Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lent Madness Bracketology:
Seeding the Saints for the Tourney

Lent Madness is taking the world by storm!

By "Lent Madness," I refer of course to the online competition in which two saints are matched up daily for popular vote on the way to the ultimate prize, the Golden Halo.  By "world," I mostly mean my relatively small circle of Episcopal clergy friends who use facebook.  But hey, we're having a good time.

The online set-up is exceptionally creative in its educational purpose: each saint receives a short write-up to inform the voter's decision.  These write-ups are exceptional well written and brief, giving each voter plenty of biopic material to ignore on the way to voting for Enmegahbowh because his name is super cool.

By way of confession, I haven't joined - and probably won't - in the voting festivities.  All my heart, mind,  soul, and strength says that it's just a game - and a really well conceived game, too.  But saints pitted against saints?  In the heat of battle?  Joan of Arc v. Lancelot Andrewes?  I start to get queasy.  And that's before Stanley Hauerwas's voice starts rattling in my head: "'Best' is not a theological category," he says.  I know, I know, it's just a game...

To be fair, I think Hauerwas himself would have fun with the Madness.  My neuroses are my own, and I own them.

Of course, my second difficulty with Lent Madness betrays the gross inconsistency within my own logic.  If on the one hand I am made queasy at the thought of competition between the saints, on the other hand, I am equally grieved that the saints are not seeded (ranked) on the merits of their lives and reputations.

Simply put, while I don't want to have to pick between James the Apostle and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I really, REALLY don't want to pick between them in the first round of the tourney.  That's a 4 v. 5 match-up, not an 8 v. 9 or 5 v.12.  Monnica v. Augustine may have all kinds of Freudian intrigue, but Monnica against the Blessed Virgin Mary is probably more honest for the first round.  In this mother of all match-ups, the BVM walks away in a landslide.  After all, isn't it the David v. Goliath nature of the early games that makes March (or Lent) Madness compelling?

I don't want to see Thomas Merton and Philander Chase in the opening round; I want to see myself squaring off against Matt Gunter or Sean Maloney in a play-in for the privilege of being crushed by Thomas Aquinas.

So...seeding the saints: where would you start?  Who has the coveted one seed locked up?  Who's on the bubble?

The Number One Seeds

1.  Peter
2.  Paul
3.  Augustine of Hippo
4.  Thomas Aquinas

The Two Seeds

5.  The Blessed Virgin Mary
Admittedly underrated as a two-seed, a dangerous match-up that no one seeds wants any part of.
6.  John the Beloved
7.  Francis
Francis is a bit of a surprise here, but, like Mary, his SOS numbers (strength of statues) are off the charts.
8.  Patrick

But what do I know?  Post your top fours and two seeds.  If we're going to do this thing, let's do it right.  Let the real Lent Madness begin!


  1. OK, I have to say I laughed for about ten minutes on SOS!

    These are no brainers given the body of work they showed over the course of the season.
    3) The Blessed Virgin Mary (A 2 seed really?, She gave birth to Jesus! how much better can she do?)
    4) . Augustine of Hippo You can only have so many theologians in the first round, his RPI (Readings Per Instructer) was slightly higher in seminary than Aquinas.

    The Two Seeds

    This is where we deviate heavily.

    5) Stephen a total grinder. Under appreciated by everyone, does all the things that don't show up in the box score like all deacons do. At the end of the day his record stands for itself.

    6) Mark This guy literally wrote the book. Knowing the ins and outs of the game is a central part of his strategy. He gets the nod over underclassmen Matthew and Luke. It was a toss up between he and John, but we couldn't over look Mark's assist record.

    7) Bonhoeffer This seems like a stretch to many of the prognosticators out there. But you have to ask yourself. Do you have to come from the glamour conferences (Disciples or Parent) to get a high seed? We think not. Bonhoeffer won his conference (confessing church) and the tournament. Not to mention he took on the dark power conferences (Nazi Germany) when given the chance.

    8) Thomas No one thought he would make the tournament. In fact he wasn't sure himself after a rough finish. But it was this rough patch that really allowed the committee to learn some valuable lessons. In the end he showed that adversity only makes you stronger.

    1. hahaha I love the addition of the RPI. I feel you on Mary, but disagree that Mother of God translates into an automatic top seed. To your question, "How much better can she do?", to switch sports for a moment, I see Mary as the Boise State of saints. Too much power conference (Protestant) bias.

      Also, if Stephen is in the grinder class (Wisconsin, Minnesota, the entire Big East), they may in fact be deserving of a two seed, but are you really gonna watch that game? Brutal. Which is your point. Right.

  2. KINGSVILLE (AP) -- the home office on 3rd Street has released--admittedly, too late--our picks for tournament #1 and #2 seeds. However, it should be noted that only one of our top-two seeds is even in the official bracket.

    (Which lets me say that if Paul of Tarsus doesn't win the golden halo this year in a walk-off, it's because the Sewanee grads block-voted or something.)

    #1 Seeds: Paul, Peter, Moses, Elijah
    #2 Seeds: Mary Theotokos, Mark (or, for you historical-critical purists, whoever wrote the second gospel), Barth (gotta have at least one theologian), and... my wife, for putting up with a crazy husband like me.

  3. #1 Seeds:
    1. St. John the Beloved--Nothing says cool under pressure like being tossed into a vat of oil in Rome, living to tell the tale (not to mention converting the entire arena), and then living out the rest of your life taking care of the BVM.

    2. Blessed Virgin Mary--Perhaps she's just a bandwagon team, but she has lots of popular support among a wide range of cultures, has had a number of appearances in "the big dance."

    3. St. Paul--You could say he had a real turning point in his career. The scales came of his eye and he was shooting like he could now see the backboard.

    4. St. Michael the Archangel--He soars over the competition (or just seems to cut the legs right out from underneath them).

    #2 Seeds
    1. St. Peter--He's been known to shoot some rock-shaped bricks, but some how always manages to pull it together. Call it dumb luck, call it whatever you want; he gets it going, delivers, and feeds the sheep.

    2. St. James the Greater--He has ambition. Whether it's winning the title or sitting on the right hand of God, he got drive and is willing to give it his all, regardless of how far he falls...

    3. St. Anselm of Canterbury--Fides quaeren basketballum. He's got a vision and a solid game plan on how to get there. If he can execute, he'll give anyone a run for their money.

    4. St. Lawrence--He stays strong, mentally. When the iron gets hot, he keeps his cool and keeps on playing. (Turn me over, I'm done)...