Saturday, July 30, 2022


Abraham Lincoln and James R. Wylder. 

One of these men came from a modest background on the prairie to become a famed and accomplished Illinois attorney. He is noted for above-average height and plain speech, along with a distinctive hairstyle, fondness for "circumlocutory" storytelling, and that classic, ever-serious statesman's gaze in portraits (befitting his lofty station). His name is on buildings here in Central Illinois, and his legacy is sure to endure for generations as one of the nation's greatest American heroes. 

The other man is Abraham Lincoln. 

Congratulations to James Wylder for winning the 2022 Chippens Tournament Challenge, something not even that other Central Illinoisan Abraham Lincoln ever accomplished. 

"It's a unique, stand alone victory," Wylder said, when asked to rank this accomplishment among his many other now-lesser achievements. "It's in a category by itself." 

Wylder rode the Kansas Jayhawks to victory. He was one of only nine players to correctly pick them all the way. 

"I wanted a team that could win, but that not many would pick," Wylder said in explaining his rationale to back the Jayhawks. 

Wylder said he "became confident" in his route to the championship when Arkansas beat Gonzaga. He was one of only four players with the Arkansas upset, and the win knocked out many players who picked Gonzaga to win it all. 

It was then the thrilling thought of victory first entered his mind as a true possibility, sending a charge from his penny loafers up his khakis to the ample bulge in his . . . breast pocket of his trademark blazer (where he keeps a year's consignment of emergency supplies).

The proximity of triumph was almost as exciting to Wylder as the prospect of free Scotch and Newports and a pile of purple chips at a blackjack table during "Buxom Ladies' Night" at some dimly-lit establishment with the word "Saloon" in the title and where you have to ask to borrow a key for the bathroom.    

Indeed, Wylder was on vacation in the Caribbean during his meteoric rise to the top of the standings. As his victory edged closer and closer--like having two face cards versus a dealer showing a six--his attachment to checking the leaderboard grew stronger and stronger. 

"I decided to check (the standings) every time I got a drink," Wylder said, no doubt in order to keep a steady hand lest the nerve-rattling excitement caused him to drop his phone in the pool (or perhaps in the d√©colletage of a swooning "admirer"). "So it was pretty often between noon and 1 a.m."  

Going into this year, as one of the Chippens Tournament Challenge's lowest-ranked players  (98/106), Wylder knew he would have to change his strategy to change his fortunes. 

"This year I picked with my head and not with my heart," he said. "It's not easy for an Illini to pick a Bill Self team to win it all." Let this be a lesson to future Chippens hopefuls: It is that type of self-sacrifice that forges a true champion. (Wylder's new ranking is 87/105).  

Wylder now has the distinct honor of donning this year's Grand Prize T-Shirt. We are all looking forward to seeing him wearing it as he takes his rightful place in the Hall of Champions. Then, Wylder said, he will put the t-shirt away in safekeeping "for the Chippens Champion Reunion Cruise." 

If that cruise ever happens (doubtful), Wylder will be among familiar faces. With his victory, he becomes the fourth member of his extended family to win the title. There are only seven adults in the group in total, so Wylder said that means "the pressure is now on my two remaining daughters, Allie and Beth, and my son-in-law Ethan." 

And after that? 

"My grandkids will then be old enough that I think the streak can go on in perpetuity," he said. 

Congratulations to James R. Wylder, a Champion For The Ages.   

Other Notable Results

  • Congrats to She Winns and politicalgrrl for getting second and third place, respectively. This is politicalgrrl's second consecutive top-5 finish, an accomplishment matched by only two other players in history. She Winns is in her fourth year of competition and now has two top-20 finishes. I believe she also had the biggest one-year improvement, up to 2nd from 98th last year.
  • Another Winn, abbywinn, finished in 8th place as the Challenge's top rookie this year. 
  • Susu finished in 28th place, good enough to take over the top spot on the All-Time Average Place list. She couldn't beat J Willis, though, who finished 27th, beating Susu on the first tie-breaker. I'll let them decide who gets bragging rights for their respective accomplishments. 
  • Farther down the standings, BMac also edged out Beachy, 82nd place to 83rd place by virtue of the first tie-breaker. Beachy, who ranks 101/105 in the All-Time list, send in about 10 brackets this year so we know she was really trying! It wasn't quite enough to beat her husband, but neither of them will get household bragging rights as those belong to young Corvette Guy, who finished an impressive 39th in his Chippens debut. 
  • Ferris Mueller picked up his third top-12 finish in the last four years. 
  • Last year's defending champ, Jessica Crum, had another solid year picking up a 20th place finish. 
  • Of the early leaders Slinger, Budd Dwyer, and BoilerBaller, the Prideful Peacock of Purdue had the most staying power, finishing 6th. Dwyer notched 19th, and Slinger slipped to 64th. 
  • Finally congrats to the players smart enough to pick Kansas: the top three finishers along with MarliMazy (5th), MrsJT (7th), Candle Guy (10th), and The Chris (11th), PrunkenDicks (13th), and sydthekid (14th). Those are the top finishes ever for Marli and MrsJT. It's the second top-10 finish for Candle Guy, and The Chris just missed his fourth top-10 finish out of the last six. For Mr. Prunken, he snaps a streak of three straight finishes in the Century Club, the very bottom of the barrel. As for Syd, 14th place is only her third best finish ever.  

Thanks to everyone for playing, and we hope to be back next year!

No comments: