The 24th annual installment of Bradley’s Bracket Fiasco proved, to put it kindly, the most challenging yet. Our champion is Chris Lewis, a sometime writer from Garfield, Ga., who triumphed over 5,763 other entrants despite having filled out a bracket so pockmarked he gave up on it.
“I hadn’t even revisited [the Fiasco site] to see how I was doing,” Lewis said Monday. “I figured my bracket was shot. Thank goodness for upsets.”
Lewis won despite picking only half the correct Final Four. (He had Connecticut and Kentucky.) He won on a tiebreaker, having gotten 25 of the 32 first-round games correct. Far from being a bad bracket, his was sagacious enough to earn Lewis the coveted winner’s Final Four sweatshirt/hoodie and a 32GB iPad with 3G and WiFi capability.
Did Lewis already have an iPad? “No, sir, I don’t,” he said. “This is unbelievable. I’ve never won anything in my life.”
Lewis, 42, lives on a street named for his mother in Garfield. He’s a right-of-way agent for Georgia Power, and he’s also a correspondent for the Forest-Blade, a weekly published in Swainsboro. (You can follow him on Twitter. He’s @ChrisLewis25.) He covers Emanuel County Institute football for the Blade, which means he covered Georgia tailback Washaun Ealey when he was in high school.
“It’s a hobby of mine,” Lewis said. “My son plays football there now, and I’ve been close to the coaches, doing stats. The Blade asked me if I’d consider writing something. I’ve done it for six or seven years now.”
As for the rest of the NCAA tournament, Lewis sees UConn winning it all: “Because they’re hot — they’ve rolled through this tournament and their conference tournament. And they might have the best player in [Kemba] Walker.”
Our runner-up is Jennifer Hall of Norcross. She’s a Tennessee grad who works for a health-care technology firm in Dunwoody. She missed tying for the title by the barest of margins — one Round 1 game. “I follow the SEC, and I had a good feeling about Kentucky and Florida from watching them in the SEC tournament. And I had a good feeling about UConn.”
Question: As she watched NCAA games, did Hall root for underdogs or for her bracket? “It’s definitely mixed emotions. You pull for Butler and VCU, and then you think, ‘What will this do to me?’ This was definitely a tough tournament.”
Tell me about it. I picked none of the Final Four. (That last happened in 2006.) I finished 5,538th in a contest I founded. I’d like to say I’m mortified, but I’m not really. In the words of our champ: Thank goodness for upsets. Because they’re what make these three weeks so much fun.
I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Cynthia Daniels-Dubose, Emily Merwin, Carolyn Warmbold and Drue Miller of the ol’ AJC for again making the brackets run on time. I’ve got the easy part: I just make lousy picks and congratulate the happy winner. They do the real work.
And I would be likewise remiss if I didn’t thank all those who entered. Fair warning: Next year marks our 25th anniversary, and we might have to do something special to mark the occasion. A sterling silver winner’s hoodie, perhaps?
By Mark Bradley