March Madness is meant to bring officemates and groups of friends together. But the excitement over the annual NCAA college basketball championship tournament in the US tends to exclude one very important demographic: people who spent their childhoods faking stomachaches to get out of gym class.
Luckily, this group is very well-represented on the internet. And so there are plenty of online alternatives for people who find sports indecipherable. Here are a few of the best options:
If you love contemporary literature but have always wished that you could arbitrarily rank the books you read afterward, this is the tournament for you. Each year, the online magazine Morning News roots through the best books of the year and narrows them down to 17 contenders. Guest judges including Awl co-founder Choire Sicha and novelist Celeste Ng read two novels and decide which one gets to advance to the next round. Among this year’s contenders Lauren Groff’s lyrical Fates and Furies, the dystopian Bats of the Republic, and Viet Than Nguyen’s The Sympathizer, a literary thriller that explores the Vietnam War and its aftermath.
Just as the annual Puppy Bowl provides an adorably floppy alternative to the Super Bowl, so does Mammal March Madness offer a chance for animal-loving science nerds to focus on what really matters: figuring out whether a giant armadillo could beat a large tree shrew in a fight. (Don’t worry, it’s not always violent: in one particularly gentle matchup, a panda accidentally sits on a shrew with a super-strong spine.) The tournament is run by a team of evolutionary biologists who use scientific literature to decide the winners, so you’re sure to pick up some interesting factoids. Did you know that the polar bear is the only living bear that exclusively eats meat?
This music tournament will tug at the heartstrings of anyone who was ever a mopey college student. This year’s melancholy playoffs pit Tori Amos against The Cure and Joy Division against PJ Harvey and Nick Cave. Steep yourself in nostalgia, then vote on the song that makes you most want to cry yourself to sleep in an extra-long twin bunk bed.
In years past, Jezebel’s bracket has focused on fairly straightforward playoffs: the 1980s versus the 1990s, drugs versus alcohol. But this year’s matchup is decidedly high-concept: reality TV versus reality. Shows like Vanderpump Rules and Making the Band are in the mix, as are everyday adult realities such as splitting the check at a group birthday dinner and living with roommates after age 35. This doesn’t make a ton of sense, as Jezebel itself acknowledges, and the instructions about how to play along are pretty complicated. Then again, we live in an age in which Donald Trump could be the next US president. Sense isn’t the most reliable metric anymore.