Aside From March Madness, How Else Can We Use Brackets to Improve Our Lives?

Here Are Our (Sweet) 16 Ideas

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The bracket. A hallowed March Madness tradition. The setup is simple: consider two options at a time, decide on a plausible victor and let the winners move up the ladder until one reigns supreme.

Which got us thinking...

Maybe brackets shouldn’t only be used for March Madness (the first round of which gets underway today). Maybe we can answer major life questions with head-to-head matchups in diagram form. Maybe this will change lives.

Maybe not. But here are the (sweet) 16 difficult situations that could benefit from what we’ll go ahead and call the Bracket Approach to Life:

1. Who to Eliminate From Your Facebook Friends List
Do you really need to sift through improv-show invites from your freshman-year roommate, or Trump thoughts by that IT guy from three jobs ago? Let the bracket tell you who stays and who goes.

2. Who to Invite to Your Wedding
When we’re talking $100 a head, there’s no room for politeness. As far as auxiliary friends and second cousins go, it’s time to get real.

3. Which Drink to Order at a Fussy Bar
Forty-year-old scotch with tobacco-infused aquafaba? Mezcal served over 14K-gold ice cubes and breathed on by a shaman? These are the brutal rivalries that brackets were made for.

4. Which Spotify Playlist Will Get You in the Zone
Big presentation at work? You need the right soundtrack to get you into that headspace. Spotify, however, doesn’t make that choice easy. They’ve got everything from “Deep Focus” to “Walk In Like You Own the Place” to “I Hate My Job” (okay, maybe don’t advance that one too far).

5. Which Coworker to Choose as Your Work Spouse
The work spouse relationship can feel essential to on-the-job happiness, but it’s a delicate one. You need someone you can trust, someone who makes you laugh, someone with whom you can flirt, but not in a way that crosses the line. Let the bracket guide you.

6. Who to List as Your Emergency Contact
Because your mom lives in a different time zone, and you’re not 16 anymore. Who’s the right person to fill Mom’s shoes? If you’re single, this gets tricky. Who will prevail, the friend who helped you move or the coworker who saved your ass last week?

7. Which Bloody Mary to Order at Brunch
An essential weekend-morning question: to go for a classic Bloody, or one topped with pork rinds, deviled eggs and a personal pan pizza? Who could decide without a bracket?

8. Which Bar Patron to Flirt With After Round Three
Everyone’s just a little past tipsy, and even looking up from their phones. A few prospects are gazing your way. Should you head toward the couch or over by the jukebox? First, grab a pen and some receipt paper from the bartender and get to work.

9. What to Buy With Your Tax Return
The responsible choice: invest it. The less responsible choice: Vienna, now. The not-even-remotely-responsible choice: renting a steamroller and using it to crush sheets of bubble wrap.

10. Which Excuse to Use the Next Time You Call Out of Work
“I’m sick” can only go so far. “My dog needs to enter the Witness Protection Program” and “My household appliances have become sentient and are rising up against me” have also come to play.

11. Which Drug Will Get You Through Burning Man
When building this bracket, take all variables into account. Will ayahuasca improve your bongo-drumming skills? Will LSD take your acro-yoga experience to the next level? Will high-quality indica help you fall asleep and avoid the stilt walkers in neon onesies?

12. Which Book to Claim as Your Favorite on Your Dating Profile
If you pick Dostoyevsky, the object of your affections could guess that you’re dark and philosophical. If you pick Bret Easton Ellis, you’ve probably got a dry, satirical wit and might be an asshole. We feel good about Michael Chabon’s chances here.

13. Which Streaming Series to Binge
This winter may never end, but at least it's gifted us the chance to catch up on streaming TV. The next time this (or, you know, Saturday) happens, let Russian Doll square off against Shrill before you make any rash button-pushings that could undo an entire day.

14. Which Fitness Trend to Attempt Next
How are you gonna work off your post-weekend hangover? Some HIIT, or some underwater shadowboxing? This one could get so intense, maybe you won’t actually need to work out afterward.

15. Which Podcast to Listen to During Your Commute
This is too tricky to choose haphazardly. Pod Save Whatever They're Saving at This Point might help you keep up with current events, but is the Obama triumvirate any match for a titan like Terry Gross?

16. Which Trump Appointee to Be Most Upset About on Any Given Day
For some brackets, there are no winners.

A slightly different version of this article was published on March 17, 2017. 

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