In honor of March, the bracket-iest month of the year, The Wire decided to go all out and create a tournament for everything. Every weekday for the rest of the month, we're presenting a different tournament to determine the very best (or worst) thing in a given field. And we're doing it the way that God intended: Bracket showdowns.
Bracket Madness. A new bracket, every weekday of March.
We picked the field, but you vote for the winner. Fill out our interactive bracket, round-by-round, to determine the people's champion, then read through our choices to find out who we think is be the best of the best. Each day is a new champion!
The best year in human history, of course, was [ENTER YEAR YOU, WONDERFUL READER, WERE BORN]. More objectively, though, there are certain years that stand out as having been particularly beneficial to mankind. Today, in the spirit of winnowing down any categorizable quality into superficial competition, we will decide which of the tens of thousands of years of human existence was the best year of human existence.
You have 16 years to choose from, which honestly seems pretty generous on our part. It is very 1) Western-centric, 2) American-centric, 3) 20th-century-centric. If you don't like that, then maybe 2014 is not the best year for you. We can accept that.
Civilization — which offers numerous benefits to humans — hadn't yet taken root.
The founding of Rome.
It took a while for Rome to offer the trappings you'd expect from the capital of an empire. More than a day.
The date generally given for the birth of Jesus Christ. (Which doesn't really comport with "B.C.")
There were no Toyotas.
A year that doesn't actually exist, which is kind of cool.
The year didn't happen.
The generally accepted date for the crucifixion of Christ, the signal moment in the development of a worldwide religion.
Rome's erratic and brutal system of jurisprudence was perhaps the best the world had to offer.
The year of the birth of the prophet Muhammad, the signal moment in the development of a worldwide religion.
Leutfred became duke of Alemannia. (This is from Wikipedia.)
King John signs the Magna Carta, outlining a system of justice that would guide the world.
The American colonies declare independence from Britain, establishing certain unalienable rights.
Slaves took the document with a grain of salt.
The 13th Amendment (quite belatedly) ends slavery in the United States and a brutal war came to an end.
Lincoln was murdered. Also, the year was less remarkable for people in other countries, which we must remember exist.
Penicillin is discovered, launching an era of medical advancement that allowed humanity to flourish.
Humanity took a few more years to flourish.
The end of the largest conflict in human history, World War II.
Baby boomers. (We kid!)
Man reaches the moon. ARPANET, the first form of the internet, begins operation.
War in Vietnam grinds on amid an era of broad instability elsewhere.
America hadn't yet become the predicted surveillance dystopia that was predicted (that took 30 more years), and experienced relative peace and prosperity. And we won the Olympics.
That prosperity was not evenly distributed, which was sort of the point of the era.
The World Wide Web comes into existence. The Iron Curtain is crumbling.
The robot theocracy is crushed, auguring a new era of human freedom.
The seeds of the Panic of 3220 emerge in the capital of Venus.
Your vote: 1969
The Wire's vote:
1969 vs. 0: There was no year zero. It says that above! I mean, there wasn't really a year 1, either, since people didn't come up with numbers like that for a while. But even looking backward, there was no zero. Winner: 1969
4 BC vs. 570: Did we intentionally pit the birth of Christ against the birth of Muhammed? We did! Since we're guaranteed to enrage people either way, let's embrace that. Winner: 570
1945 vs. 7000 BC: Beer's great, but we have beer now. Ending the Holocaust was better for humanity. Winner: 1945
1990 vs. 1984: I will admit that 1984 is more important to me personally for a variety of reasons. Look, doing these brackets, day-in, day-out, is a drag. Give us something. That said, though: Winner: 1990
1776 vs. 1928: Preventing people from dying from infections is cool and everything, but as a counterpoint, USA! USA! USA! Winner: 1776
753 BC vs. 3219: Rome seems cool. Winner: 753 BC
40,000 BC vs. 1865: We have to give a nod to the point at which humans became dominant on the planet, despite how horrible many of those humans turned out to be. Winner: 40,000 BC
1215 vs. 33: The signing of the Magna Carta established that rulers were accountable to their subjects, regardless of birthright. Winner: 1215
1969 vs. 570: It's weird how many of these come down to religion versus something else. This is a side effect of being so Western-centric, I suppose. Winner: 1969
1945 vs. 1990: Baby Boomers versus Millennials. Winner: 1945
1776 vs. 753 BC: The creation of America versus the creation of Rome. Again, USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! (Please also click this link.) Winner: 1776
40,000 BC vs. 1215: Laws, man. Winner: 1215
The Final Four
1969 vs. 1945: This is actually an interesting contest! Is critical technological advancement at a time of political unrest superior to the end of a brutal war? I say yes. Winner: 1969
1776 vs. 1215: Similarly: Is the establishment of a basis of laws superior to a manifestation of liberty? I say yes. Winner: 1215
1969 vs. 1215: If ARPANET hadn't been created, there would possibly be no web. And I would have no job. (And you couldn't vote in this important tournament.) With all due respect to Upton Sinclair, the winner here is obvious. Winner: 1969
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.