Friday, April 11, 2014

Oh God! Victory Pumps Out Melick's Message

Matthew Melick, he of the notorious handle, is the 2014 Chippens Tournament Challenge Champion. A five-year Challenge veteran in the Modern Era (I believe he also participated in 2003 as "The Watermelon"), Melick becomes only the second Champion to not pick the tournament winner, and the first Champion to win despite picking both eventual finalists, UConn and Kentucky, to lose in the first round. His winning total of 117 points is the second lowest of all-time, just four points ahead of Angela Penney's 113-point winning effort in 2006.  Penney is the other Champion to not pick the tournament winner. 

I do not cite these facts to diminish Melick's victory. No, far from it. Of course, any Challenge Champion deserves only the highest praise and reverence for such a remarkable and truly special achievement. But while most Challenge Champions soak up the glory for themselves (and who can blame them?), Melick's victory this year was truly righteous, for he was spreading the Gospel. The Gospel of Gus Johnson, that is. As Melick explained to me, "Last year we tried a White House Petition to bring back Gus Johnson (to CBS). Like all White House Petitions, that failed. So I went grassroots to spread the message. I am grateful that the message received some attention."  

Of course, The Challenge is beyond humbled to be chosen as the medium for such an important message, but I must admit that, at first, I did not truly understand the noble design of my longtime friend. Indeed, as I watched Melick contend for the title this year, and as the specter of his chosen moniker being plastered atop the standings for all times became ever more likely as each day passed, I thought of Sherman McCoy, a character in Tom Wolfe's novel The Bonfire of the Vanities, who tries to ease his anxiety in the face of a looming tragedy by telling himself that surely God demands the "purity of surprise" when he inflicts a disaster, and that He would "refuse to be anticipated by a mere mortal." 

Yes, that was how I consoled myself in my state of bewilderment as I saw Melick climb in the standings the first weekend and then somehow manage to not just compete, but actually improve his odds as each stunning finish to all these close games miraculously worked in his favor, even if he did not pick the team! But little did I know that as I was selfishly thinking to myself, Surely no benevolent Creator would force me to make so many vulgar puns in one month!, Melick had The Almighty on his side the entire time. 

Yes, unbeknownst to me, just like his namesake, St. Matthew the Apostle, Melick had been chosen to spread the Good News. I can only imagine that as Melick sat down to type in his handle, a beam of pure light came through his window like in the famous painting by Caravaggio, The Calling of Saint Matthew, which depicts the moment when Jesus surprised the man by choosing him as his disciple. It was when that same divine beam of light hit Melick's face and spread a warm glow across his fingertips that he typed the now-famous phrase, "Longing For Gus Johnson's Orgasms."  

To punctuate his immaculate victory, Melick texted me Proverbs 16:3, which states, "Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established." Fellow Competitors, when I received those prophetic words I knew that I had bore witness to something transcendent, even mystical. The feeling was rapturous, euphoric. I don't know how to describe other than to say it was almost like that scene in When Harry Met Sally. Then I became very tired. 

Yes, just as happened to Saul on the road to Damascus, the scales have fallen from my eyes. No longer a persecutor of Longing For Gus Johnson's Orgasms, I am here to tell you he should be exalted! All Hail The Champ! And bring back Gus!  

  • Congrats to Bill Snider and Sydney Penney for finishing second and third, respectively. Snider is in his 10th year of competition and has established himself as a legend in his own time. The 81-year-old added to his long list of accomplishments this year and now ranks 8th in Average Place and 9th in Average Pick Percentage. Sydney, in just her second year of competition and some 70 years younger than Snider, knocked her mother, Penney Lane, into 4th place when Kentucky beat the Badgers. Sydney and Black n Chrome were the only players with Kentucky in the finals. Penney Lane, though, still picked up her third top 10 finish, making her one of just six players with at least three.  
  • In the Tournament Preview, I predicted that Voltaire would be the player to watch as he earned his Five Year Ring and became eligible for the All-Time Records. Voltaire had a bit of an off year, though, to put it mildly, finishing 101st. Instead, it was Hot-T who broke onto the Average Place list in her first year of eligibility. She now ranks 9th. 
  • For the third consecutive year, Julie Thompson has "made it count." She once again bested her husband and her parents in-law, even Make-it-count Thompson, who finished 73rd. Next year she gets her Five Year Ring, and in her four years of competition (she also competed in 2009), her lowest finish is 27. In fact, she's improved her place every year, finishing 14th this year. 
  • Tigger32382, a seven-year veteran, bounced to her highest finish ever last year, a very good 20th place. She seems to have spent this year "coiling the springs," finishing next-to-last in 120th. Look for her to bounce back next year. (Perhaps she was just taking it easy on her husband, CQD, who finished 42nd as a rookie this year). 
  • Last year we had Future Mouse, and this year we had Mrs. Mouse. I hear Mrs. Mouse is expecting. Does that mean that next year we'll have Mommy Mouse? 
  • Congrats to Jessica Stover for winning the Battle of Fort Bragg. She was the only player to pick UConn to the Final Four. 
  • Bucephalus and Blizzard T. Husky each picked up their 5th Top 20 finish, making them two of just five players with that many. No one has more. Both players improved their positions in the All-Time Records, with Bucephalus reclaiming a spot on the Average Place list. Bucephalus says he has a lot of momentum going into next year.  
  • Adam Lombard and Jason Jackson each quietly had yet another quality year. They both improved in the All-Time Records, and Lombard recorded his 4th Top 20 finish. 
  • Speaking of top dogs, Stumper and Cotter continue to battle for the top spots in the Record Books. Both had good years at 22nd and 23rd place, respectively, with Stump finishing ahead of Cotter based only on pick percentage. Cotter now owns the top spot in Average Place, but Stump is ahead of last year's champ in Average Points and Average Pick Percentage. I see a Jordan vs. Bird debate heating up, only in this case it's the Horticulturist vs. the Albino Gopher.
  • Finally, speaking of math, Maths, a rookie, told me he used a random number generator to make his picks. His 118th-place finish, along with the algorithm's 115th-place showing, give us hope that maybe there is some skill involved in this game after all!
Thanks to all for playing, and I hope you all participate again next year! 

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