the long view: eight by eight (1 april 2014)

A few years ago, students in a media literacy course developed a “Tournament of the Twentieth Century” – a bracket game that compared the most resonant media images of the last century to determine the most effective icon.  Batman eventually triumphed over Franklin Roosevelt, Adolph Hitler, and Elvis Presley.  The activity helps the students critically evaluate different eras of media and their audiences in ways that increase thoughtful engagement with print, broadcast, cable, and digital content.

This column invites its audience to engage another tournament, based on eight areas of performance – music, comedy, athletics, film, television, politics, education, and economy.  What follows is an initial reflection on the possible outcomes, intended to spur greater discussion. There are eight nominees in each category.
The initial nominees in contemporary music are, in ranked order: Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Pharrell, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Rhianna, Kanye West, and Bruce Springsteen.  Beyonce, Kanye, Pharrell, and Keith Urban advance, then Keith Urban and Pharrell meet in the finals.  Urban ultimately wins the category for this year.
For comedy, Will Ferrell, Steve Carrell, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Kevin Hart, Aziz Ansari, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert make the first cut.  Ferrell, Stewart, Fey, and Hart advance, with Stewart and Hart meeting in the final.  Stewart keeps the title for funniest man in America for another year.
Best athletes include LeBron James, Messi, Serena Williams, Russell Wilson, Mike Trout, Floyd Mayweather, Tony Stewart, and Candace Parker.  James, Messi, Serena, and Trout advance, while James and Messi meet in the final. King James keeps his throne again.
In film, Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Denzel Washington, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Brad Pitt, and Natalie Portman open the competition.  Portman, Streep, Lawrence, and Washington move forward, leaving Washington versus Streep in the final.  Streep prevails.
On television, Mark Harmon, Juliana Margulies, Mark Burnett, Jennifer Lopez, Rachel Maddow, Kerry Washington, Bill O’Reilly, and Michael Strahan face off.  Harmon, Margulies, Burnett, and Maddow survive, leaving Burnett and Harmon in the final.  Burnett wins.
American politics presents a field including: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, Rand Paul, and Mitt Romney.  B. Obama, Clinton, Boehner, and M. Obama triumph, leading to Barack versus Hillary.  The President prevails.
Education features a range of less familiar, but important voices: Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Michelle Rhee, Robert Reich, Melissa Harris-Perry, Arne Duncan, Gabriella Gutierrez y Muhs, Lizabeth Cohen, and Sir Partha Dasgupta.  Dasgupta and Cohen pull upsets, while Reich and Harris-Perry advance. After Dasgupta and Cohen continue dancing, Cohen ultimately wins out.
Finally, in the world economy, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, the Koch Brothers, Oprah Winfrey, Vladimir Putin, Janet Yellen, and Christine LaGarde start the competition. LaGarde, Yellen, Jobs, and the Koch Brothers win, leaving LaGarde and Yellen in the finals.  Yellen seizes the golden throne in the last bracket.
This “Eight by Eight” tournament can be modified and debated in many different formats, but from small towns to multinational boardrooms, a clearer understanding of the major players and their relative significance can only improve the function of global society.  Engaging our students, neighbors, and colleagues in constructive analysis and conversation helps everyone make better decisions in his or her life.  In this way, “March Madness” is not merely about college basketball, but it can open deeper, more informed discourse worldwide.

Dr. Walter Greason is the Chief Executive Officer of the International Center for Metropolitan Growth ( and the author of Suburban Erasure: How the Suburbs Ended the Civil Rights Movement in New Jersey.  His work is available on LinkedIn, Twitter (@worldprofessor1), Facebook, and by email (
Who are the top 8 people in your ideal selfie?
Who are the top 8 people in your ideal selfie?

Author: waltergreason1

Public Figure.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: