MMPoetry Meets the World Cup

I am considering changing the format of March Madness Poetry to mimic that of the FIFA World Cup.

Generally, the changes would be as follows:

  • Instead of 64 authletes, there would be only 32 authletes in the event.
  • Authletes would be randomly placed into one of eight groups of four participants each.
  • The first three rounds would be a round robin within each group, where each authlete faces each of the other authletes in their group one time in a head-to-head match (the “Group Stage” in World Cup lingo). The format of individual matches would remain the same. Authletes would be awarded 3 points for a win, 1 point for a tie, and 0 points for a loss.
  • The top two authletes from each group would advance to the next stage.
  • With only sixteen authletes remaining, the event would again become a single elimination-style tournament (the “Second Stage” in World Cup lingo).
  • In total, there would be seven rounds instead of six.

Here would be the impact of such a change:

  1. With only 32 authletes participating, securing a spot in the tournament would become much more difficult — an accomplishment in and of itself.
  2. Every authlete would get to write at least three poems, making the experience more worthwhile for every participant.
  3. Since authletes themselves are the main drivers of event traffic, there is a risk that fewer people will promote the event, thus reducing the audience base. On the other hand, those authletes who are participating may more actively promote the event, since they will be assured of remaining in the event for close to two weeks instead of just three days.
  4. The best authletes would be more likely to advance — one tough word or one unlucky matchup would not mean likely elimination.
  5. There would no longer be a Round of 64, which has been an administrative nightmare the last three years.
  6. By flattening the first three rounds, each matchup is likely to attract more readers, including more official voting classrooms.
  7. We can get more creative with seeding so that the words assigned to authletes in a given matchup would be more equitable. I’ve already thought of a great way to do this.

Personally, I think that the benefits may outweigh the drawbacks. But I want to know what YOU think.

I welcome your comments, questions, and ideas below.

Like it? Share it!

Like me? Subscribe to TKT!

  • Ryan Stockton

    I do like this idea. Especially the idea that each authlete would get to write three poems. I assume that ties would only happen rarely- what with the three different votes? I don’t like the idea of it being harder to make it into the competition though!!! ;-) Kidding… I think this format could be great, I’ve long been a fan of the way the Cup does it!

    • Ed DeCaria

      Ties would not happen often, correct. But they did happen a few times this past year.

      As an alternate idea, we could award points based on the number of votes won. So if an authlete wins the Classroom vote but loses the other two, he/she would still get 1 point, not 0 even though they “lost”. That would definitely be an option. Maybe the best one.

      • Ryan Stockton

        That does seem simpler. Perhaps if one vote ends in a tie, both poets get a point as if they both “won” that vote? Not sure. But I like the idea of getting a point for each vote category that you win.

        • Ed DeCaria

          That wouldn’t work exactly, because we can’t allow ties to yield more than three total points for a given match. That would upset the round robin balance within the group of four.

          However, still taking each voting block (authlete, classroom, and public) into consideration, something like this might work:

          THREE POINTS: 3-0-0 (win-loss-tie)
          TWO POINTS: 2-0-1 or 2-1-0 or 1-0-2
          ONE POINT: 1-1-1 or 0-1-2 or 1-2-0 or 0-2-1 or 0-0-3 equals 1 point
          ZERO POINTS: 0-3-0 equals 0 points

          Putting that in order of best to worst result for an authlete (and reverse for opponent):

          3-0-0 (3 points) vs. 0-3-0 (0 points) = 3 total match points awarded

          2-0-1 (2 points) vs. 0-2-1 (1 point) = 3 total match points awarded
          2-1-0 (2 points) vs. 1-2-0 (1 point) = 3 total match points awarded
          1-0-2 (2 points) vs. 0-1-2 (1 point) = 3 total match points awarded
          1-1-1 (1 point) vs. 1-1-1 (1 point) = 2 total match points awarded
          0-0-3 (1 point) vs. 0-0-3 (1 point) = 2 total match points awarded

          In this way, most matches would yield 3 total points, and true ties (1-1-1 and 0-0-3) would yield only 2 points. And never would a match yield 4+ points.

  • Matt Forrest

    I have no problem with this, Ed – sounds like a good, well-thought plan. I think the two areas of difficulty will be a) selecting only 32 authletes instead of 64, and b) explaining the scoring rules to folks who don’t follow soccer! Other than that, I agree that the benefits outweigh any drawbacks.

    • Ed DeCaria

      Personally, I like the scale and vibe of 64 authletes. But organizationally, it is chaos.

      You are right that selection would be pretty brutal. Keep in mind that attracting 64 willing/able participants has its own challenges without any real marketing behind the event, though.

  • Gloson

    Sounds like a great idea, Ed. (Also, the FIFA World Cup is popular here, so I might be able to drive more traffic. haha.) I agree with Matt that maybe the only drawback is explaining the scoring rules to folks who don’t watch soccer (like me).

    • Ed DeCaria

      Once scoring is decided, it won’t be too tough to communicate. The above scenarios are just musings for now. It need not be that complicated.

  • Michelle Heidenrich Barnes

    Sounds reasonable, I guess, though a bit difficult for me to get my head around without seeing it in action. My preference is for any point system that isn’t “all or nothing”– so that races that are close result in points for both authletes rather than all points to one, and no points to the other. Two other thoughts to ponder: 1) Would you still hold it in March and call it March Madness even though it does not reflect the same structure as the Basketball Tournament? (There are branding considerations now that it’s been going on a few years.) 2) You might give some thought to what kind of official criteria you would use in the review and determination of which 32 authlete applications to select.

    • Ed DeCaria

      1) March is actually pretty terrible timing for me on an annual basis, so moving it from March to a different time of year would be better. I’m also hesitant about the name long-term because it is an oft-defended trademark.
      2) I am already thinking about publicizing official authlete application criteria whether it remains 64 or reduces to 32.

  • Josh Close

    I like this idea! I think you could still keep it as “March Madness” – as it will certainly still be madness. Just take out the basketball referencing. FIFA cup is only ever couple years, (2 or 4?) – so really can’t align it with that, but can still use the system – definitely! I agree, benefits outweigh the drawbacks here.

    Could potentially add a couple more voting categories – not sure how difficult or how much more work that would be, just a thought – panel of judges/perhaps applicants that didn’t make it into competition? Just thinking of a way to potentially involve those who didn’t get into the 32 – maybe not necessary though. :p

    • Ed DeCaria

      No desire to tie it to World Cup timing, just thinking about the round robin format to start the event.

  • Renee LaTulippe

    I like this setup a LOT better. It seems more equitable indeed, and it certainly is nice for each poet to have three opportunities right off the bat to show a range of work. I am also all for moving it out of March, since it runs into Poetry Month, which is busy for lots of writer types.

    Losing 32 authletes is a bit of a bummer because the initial energy is always fun. Can you run two of these at the same time, then the final winners of each go head to head for grand champion? Excuse me? What do you mean that’s too much work? Pshaw. :)

    • Ed DeCaria

      Another option may be to pit four poets against each other directly in the early rounds, so that we could still start with 64. I’m not sure exactly how this would work yet (just need to think about it more), but what I do know is that the main administrative driver on posting/voting days is not the number of poems — it is the number of matchup pages and polls that require posting/attention.

  • Rebekah Hoeft

    I think anything to make it easier for you to deal with is a good idea! I am in agreement with Ryan–it won’t be easy to get into the competition, which makes me nervous and worried that I won’t make the cut! I like the Poetry month timing–which I know makes it hard for writers who do more than what I do (sorry, Renee!), but from a teacher’s stand point, it is a great way to get kids excited about poetry and Poetry Month. Is the end of April and May any better for you? Teachers could use the previous years’ poetry if they wanted to throughout the year and end their school year with the current year’s competition.

  • Quinette Cook

    Changing things up is great (especially if it makes your life easier). I will support the event regardless of whether I’m in it or not. Thank you for hosting such a great poetry event. You’re awesome!