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.
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 the best of the best. Each day is a new champion!
Today it begins! The original March Madness bracket that inspired our month of epic contests tips off at noon on the hardwood. But another, more important contest begins at the same time.
Since Thursday is such an important day on the real sports calendar, we decided to make today's bracket about real sports... and the equipment that makes it possible. Every sport needs a ball, and the character and design of that ball reflects the character of the sport itself. Do you like your games light and fluffy? Tough and leathery? Or rock hard and lethally dangerous? We ranked the most popular sports balls by all the qualities that make a good ball: roundness, bounciness, flight capabilities, and potential for serious injury. Go team!
- Baseball: Your standard issue sports ball. You can hit it, you can throw it, and it stings when you get smacked with one. Solid, all-around ball.
- Basketball: Big, inflatable, made of leather.
- Football: Gimme a break with the pointy ends. Sure, you can throw sweet spirals, but trying bouncing it off something and see how that works out. (See also: Rugby balls and Australian Rules footballs)
- Softball: A bigger, safer baseball, but you can still hit it even with zero athletic skill. (Unless, it's fast-pitch, in which case no one can hit it.)
- Puck: Frozen solid to ensure maximum damage to teeth, but slightly hampered by the fact that it's not a ball.
- Golf: Will travel farther than any other ball on this list, but also the only one you are guaranteed to lose while playing the game it was designed for.
- Croquet: Is there anything more satisfying than using your ball and a mallet to send a hapless opponent flying off the court? I say no.
- Bowling: The one ball on this list most likely to become evidence in a murder investigation.
- Tennis: Yellow, fuzzy, ridiculous. Comes in a can.
- Boche: A good excuse to drink.
- Kick/Dodge: The best thing about these big round monstrosities is that you are encouraged to throw them directly at people! It's in the rules! Stings like hell, but leaves no permanent damage.
- Ping Pong: Too small to be truly useful, but if you're looking for a way to transmit communicable diseases between red Solo cups, then yeah, go ahead.
- Tether: The fact that it's on a leash makes it appear safe, which actually makes it the most dangerous of all. Definitely the highest potential for smashing someone's face and hurting their feelings.
- Wiffle: The closest you will ever come to throwing a real major league curveball or hitting a home run over an actual fence.
- Billiard: The colors and numbers make them easy to keep track of
- Skee: Tickets!
Last four out:
- Soccer: Enough with the hexagons, guys.
- Volleyball: Murder on the forearms.
- Shuttlecock: It flies kind of like a really dumb bird.
- Medicine: What am I? A bricklayer?
Your Vote: Tennis
The Wire's Vote:
Baseball vs. Basketball: Can you dunk a real, full-size basketball? On a regulation hoop? No, you can't. Can you play catch? Yes. Anyone can play catch. Winner: Baseball
Football vs. Softball: It's called a football, yet it's nearly impossible to kick. That's what the kids call an #epicfail. Winner: Softball
Puck vs. Golf: Again, is puck is not a ball, but no matter where you try to hit a golf ball, it will never, never, never, never, never go there. Stupid ball. Winner: Puck
Croquet vs. Bowling: Croquet is played in the backyards of mansions by leisurely aristocrats in sweaters. Bowling is played inside of dive bars by people wearing shirts with their own name on it. Cue: "Fanfare for the Common Man." Winner: Bowling
Tennis vs. Boche: "Why don't they put the net around the court?" I miss Gallagher. Winner: Boche
Kick/Dodge vs. Ping Pong: One is used to bully young people to conform to their peers or risk complete social ostracism. The other is used to play kickball. Winner: Kick/Dodge
Tether vs. Wiffle: Childhood trauma vs. Childhood Glory. Winner: Wiffle
Billiard vs. Skee: The Color of Money is the second-best movie Paul Newman made about pool. There are no movies at all about skeeball. Winner: Billiard
Baseball vs. Softball: Softball has a lot going for it. You can play it while drinking, while fat, and while trying to flirt with members of the opposite sex who are also on your team. But baseball is America. And America is cool. Winner: Baseball
Puck vs. Bowling: Don Rickles calls people "hockey puck" as an insult. In bowling, there are rules. (Lebowski reference: Obvious, but necessary.) Winner: Bowling
Boche vs. Kick/Dodge: When you see someone get hit in the head with a big round bouncy ball, it's funny. Boche is not funny. Winner: Kick/Dodge
Wiffle vs. Billiard: Pool is challenging and mysterious and (occasionally) sexy and you can gamble on it. That's fantastic. But you can't throw the balls, which is like the whole point of sports balls. Winner: Wiffle
Baseball vs. Bowling: In the 1995 essay (and later book) Bowling Alone, author Robert Putnam argued that American society has frayed because citizens no longer feel connected to the participatory structures that are vital to a healthy democracy. By retreating within ourselves, and self-isolating from our larger communities, we destroy the "social capital" that binds humanity together and creates stable, prosperous nations. Also, league members get 50% off nachos. Winner: Bowling
Kick/Dodge vs. Wiffle: Schoolyard kickball is the great equalizer of class, status, gender, and grade point average. Adult kickball is the saddest thing you've ever witnessed. Winner: Wiffle
Bowling vs. Wiffle: The ball with the little holes in it and the skinny yellow bats are hilarious. Hitting a game-winning dinger off the roof of my dad's garage a million years ago was the pinnacle of my athletic career. But bowling can be played by young and old, drunk and sober, lazy and fit, under cosmic disco lights, with bumpers, greasy food, colorful rented shoes, and a giant claw machine game watching over all. Plus, have you ever dropped one on your foot?! Hoo-boy! You'll see visions!
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.