Name of the Year dates to the fall of 1982 and names taped to a dorm-room door on an Ivy campus: Dexter Manley, Cornelius Boza-Edwards, Baskerville Holmes. The following spring, Hector (Macho) Camacho was elected the first Name of the Year. What can we say? The first basketball baskets didn't have holes in the bottom. The first baseball players didn't wear gloves. Men of science believed the earth to be flat.
As our onomastic senses were activated, our tastes became more refined. Some birds of prey can spot a rabbit a mile away. We could spot a great name two newspaper columns away. (NOTY predates the internet.) By the 1990s, the annual vote was a tradition unlike any other: About a dozen of us gathered to watch an NCAA regional semifinal. We played a drinking game called Pick-a-Player. (Pick-a-Player tip: Don't pick Steve Alford. Or Rumeal Robinson.) We voted. For Excellent Raymond and Crescent Dragonwagon. For Scientific Mapp and Courage Shabalala. In 1998, we turned our growing-by-the-year list of nominees (the World Wide Web! electronic mail!) into a 64-name bracket.
When you read about, or vote in, another contrived bracket, please remember that date: 1998. NPR and PBS personalities? Proposed Scrabble words? ESPN employees? Privilege? Bitchiness? People from New Jersey? I just googled "cat bracket" and got this. Richard Sandomir of the New York Times and Mark Reiter assembled two books of nothing but brackets. There's a bracket of brackets taking place right now. We were just eliminated by the Muppets. Fuck you, Fozzie Bear. And fuck you, SportsGrid, for the No. 14 seed. Fourteen? Seriously? We were here first. (At least Sports Illustrated had us as a six.)