + @DwightHoward. 9,281,791 Followers
Newt 2012: The South will Rise Again. @NewtGingrich. 1,381,203 Followers
Tumblr: Bloggin'. @tumblr. 197,136 Followers.
Twitter: Chattin'. @Twitter. 7,092,119 Followers.
Invite-Only Internet Fun: Joinin'. @Spotify + @GiltGroupe + @LearnGooglePlus. 379,566 Followers.
Siri: Talkin'. @iphone_dev + @StuffSiriSaid. 387,466 Followers.
Live Streams: Watchin'. @Livestream. 182,010 Followers.
Angry Birds: Slangin'. @AngryBirds. 321,781 Followers.
Instagram: Emo Shootin'. @Instagram. 900,244 Followers.
Call of Duty: Real Shootin'. @CallofDuty. 277,433 Followers.
In the words of Songz, Trey: LEHHHH GO. Proceed, won't you?
ROUND OF 32
NBA Hogwarts (1) vs. Trey Parker/Matt Stone (8): They say you never forget your first time. They also say you never forget your first time seeing Amar'e Stoudemire sit next to Anna Wintour in the front seat of a fashion show. While this event took place in Fall 2010, it set the stage for a 2011 full of large cardigans and even larger humans squeezing into them. The preppy, "NBA Nerd" starting five for 2011 was Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Amar'e Stoudemire, and while this trend picked up steam during the 2011 playoffs, it became one of the few positives to emerge from that whole NBA lockout thing. Battling these big nerds are two smaller geniuses, Trey Parker and Matt Stone. If you would have told me five years ago that the creators of South Park and Team America: World Police would eventually win nine Tony Awards, including "Best Musical" with a show called The Book of Mormon, my one word answer would have been: "Duh." For unapologetically dominating the theatre world, Parker and Stone win this one easily. Sorry hoopers, but as they say: "Too many Urkels on your team, that's why your wins-low." Too many Urkels, indeed.
Tumblr (5) vs. Invite-Only Internet Fun (4): I've realized that you know a technological product is winning when the comically uneducated can figure out how to use it. By this definition, Tumblr (along with Twitter and sexting) has found great success in 2011. Some of the year's great Internet memes were via Tumblogs (Texts From Bennett, Awesome People Hanging Out Together) and even I, a huge WordPress fan, have been forced to acknowledge how much cooler the platform is than almost anything else on the Internet. Unlike Tumblr, where you can join and post GIFs of two Basketball Wives fighting in a matter of minutes, the Internet also has some mediums with barriers to entry. Enter the worlds of Spotify, Google+, Gilt Groupe, and the hundreds of sites that are mirroring Gilt's exact formula. When each launched, the only way you could join was if someone invited you. Talk about hip. Talk about exclusive. Talk about rude. Even though invitation-based shopping and an unlimited music platform have more than made up for the M.C. Escher-esque maze that is Google+, there's no way they can hang with the free, simplistic, addictive beauty that is Tumblr. On to the Sweet 16, Papa Karp.
Abby Wambach (6) vs. Tim Tebow (3): Abby Wambach is an American hero. What she did in this year's World Cup is the stuff of legends, with her aerial domination of the sport serving as the soccer equivalent of Kareem's skyhook. Not only did she have perhaps the play of the year with a game-saving, stoppage-time header versus Brazil, but in the demoralizing championship loss to Japan, she was the only one to convert a penalty kick. What a baller. Speaking of American heroes, the person who stands in Abby's way is another newly minted legend, Tim Tebow. This guy is something else. If there was one person I did not expect to be on this list 12 months ago, it was Tim Tebow. He wasn't supposed to lead game-winning drives. He wasn't supposed to have seven wins as an NFL starter. He wasn't supposed to be a cultural phenomenon. He was simply supposed to be the guy who loves Jesus more than you. So, due to Tim's emergence as an off-the-field phenomenon, something Abby never really capitalized on, I have to give the edge to Tebow (which is scary for the competition, because it's not even Tebow Time).
Tony Stewart (7) vs. The Build Up and DROP (2): Even if you know very little about NASCAR, you probably know of a guy named Jimmy Johnson who seems to always win. 2006-2010 were all about JJ. Finally, in 2011, someone got the best of him, with Stewart needing to win the year's final race at Homestead-Miami to claim the Sprint Cup Series championship. And then he did, because that's what winners do. To
change speeds shift gears mix it up a li'l bit, probably the opposite of a NASCAR race is the "Build Up & Drop." You might not be familiar with that phrase, seeing as that I just made it up, but if you listened to music this year, you've heard it over and over again. You know, the part of the song when the crescendo grows and grows, pauses for half of a second, a phrase is potentially uttered over the silence, and then BOOM MUSICAL CONFETTI EXPLOSION [See: LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem" (2:23), Pitbull/Ne-Yo's "Give Me Everything" (0:43), Big Sean's "Dance (Ass)" (0:12), Skrillex's "First of the Year (Equinox)" (1:25), Britney Spears' "'Till The World Ends" (0:54), Rihanna's "We Found Love" (1:58)] The fact that this musical trick escaped the techno and dubstep worlds and dominated a variety of genres gives this a pretty easy victory over Tony. Sorry man. Who knows, maybe you should work on driving the no. 8 Beats By Dre car next year and your fortunes might turn up.
The Knowles-Throne Family (1) vs. Posing (8): In 2011, Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Beyoncé officially became a package deal. Their careers, relationships, and social circles became so intertwined, when one of them does something, the other two will undoubtedly be impacted. Because of this, there's really no point in referring to them as individuals. You may think the real connections are Jay/Kanye (Watch The Throne) and Jay/Beyoncé (marriage, soon-to-be parents), but lest we forget that Kanye's most infamous moment, the Taylor Swift incident, came when Mr. West stormed the stage to defend whose honor? Answer = Beyoncé. These three are the epitome of cray, they consistently drip swagoo, and they couldn't have had a bigger year. While The Family has been around for a while, their first-round opponents are a series of fads I've lumped into a category called "posing." First there was "planking," hugely popular for a few months, especially among NBA athletes on summer vacation. Then there was the less popular (but much funnier and more creative) "leisure diving," big among Princeton legacies with Hamptons time-shares. And then most recently, "Tebowing," the kneel-and-pray pose made accidentally popular by Mr. Sweet 16 himself, Tim Tebow. While all of these things arrived, were great for a solid Facebook album, and then left, they can't even begin to touch the Knowles-Thrones. They are the opposite of a fad; they are the establishment.
Call of Duty (5) vs. Music Festivals (4): I don't play video games anymore. I want to, but I can't afford to lose months off my life and 75 percent of my social skills like I used to with Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2. I bring this up, because I have no real concept about what's hot and what's not in the video-game world, except for Call of Duty. This game is so big, even I have played it. Two games in the series, Modern Warfare 3 and Black Ops were on 2011's Top 10 Best-Selling Video Games list, with the former being the highest-selling game of the year. Whereas Call of Duty is an antisocial indoor activity (I know it has headsets, chill out nerds), the ever-growing outdoor phenomenon of music festivals took over 2011 in a very different way. Partly because festivals have become the new, recession-friendly vacation destinations for twentysomethings, and partly because artists have to tour to break even; SoCal's Coachella, Austin's South By Southwest, Chicago's Lollapalooza,
The Gathering of the Juggalos, Tennessee's Bonnarroo, and San Francisco's Outside Lands provided the year with some of its most memorable live performances. There's no denying the impact Call of Duty is having on the video-game world, but people aren't already planning their entire 2012s around the next Call of Duty release like they are next year's music festivals. Nice effort, Call of Duty, but this time peace and love > war and headsets.
Kate Upton (6) vs. Instagram (3): This is a funny matchup, because it happens to be one of my favorite things of 2011 vs. one of my most despised things of 2011. Getting taught the Dougie by model Kate Upton was the highlight of my YouTube year, without question. Hearing my friends argue about the coolest setting on Instagram has consistently been my least favorite conversation to overhear. Seeing one of my favorite pairs of Jordans on the feet of Kate Upton furthered my belief that there's nothing more attractive than a beautiful woman in fly kicks. Watching my friends convince themselves that they're real photographers because of their Instagram skills makes me never want to take a picture again. To be completely honest, the only thing that I really wouldn't mind seeing in Instagram is a photo of Kate Upton getting her eagle on in a pair of Concords. Even though in my heart Kate Upton gets a bye into the Final 4 of this bracket, Instagram solidified the transition of smart phone from occasional image-taker to full-time digital camera. As dumb as the pictures are, I can't deny its influence. Sorry Mama Upton, but you're out. When it's time for you first legal drink 18 months from now, Michelob Ultra's on your boy all night.
Pippa Middleton (7) vs. Adele (2): So let's be real, there's no way Adele loses in the first round. Whereas Pippa is simply some girl's fly sister, Adele is the only one human in the world who hasn't gotten the memo about not going 5x Platinum. I could go back and forth to hammer down this point, but it's pretty obvious. Seeing as that I don't even know what Pippa Minaj's voice sounds like, simply making the bracket should be seen as an accomplishment. Adele, congrats on the Sweet 16. This bracket could be very good to you in the upcoming rounds, but if I was a betting man, I'd guess you'd get far, it would get your hopes up, and then tragically let you down at the end. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that I want 23 to be about me.
Twitter (1) vs. Michael Fassbender (8): Twitter is amazing, for all the dumb reasons and important ones. I love the fact that, on the same platform, I can get a full breakdown of The Real Housewives of Atlanta one night and then later get by-the-minute updates on overseas revolutions hours before the major news outlets report on it. I love the fact that, on the same platform, I can find out how my friends feel about Kanye West and how Kanye West feels about Givenchy Couture. I love the fact that a year ago, I was a giant skeptic, and now I can't imagine my life without it. Speaking of being a skeptic a year ago, that's about the time I became a skeptic of Michael Fassbender. After winning me over in Inglourious Basterds, he thought it'd be a great idea to take part in the train wreck that was Jonah Hex. Luckily for the world, 2010 ended and 2011 began, which meant it was time for him to dominate the film industry. In one calendar year, he played four characters I'm very familiar with: Mr. Rochester (Jane Eyre), Carl Jung (A Dangerous Method), Magneto (X-Men: First Class), and a New Yorker who can have naked sex with everyone (Shame). The guy is fantastic. Unfortunately for him, he didn't go up against Pippa, or he'd easily be in the next round. This is Twitter we're talking about. Twitter. So yeah, see you next year Fassbender. Unless you decide to take part in Jonah Hex 2, you're pretty much a shoo-in.
Angry Birds (5) vs. Dirk Nowitzki (4): There was a long period of time when I didn't download Angry Birds (or any other games) on my phone, because games are for children and I stay all about my business. Then one day I was in a bathroom and I heard a guy obviously playing a game while sitting on the toilet. A few minutes later, I saw him as he walked out of the bathroom, creepily walked behind him, peeked over his shoulder, and recognized that he was playing Angry Birds. After a quick survey of some of my friends, I realized Angry Birds is the must-have phone application for bathroom-stall chill sessions. You have to respect the niche the game has carved out for itself in the past year. While Angry Birds comes to us from Finland, another fantastic import, Dirk Nowitzki, comes to us from Germany. Between finally winning a ring, receiving the Finals MVP, having one of the greatest shooting performances in NBA playoff history, and hanging out with Lil Wayne in Miami, post-championship, it's a no brainer that 2011 was the highlight of Dirk's career. After their win, Dirk and the Mavericks were supposed to be the talk of the sports world until the moment the next season started, when the conversation would only intensify. Instead, that lockout happened, which completely stole all of Dirk's shine. The lockout put a real sour note on everyone's 2011, even Dirk's. With this lack of basketball for the latter part of 2011, all that meant for many of us was more time to play Angry Birds. For that reason, in addition to the fact that everyone in the NBA sort of lost in 2011, the slingshot iPhone game pushes past the 7-foot German. Not even I saw that one coming, and I'm the one making every decision. Go figure.
Occupy (6) vs. Novak Djokovic (3): Another great matchup, because more often than not I'm beefing with both of these entities. While some of the "Occupy ________" made me proud of my angsty generation, namely the ones with any sort of game plan, the vast majority I thought were silly, seeing as that it was just a group of smelly-looking individuals taking turns making outlandish demands over a megaphone. No, Occupy San Jose, I won't support your fight for five-hour lunch breaks. Sorry, Occupy Atlanta, I'm not marching to rename "Peachtree" to "Ludatree." I'm just not. Going against the Occupy movement is perhaps my least favorite champion, Novak Djokovic. I respect the fact that in 2011, he posted one of the greatest singles seasons in professional tennis history (70-6: 10 tournament wins, three of which were Grand Slams, and a 43-match winning streak). I can't look at those numbers and say he isn't good. I simply dislike watching him succeed. On-court grace isn't his thing, something I got used to while watching Federer, so it makes it very hard to root for him. In this, the battle of the beef, it really comes down to (1) who was more dominant and (2) who do I beef with the least. Both answers fall in favor of the Occupy movement. Sorry Novak, but seeing as this bracket is an actual event, you're now 70-7. I'm happy to have not helped.
P90X (7) vs. Newt 2012 (2): There are quite a few things in this draw of 32 that I did not use, but were massively successful in 2011. Like Instagram, P90X falls into this category, but unlike Instagram I don't dislike P90X. I don't use it, because my definition of working out is less burning calories in my living room and more taunting big dogs in my neighborhood and having them chase me for seven to eight miles. For the first three months of hearing about P90X, I had no idea what it was, and initially assumed it was some sort of drug. Because of this, I got worried because everyone around me seemed to be doing it. Confused on why no one would ever talk to me directly about it, I just assumed it was because I'm not cool enough. Later, once I got the scoop, it was simply because everyone knows I would never join them for a living room workout. Another guy who would never join anyone for a P90X workout is Newt Gingrich. Newt is having an unreal 2011 because a year ago no one thought he would actually run for president. After surveying the field and realizing how much smarter he was than his Republican counterparts, he entered the race and is now the front-runner. I don't think Newt is going to have a great 2012, because at some point we will all Google "Newt Gingrich's Past" and he will lose, but he was briefly, shockingly the front-runner. Because Newt probably has the authority to deem P90X unconstitutional act of treason, he wins. Easily.
Chris Brown (1) vs. David Stern (8): I feel like these two would have a lot to talk about. Both men know what it's like to be liked, and both know what it's like to be hated with a passion. As much as it pains me to say it, Chris Breezy had a huge year. I despise pretty much everything about him, but there's no denying the fact that his 2011 release F.A.M.E. had six singles, one of which was the banger "Look At Me Now." This was probably my second-most viewed video of the year, behind Rihanna's "We Found Love," which also features a waifish, fair-skinned black man with blond hair who repeatedly lovehatebeats RiRi, a la Chris Brown. While Chris Brown popularity re-rose and he fell back in favor with a portion of the country, NBA commissioner Stern lost any fans he had in 2011. If anyone thought they could intimidate David Stern or make him cave in any way, they learned that wasn't true this year. Stern is truly the biggest boss I've seen thus far, and although his late-2011 power trip may have gotten his name crossed off of some NYE 2011 party invite lists, he got what he wanted, and now that the season's here, we've almost forgotten it all. These two punks had big years, but if it weren't for Stern, there would be no LOB CITY. STERN WINS, STERN WINS.
Ryan Gosling (5) vs. Siri (4): Siri, the sassy little lady inside of the iPhone4s, is awesome. On my first try with her, she accurately told me where the nearest Applebee's was, something I needed to know that very moment. I can never thank her enough for that. Siri had a big year, not only because she's linked to the popular phone, but also because she became a mini-phenomenon on the Internet, with Tumblrs popping up with her occasionally awesome answers to absurd questions. Note that I said "mini-phenomenon," because that's a phrase that would be a drastic understatement when referring to the combination of Ryan Gosling, the Internet, and 2011. Fuck Yeah Ryan Gosling and Feminist Ryan Gosling only begin to scratch the surface that is the percentage of the blogosphere that is dedicated to this man. How did he do it? No one knows. While Siri is filled with attitude toward common folk like you and me, if Ryan asked her "Where can I find a roll of triple-ply toilet tissue? This lamb vindaloo is not sitting right," she would probably faint and respond with "RYAN OMG JUST TAKE ME WITH YOU." For the ability to arouse a robot, Gosling takes the easy win.
Live Streams (6) vs. Aaron Rodgers (3): 2011 was a big year for capturing things in real time. First there was the move by YouTube to start live-streaming events like Coachella through its platform, which simultaneously made me happy and depressed, as I watched Kanye West's epic performance from the library stacks of Columbia University. Then there were the occupiers, who used the live stream to broadcast their movements in real time across the world. With the live stream, the people on the ground could tell their own stories instead of relying on media outlets to report on them six to seven hours later. Music festivals and Occupy Wall Street aren't exactly two places I would expect to see Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, but that's mainly because he's too occupied with winning all of the time. He's 19-1 in 2011, won the Super Bowl MVP last season, is about to win the regular-season MVP this season, is the AP Male Athlete of the Year, and, most important, has completely made us forget that dude in Wranglers who was such a drag. With all of these accolades, if this was a bracket of "2011's Most Underrated," he'd probably squeak out the title from Kelly Rowland. He's the best, but we still don't fully realize it yet. For athletically dominating 2011 and almost being perfect, Aaron gets in the Sweet 16.
David Freese (7) vs. SWAG (2): If I were David Freese, I would have retired after the 2011 postseason, after hitting 21 RBIs, 5 HRs, winning the NLCS MVP, World Series MVP, Babe Ruth Award, this moment, and this moment, and run for governor of Missouri. Not only did he achieve all of this, transforming from a regular baseball player to a mythical creature in a month, but he did it with a level of cool that almost leaves him peerless. When I saw him circle third, head home, and spike his helmet between his legs after the Game 6 walk-off, all I remember saying was "swag." I said "swag" because it was pretty much the only descriptive word I used all year. The shortening of swagger has long been attempting to make its major splash on our culture, but a variety of things made 2011 its year of lexicon domination. I mean, there's was the February Mos Def moment when he ran in front of the camera, post Odd Future performance, screaming "SWAG, SWAG, SWAG." Then there was the May P. Diddy moment when he changed his name to "Swag" for one week. And then, just when you thought it was all hip-hop, there was the December Prince William moment when he busted out his "Swag Dance." The word completely dominated the year, at times completely replacing "yes," "wow," "absolutely," "fair enough," and "just enough seasoning." Only something that completely took over the cultural landscape could give Freese a first-round exit, but unfortunately for David, Swag is that something. SWAG.
Trey Parker/Matt Stone (8) vs. Tumblr (5): Having the hottest show on Broadway, in some ways, is a gift and a curse. The gift is that people can't stop talking about it and the buzz is, at times, almost uncontrollable. The curse (more so with theater than almost any other medium) is that the run-of-the-mill fan has to commit a felony to acquire a ticket. While Parker and Stone should be ecstatic that their show is so popular, SVU-esque crimes are taking place to get tickets, choosing theater to be their next conquest after TV and film does have its limits with regard to viewership and access. From the "refined" world of theater to the abyss that is the Internet, going against the Mormon men is Tumblr. Outside of the Internet meme culture that Tumblr has become a part of, the other way it became an influential medium in 2011 is the ease of building a personal website. Most people don't know the process of getting a domain name and building a website, but with Tumblr, people can have a sleek website in about twenty minutes and have the luxury of being part of the share-friendly Tumblr community. That's a game changer. Yes, Parker and Stone definitely won in the eyes of a slither of the population, but their reach is often financially and geographically constrained. Tumblr could not be more different. For that, it moves on.
Tim Tebow (3) vs. The Build Up and DROP (2): The Denver Broncos, with Tim Tebow at the helm, have lost their last two games. For that reason alone, one might think his time in the bracket has expired. Unfortunately for the haters, there's no way to ignore the fact that the Broncos were 1-5 before Tebow and now that he's become a starter they are four quarters away from winning the AFC West crown. Will they do it, who knows, but guess what? That game takes place on January 1, 2012. Even though he might start the year a huge loser, his 2011 must be looked at as a net win. Such a net win, in fact, I don't even think The Build Up and Drop musical tactic that ruled the airwaves really stands a chance. I mean, even though I do love that part when Ne-Yo goes "Grab somebody sexy, tell 'em HEY", and that time LMFAO goes "Everyday I'm shufflin'", the trend became so popular in 2011, it began to sound like a cheap way to crank out a jam without really trying. I'll be the first to say if I hear any songs that employ this tactic on NYE 2011, I'm jumping on someone's back and dislocating my shoulder with my fist-pump, but the trend isn't all good for the music world. For that reason, its run is over. Tebow to the Elite 8 (which is scary, because it's STILL not even Tebow Time).
The Knowles-Throne Family (1) vs. Music Festivals (4): One of the most buzzed about events to take place at a music festival was at Coachella 2010. Between images of Jay-Z and Beyonce hanging around the grounds, drinking beers while jamming out and the couple's surprise duet to "Forever Young", they were truly the talk of the weekend. After that, Coachella's second most culturally-impacting moment was the closing act in 2011, Kanye West, giving perhaps his greatest performance and orchestrating perhaps the most theatrical hip-hop set in history. This is just Coachella, but there's really no telling where music festivals would be without The Knowles-Thrones. Yes, music festivals were the thing to do this summer, but My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Watch The Throne, and 4 had January through December in a full nelson. These three aren't going anywhere, sorry music festivals.
Instagram (3) vs. Adele (2): This is a battle of new school vs. old school. On one side there's Instagram, the app that took cues from Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr and finally figured out how to perfect image sharing. On the other side, there's Adele. She couldn't be less technological. All she can do is sang. Unreal years had by both, but there's one glaring difference between the two. Instagram is thriving in a market (app downloading) that is thriving. Adele, on the other hand, is thriving in a market (album purchasing) that is almost extinct. Case in point, I bought the Adele album for my mom for Christmas. I don't know why I did it, seeing as that I could have easily downloaded it illegally and burned it on a CD, but I didn't and I still don't know why. The last album I purchased in a store? Young Jeezy's Thug Motivation 101 -- Six years ago. I say that, fully aware that 21 was the first album purchase in years for a lot of people in 2011. That's how you go 5x Platinum. That's also how you ride the fog into the Elite 8 without breaking a sweat.
Twitter (1) vs. Angry Birds (5): I won't disrespect Jack by spending 200 words explaining why Twitter won in 2011 more than game about slingshotting unhappy birds at wobbly structures. I'll say it now, a piece of technology is not besting Twitter. So yeah, bye Angry Birds. A seat at the big kids table will have to wait another year.
Occupy (6) vs. Newt 2012 (2): This isn't just bracket beef, this is real life drama. If there's a man who would get booed for days in Zuccotti Park, it's Newt Gingrich, and if there's a group of individuals that Newt wants shipped out of America, it's the smelly Occupy crowd. There's no arguing that the two movements have made waves in 2011, but the cadre of individuals behind Newt can't really stand up to the NYC, American, or international Occupy movement. As mentioned earlier, there's no way of knowing how both of these movements will fare in 2012, but in 2011 it's clear that when it comes to a large-scale, worldwide impact, few things had more of an impact than all things Occupy. With an Elite 8 appearance, the 99% has just become the 12.5%.
David Stern (8) vs. Ryan Gosling (5): These two are anomalies in this competition. First, there's Stern, who is winning despite his exponentially decreasing popularity, simply by sticking to his guns and being a tyrant. And then there's Gosling, who doesn't actively attempt to win, which in turn, makes him win even more. Also, even though both men have occupations, they seemed to really win in 2011 when they weren't doing their jobs. Stern's dictatorship of the league took place when there wasn't an NBA season to rule over, and Gosling domination of pop culture happened more often when he was seen crossing a street than when he was promoting his own movie. These two guys had weird 2011s, but both came out on top. Unfortunately for Stern, there is something to be said for having people like you. David, people don't like you. You know who people like? Ryan Gosling. So yeah, if the tiebreaker is friends, Ryan gets the nod to the Elite 8 (Because David Stern has no friends).
Aaron Rodgers (3) vs. SWAG (2): In the first round, SWAG took out the kid who could only hit homers, David Freese. In this round, SWAG goes up against the leader of the team that couldn't lose, Aaron Rodgers. While Aaron had a more complete 2011, by displaying excellence for a full calendar year instead of a month in the postseason, he's still going up against SWAG, easily 2011's word of the year. On the field, Aaron definitely won, but off the field he's surprisingly not winning as much as one would expect. If he wins the Super Bowl in 2012, we will be forced to finally put him in the category of the great quarterbacks and at that point, he will get the off-field love he deserves. Unfortunately for him, this is a measure of winning in 2011 and he just didn't have enough swag to out-swag SWAG. As someone who fully expects him to be on this list in 2012, for now I'm forced to bid adieu, Aaron. The SWAG train takes no prisoners. SWAG.
Tumblr (5) vs. Tim Tebow (3): Tumblr vs. Tebow. Wow, this is hard. They've both become the talk of their respective mediums (blogging and football), and once each got popular there was seemingly no slowing down their influence. Interestingly, despite their massive popularity, both are quite simple when it comes down to it. Tebow might overtly express his faith, but when it comes down to it, all he wants to do is play football and love Jesus. That's all. As for Tumblr, even though it has dominated the blogosphere in 2011, as a platform it's a pretty basic little tool. There's only so much one can do with a Tumblr, which is where most of its beauty lies. So what/who will represent the Thursday Region in the Final Four? Answer = Tim Tebow, for two main reasons. One, while both Tumblr and Tebow are the talk of their mediums, only Tebow has become a phenomenon outside of the medium, be it Tebowing, being parodied on SNL, or being the unintentional centerpiece of a controversy. Second, IT'S FINALLY TEBOWTIME. FINAL FOUR, BABY. LORD, I LIFT YOUR NAME ON HIGH. BYAHHHHH.
The Knowles-Throne Family (1) vs. Adele (2): Three vs. one seems unfair, but it's not. That's how awesome Adele is. In 2011, Adele outsold the entire Knowles-Throne clan, which is unreal when you remind yourself that we're talking about Adele vs. Beyoncé and Jay-Z and Kanye West. That's got to be a point of embarrassment for the family. But, never to be fully outshined, where record sales lagged, they made up for in 2011 with the reemergence of the music video. They were out of control in 2011 when it came to visually expressing their music. Proof: February — "All of the Lights"; May — "Run the World (Girls)"; July — "Best Thing I Never Had"; August — "Otis," "1+1"; October — "Countdown," "Love On Top," "Party." And these aren't normal music videos either, these are year-defining spectacles, especially in the cases of "All of the Lights, "Otis", and "Countdown." When each much-hyped video was released, they were the main topics of conversation for a good 10 days. The Knowles-Thrones don't really need the money that comes from album sales, they just want to constantly remind you, through their mastery of the visual, how much cooler they are than you. They did that for all of 2011, and for that they pull off what I might call the upset of the tournament, thus far. I know Adele's lyrics and vocals don't really call for productions like the threesome, but there's something to be said for having a song be as magical to watch performed as it is listened to. Adele, I told you earlier I was going to let you down, but I was really expecting it to be in the final. For not getting your hopes up too much, you're welcome. I just really hope I caused enough heartbreak to get one song about me next album. Or maybe even a verse or simply a passive-aggressive shout out. Really anything will do. Thanks.
Twitter (1) vs. Occupy (6): So this is sort of a legendary matchup, but when you think about it there's a clear winner. Occupy used two technological tools to its advantage in 2011, live streams and Twitter. While I did spend some time watching these feeds, 95 percent of the "in the moment" information I gathered about the movement was through Twitter. If there's no Twitter, there's no Occupy. If there's no Twitter, I'm stuck waiting for CNN to tell me a story eight hours after it takes place. But since there is Twitter, I find out who's injusticing whom in real time. Yes, one of the reasons Twitter had such big year was because of the Occupy movement, and it definitely would have been a less influential platform without its presence, but even if it never existed, Twitter is making the Elite Eight. Without Twitter, Occupy doesn't even make the initial brainstorm. Twitter. #FinalFour
Ryan Gosling (5) vs. SWAG (2): If you're a famous white guy, SWAG is in the business of trouncing you in this bracket. Luckily for Ryan Gosling, he's not a famous white guy. He's Ryan Gosling. Gosling in 2011 might be more swag than SWAG is swag. You follow me, right? No? OK, what I mean is that "Gosling" isn't really a term the way "SWAG" is, but if you were to refer to something as "Gosling," you'd know exactly what I meant and would probably reply with "SWAG." Still not following me? Hmm. How about this. One of the biggest reasons "SWAG" caught on in 2011 is the fact that we, as a culture, needed a word to accurately describe Ryan Gosling. You get it now? Good. Seeing as this is true, only a man like Gosling could take down the SWAG monster. If SWAG proceeds to the next round, we lose Ryan Gosling, but if Gosling proceeds, seeing as Gosling = SWAG, in a weird way they both are making it to the Final Four. If I have now re-confused you, just know this: Ryan Gosling may have had the best single year of any human, ever. First he seduces a robot (Siri), then he out-charms a tyrant (Stern), and now he out-movements a movement (SWAG). The kid's got skills. Let's see how much farther it takes him.
And then there were four. You've made it this far, kudos to you for properly hydrating. You're so close, don't give up now.
Tim Tebow (3) vs. Twitter (1)
I previously said that no technological advancement would stand in the way of Twitter. I misspoke. What I meant to say was "no technological advancement or single human" could stand in the way of Twitter. Yes, it's rude, but Twitter could not care less about Tebow Time. Twitter doesn't even know what Tebow Time is. In my mind, Twitter has one concern, beating Facebook, and in 2011 it started its first real surge at doing that. 2011 was the first year that Twitter received more media coverage than Facebook. That's big. Personally, I'm on year six of Facebook and am looking for reasons not to use it, so Twitter has become my best friend. Has this conversation gotten away from the issue of Tebow vs. Twitter? Yes, because these two just aren't on the same level. Tebow had a phenomenal year, but it's been a bumpy road. Twitter, on the other hand, absorbs bumps flawlessly and continues to crush everything in its path. Although I'm a huge fan of Tebow and what he means for the sport and society as a whole, there's no way that his year outmatches the year of the Twittersphere. #ChampionshipBound #TebowTimeIsOver
The Knowles-Throne Family (1) vs. Ryan Gosling (5)
When discussing the Knowles-Thrones, there's been one thing I've barely alluded to. This thing was huge in 2011, and will probably be the story of 2012: THE KNOWLES-THRONES ARE HAVING A BABY. Yes, Gosling perfected the swag that Jay-Z claims to have invented, but not even he can touch a Power Baby. This mythical creature hasn't even been birthed yet, but the way the world found out about her existence was classic Knowles-Throne. Beyoncé on stage, rubbing her belly, while Papa Jay and God Papa Kanye celebrate in the audience. I don't think I've ever smiled harder than I did watching this take place. THE KNOWLES-THRONES ARE HAVING A BABY. Throughout this competition, a threesome has been defeating anyone or anything that stood in its way, but to be expected, it took a fourth family member to overtake the legend that is Ryan Gosling. Dude, I'll be honest, you were my pre-bracket favorite to go all the way. Sorry, man. THE KNOWLES-THRONES ARE HAVING A BABY. If they win the bracket, I hope they name her "Bracket Knowles-Throne."
Twitter (1) vs. The Knowles-Throne Family (1)
There's nothing The Knowles-Thrones or anything/anyone else could do to beat Twitter in 2011. A few years ago, the platform was new. Then it became fun. Then it became addictive. In 2011, it simply became important. Yes, the platform is a one-stop shop for pretty much anything you want (or don't want), but there's no glossing over the fact that some of the year's biggest events would be drastically different if Twitter did not exist. Between the Osama bin Laden raid (accidentally live-tweeted by Sohaib Athar), the Japan Tsunami (with Twitter serving as a primary form of communication between survivors and the world), and the Tunisian Revolution (citizens Tweeting anything from the location of snipers to places to get medical attention), the platform truly became the medium for communication in 2011.
Another major thing that happened in 2011 is the gap it has created with itself and Facebook. In years past, when public figures would encourage individuals to keep tabs on them, the script would sound something like "Become a fan on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, check me out on MySpace," and maybe a few other completely insignificant platforms. The MySpace line has thankfully almost been phased out, but the same is beginning to happen with Facebook. One of my most frequented sights of the past year is seeing someone on television and having their name displayed with their Twitter handle directly under it. And that's it. Hell, sometimes the person's name isn't even there. That's how much Twitter has impacted our society.
Shockingly, I don't think it has peaked yet. I think it might have a "#Winning 2012" and "#Winning 2013" title in its future, so I might have to go TRL/"Tearin' Up My Heart" on it and retire it so other things can have a shot. That will be decided on in the future, but for now, congrats Twitter, you deserve this.
Speaking of other things, a few early predictions of what might make the bracket in 2012:
Square (mobile payment system), Barack Obama (basketball player/president), fear (a tool used to scare people), Tiger Woods (Comeback Human of the Year), Channing Tatum (five films, three of which could be epic), and Detroit (it's still all relative).
Until then, Happy Holidays.