160508 MMM WSJ - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

My favourite springtime activity, Mammal March Madness, made the front page of the March 8th Wall Street Journal. I would think that was pretty neat even if the article didn't start out with four sentences – 92 words – about me.

For the rest of my life there's now a chance that someone will ask: "Are you *the* Matthew Robertson – the one that I read about on the front page of the Wall Street Journal?" 

Unlikely, but theoretically possible. If those are the odds I'll still take them.


Since I previously wrote a bit about how I choose my brackets, I thought I'd show the end result:

Of course, I fully expect to be demolished over the coming few weeks.

There was a lack of clearly angry and short-sighted options this year, but I'm going with the Giant Forest Hog to win it all. While there are some accounts I saw of it being outright timid, others said "prone to attack without warning", which shows promise.

So, with the idea that most of my choices will likely be wrong, here's some of my reasoning.

The Polar Bear has been in Mammal March Madness before – it was taken down by an Oceanic White-Tipped Shark in 2014, which isn't anything to be ashamed of, but typically a polar bear would win that encounter. Unfortunately our protagonist was weakened by the lack of sea ice brought on by global warming; I can't imagine this year will be much better for it. 

Caribou vs Takin is a tough one – the Caribou is smaller but has a better antler span. Of course there's never really enough information about these bouts ahead of time; facing a male Caribou in mating season is somewhat different from a female in the mid-winter who just wants to mind her own business. But I'm thinking that the terrain might give the Takin the edge… up until it meets a Snow Leopard, one of their natural predators.

Wallaby vs Otter is another one where the environment may be critical. Assuming the battle is in a surf zone, it may come down to who flees back into their core environment first. Of course, if the Wallaby needs to meet the sea otter in a kelp forest, then I've let my lingering Australian roots lead me badly astray. 

I only picked the Wolf to beat the Goat at the last minute. I have a tendency to be impressed by large and well-armed herbivores, but the 2015MMM match between a lion and a sheep didn't really go the way I expected. Apparently lone lions aren't as lazy and retiring as I expected them to be.

But I still picked the massive forest hog to win in the final battle against the wolf, which I suspect will be pretty banged up from the goat, and still picking porcupine quills out of its paws and nose. 

Finally, the Mascots. I may be over-thinking this, but MMM is a science competition, and none of the mascots were identified by Latin names on the more hardcore bracket. This makes me think that they're not "real" animals, but might have some attributes that the mascots themselves are endowed with. So I didn't spend a huge amount of time here, as I'm not really cut out to research a lot of Sporty-University mythology, but I do wonder if the plural "Mules" will be significant in an event where it's usually going to be a single animal on each team.

And if I'm right about my suspicions around the Mascots bracket, then I think the Coast Guard Bear vs Tundra Wolf will be very one-sided, because only one of them actually exists. If I'm wrong, though, I'm going to wish that I had picked the Bear to win.


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