If James Naismith were alive today, he would be grilling Kielbasa

and cursing his brackets, just like the rest of us.

 

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Alleged History of the Smackdown

 

1998

In the beginning, there were only two players: Wayne Simmons and Derek Simmons. Each picked an NCAA Tournament bracket, and Wayne picked better. For his victory, Wayne earned the right to name the contest. He chose "Kick Derek's Butt in the NCAA Tournament Pool." As the sole vanquished player, Derek was obligated to write a letter of concession to the victor.

 

1999

In the second year, Derek recruited additional players hoping either to win or to persuade a different winner to change the name. Derek was unsuccessful on both counts. The end result was simply more players--spread across three states--kicking Derek's butt in the NCAA Tournament Pool and ratifying the name. The only change was that Derek had company in writing letters of concession to the victor.

 

2000

In the third year, Derek gave up on winning fair and square. He attempted to change the name of the contest by executive fiat. He chose "The NCAA Tournament Smackdown." He was roundly ignored by his competitors, who continued both to crush Derek in the brackets and to retain the former name. Derek wrote the third in his series of concession letters, but some critics charged that it did not appear to be "fully sincere."

 

2001

For the fourth year, Derek unleashed an advertising blitz to promote the name change. Despite full-page advertisements in Sports Illustrated and USA Today--as well as market saturation in prime time throughout February sweeps--players resisted in any name change. Derek's concession letter was widely derided as redundant. Critics wondered aloud if there was a mathematical limit to the number of ways one could admit inadequacy.

 

2002

In the fifth year of the contest, Derek was distracted by the impending birth of his son. Control of the contest was ceded to his brother, Rand, who reportedly adopted the Smackdown name change out of pity. "The kid is already saddled with Derek as a father," Rand explained to observers. "There's no need to leave the name dwelling on his dad's epic loserdom." Alas, the name change was not enough to lift Derek to victory. His concession letter was brief, heartfelt, and poignant. Certain loser groupies still consider it suitable for framing.

 

2003

In the sixth year of the contest, Derek's competitors decided to lower the bar for him. Derek finished fifth of 10 competitors, and commentators established the "Derekdoza line." Those above him were worthy; those behind were relegated to the minor leagues. Derek had clawed his way to nearly respectable mediocrity. Nevertheless, his concession letter did not bespeak satisfaction with his lot. 2003 Recap

 

2004

In 2004, Derek experienced noticeable slippage.  After finishing 12th out of 13 competitors--with only deputy assistant undersecretary to the Oregon Attorney General Paul Smith behind him--Derek's concession letter was ... to be charitable, pathetic.  In addition to lacking in inspiration, critics pointed to two typographical errors and a dangling participle.  Smackdown controller Rand Simmons considered renaming the contest, but decided not to in a fit of apathy. 2004 Recap

 

2005

The 2005 Smackdown saw improvement in the Derekdoza line, likely due to reinforcements. Derek finished 8th of 14 competitors after a second son joined the family mid-Smackdown. Unfortunately, his concession letter (as dictated and transcribed) was among history's worst. Full text: "Good work, Wayne. Whose diaper is that I smell?" Privately, Smackdown organizers commented that perhaps it was Derek's performance providing the aroma. 2005 Recap

 

2006

The ninth annual Smack Derek's Butt Contest--or something to that effect--saw continued marginal decline in the Derekdoza line, when he finished 6th out of 15 competitors. More chilling was the fact that the three finishers immediately ahead of Derek tied for third. If a tie is like kissing your sister, well, that sounds like one sick menage a trois. Even Derek, who lacks the social graces of a ship rat, did not touch the subject in his concession letter. 2006 Recap

 

2007

In 2007, history began to repeat itself. Wayne Simmons, winner of the first and eighth Smackdowns, captured a third crown. Derek attempted, during the first round, to sacrifice a small animal to the basketball gods, but was shouted down by his mortified young sons. The gods punished Derek with a river of red on his brackets, and he finished 13th of 14. "I have embarrassed myself and my family," Derek wrote in concession. "I shall not have dessert again until I win this contest." 2007 Recap

 

2008

In 2008, history actually began to stutter. Scott McLoughlin won his third Smackdown. In a possibly related development, Derek gained something like 25 pounds. In his concession letter, Derek claimed that his metabolism had "slowed to near stoppage, making accurate picks nearly impossible." Derek's credibility was strained by chocolate stains on the letter, and he finished squarely in the middle of the 15-person field. 2008 Recap

 

2009

In 2009, the world very nearly ended. Entire nations were caught in an economic morass, the Afghanistan war went sour, and Iran threatened to plunge the Middle East and beyond into nuclear war. But before most of that happened, there was a harbinger: One of Derek's siblings won the Smackdown, and--we hope you are sitting down for this--Derek finished second. "I am not completely surprised that Kate won," three-time champion Scott McLoughlin said in his concession letter, "but I WAS surprised that hell did not freeze over at the same time." 2009 Recap

 

2010

Like a coin flipping head over tail before ... landing on an edge, Derek followed up his second-place finish by finishing smack in the middle of the 21-person 2010 field. Champion Tifani 'Kryzyzewski' Jefferis, interviewed while meditating in a Mississippi meadow, was the picture of equanimity.  "For every yin, there is a yang," she explained, "and for every sweet victory by a valiant competitor, there is an equal and opposite Derek."  Derek's concession letter was in the form of crossword puzzle clues in which none of the answers were suitable for republication on a family website. 2010 Recap

 

2011

The 2011 contest achieved existential perfection: Derek finished last. Twentieth out of 20. The true caboose.  Participants celebrated far into the night. "You have to admire his tenacity," champion Aron 'Calls 'Em Like She Sees 'Em' Rider conceded, "because there really is very little else about him to admire." In homage to Erin's professional career as a musician--and in a clear example of grade inflation--Derek's concession letter was written entirely in the key of D-minus. 2011 Recap

 

 

 

page updated: 1/18/2012

Photos of James Naismith courtesy of The Naismith Foundation. Used with permission

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