The 2015 Unbreakable Tournament
By: Connor Lenahan
I’m not quite sure how we got to this point, but at midnight tonight I will have published an article on Unbreakable every day for two full years.
This started as a fun little challenge for myself to see if I could do it. This has now roughly evolved into one of the defining parts of my life thus far, and I am completely okay with that. This goofy little blog has had a lot of fun, and this year especially it has been fun for me to play with. 2015 was a crazy year for all, and it provided me with a bunch of stories to write.
The original man behind Unbreakable was Rembert Browne and his 500 Days Asunder blog, seeing if he could write every day. I decided to take that challenge myself, and today I crib another one of his ideas. But of course, all credit goes to the grand poobah of this shindig. Rembert Browne is forever the greatest.
Rembert has been writing his annual “Who Won 201X?” column for the past four years. Since I had a couple of stories pop up multiple times on Unbreakable this year, as well as some personal favorites, I figured we would take that as a starting point. I give you The 2015 Unbreakable Tournament.
Here are the ground rules for the tournament:
- Participants could be any person/entity that made multiple appearances on Unbreakable on 2015. Or, alternatively, they were significant enough to warrant inclusion in the field of 32.
- Seedings don’t matter. I went chronologically and then we decided to cut some stuff from the bracket for better options. It was meant to give everyone a fair shot. Because, let’s be real, Oreos are probably going to win.
- While there were a lot of amazing things that happened this year, some of them I didn’t write about a ton. So sorry in advance to people like Kendrick Lamar, Drake, the newly announced Coachella headliners LCD Soundsystem, Star Wars, Spotlight, The Wire, and plenty more that I loved but ran out of time to cover throughly.
- This is really meant to be fun, so let’s goof around and remember the weird, crazy year this was.
The Juno Blizzard vs. The Simpsons
One of my favorite television moments of the year was “Halloween of Horror” from The Simpsons. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Homer, Marge, and their family, but even I would admit their recent seasons have been weaker than when they were in their prime. However, “Halloween of Horror” is not just the best episode of this season, it’s the best episode they’ve had in roughly a decade in my mind. It was a beautiful story, and one of my favorite things I’ve seen this year.
That said, Juno is winning here. Because “Halloween of Horror” was a great moment for a long running show, but no one is arguing it’s the best episode of all time. Juno meanwhile smashed every single record for snow in Boston history fairly decisively and shut down a major American city. I think one may have had a larger impact.
Alessia Cara vs. The Unbreakable Podcast
One of the most fun parts of being a music fan is finding someone on the rise that becomes a star before your very eyes. When I heard “Here” by Alessia Cara for the first time I knew she’d be a major star in music. By year’s end “Here” has become a genuine hit and Cara has blown up with her first album Know-It-All. This is the first year of many for the budding star.
But The Unbreakable Podcast was a fun evolution for the blog this year, giving another outlet for me to ramble about things I love with my friends and family. It was shockingly well received and successful this year beyond what I expected. But it’s been off the air for a couple weeks. That’s because we are working on reformatting the show to make it better. Much like 2013 for Unbreakable, this was the prototype, and 2016 promises to be the year it explodes. With that, Alessia Cara takes the win for finishing out the year stronger than ever.
Marnie The Dog vs. The Wheelchair
Sorry wheelchair, but I only have, like, 600 followers on Instagram because of you. Marnie has nearly 2 million. You may get me where I need to go around the city, but you cannot possibly bring me joy like Marnie does.
Also, she’s really cuddly and liked me when I got to hold her in August.
NESN Next vs. Stand-Up Comedy
It took nearly a year, but I got to star in a short documentary that ended up winning my friends Kaley Roberts, Brittney Badduke, and Christina Beiene the first annual NESN Next competition, complete with prize money and internships. When they won the reality show competition I jumped off my bed like we won the Super Bowl. It was awesome.
I made my debut as a stand-up comic this year, too. That went fairly well despite me being roughly terrified throughout. But thanks to my buddy Andrew Giustino I finally got up there and tried it out. And people were laughing with me, not at me! It was fun. But until trophies are given out for me making people laugh, the NESN girls are moving on.
Deflategate vs. Terrier Tailgate
Look, Deflategate needed to make the bracket based on how many times I had to write about it, but it’s not like I was happy about it. No one liked the saga of Tom Brady vs. Roger Goodell until Brady somehow came out victorious. By virtue of living in Boston for it all it was impossible to escape the story at all. It was dumb, and certainly likely to be remembered as one of the most incredible stories of all time. That is, that we spent an entire year talking about air pressure and balls, despite the fact that no one really cared.
But the win here absolutely has to go to the most amazing night of the year for Boston University Athletics. Even my loftiest expectations had around 4,000 people attending a soccer game. Nope, we smashed school and state records by drawing 7,379 fans out to this year’s Terrier Tailgate game. I still get chills thinking about it. Don’t worry, we have more time to talk about that night, as it’s on to round 2.
Retirements vs. BU Basketball
Jon Stewart, David Letterman, Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Abby Wambach… this was a huge year for people we loved walking away and making us sad. I don’t like being sad, and I certainly miss seeing some of the familiar faces I grew up with in my life constantly. I didn’t even get to write about Kobe’s retirement yet, but basketball is less interesting without the legendarily selfish and legendarily terrific Laker.
In happier news, though, Boston University basketball has been drawing crowds like never before during my time at the school. We’ve had three games at home in our tiny Case Gym this year while school was in session and all three has students out, loud, and proud of their team. It’s been incredible. Much like the Terrier Tailgate, watching school pride on a big stage is the best sight in the world. Let’s keep that good feeling going into the next round.
CityTarget vs. Kid Nation
So, here’s the thing, CityTarget is winning this matchup. That said, I would like to take this moment to again express how amazing Kid Nation is as a show. The entire thing is still on YouTube, meaning you could marathon watch it in full for free, and in less than 24 hours. Take the best parts of Survivor and throw in a bunch of kids, while also reaching the epitome of escapism TV – who wouldn’t like a chance to run a city and win $25,000 in gold? Kid Nation is awesome, but CityTarget warmed my cold, dead heart like little else this year.
Idris Elba vs. WWE
The WWE won me back as a fan in 2015 to the point that I went and attended almost every event they had in Boston this year. It was heavily entertaining, and as an exercise in story creation and narrative construction it’s a ton of fun. Plus finding new generation stars like Seth “Crossfit Jesus” Rollins provided me with enough highlights to convince my roommates I wasn’t totally mental.
But Idris Elba wins here clearly. Not only did he vault into first place for the world’s collective choice for the next James Bond – please, please, please, please – but since I finally had to watch The Wire for class I saw his masterwork role as Stringer Bell. I’ve watched a lot of TV in my lifetime and I think Stringer is either at the top or very close to it for the best characters I’ve ever seen. Idris Elba is the absolute man, and he’s moving on here.
BU Hockey vs. Laura LaBrecque
The first couple of months of 2015 were defined by two things for me: lots of snow and Boston University Hockey making an incredible run to the National Championship game. It was the team that tossed Jack Eichel, Evan Rodrigues, Danny O’Regan, Matt Grzelcyk, and Matt O’Connor on the ice that turned me into a hockey fan for the first time in my life. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more emotionally invested in a game than the 2015 National Championship here in Boston.
But there’s one key difference between the competitors here. Whereas the BU Terriers came up just short in the championship game, Laura LaBrecque ended up being a revelation in our fantasy football league, the XFL, and won the championship in dominating fashion. Because she brought home the trophy, she gets to move on here. But don’t worry, there’s more hockey to come later.
Softball vs. Foo Fighters
Even though I hit over .500 this summer in my intramural softball league with my friends and coworkers from Boston University, I still won’t get over the game-winning hit that wasn’t. I had a chance to win us our playoff game and didn’t. I mean, it wasn’t Bill Buckner 2.0, but I still have some nightmares over that one fly ball.
Meanwhile the Foo Fighters played one of the best concerts I’ve ever had the chance to attend in July at Fenway Park. Plus David Grohl broke his leg, not me, so that seems like some good karma. Let’s give the victory to the sacrificial shin of one of the best rock bands of all time.
Frank Ocean vs. Melvin Ramos
Melvin Ramos still remains as one of the best people I’ve met in Boston. I’m sad to this day about his passing a few months ago. What I wouldn’t give to run into my buddy on his staircase on my way to work again. He really was terrific.
And Melvinis moving on here, for being an amazing person. Meanwhile Frank Ocean continues to break my heart every day until his new album drops. I lose hope every day that it’s not on my iPod. But all of that could go away with a midnight release, Frank. Ball is in your court.
Oreos vs. Matt O’Connor
This is actually a painful matchup for me. One one hand you have the delicious snack treats that have given me more comedic fodder for this blog than anything else. I also may or may not have six boxes of Oreos in my bedroom here in Pennsylvania as I type this. Oreos are incredible, and they bring joy. They will always bring joy. But one fault in this matchup is how accountable they are. Oreos are eternal. Special moments are rare.
Matt O’Connor had an error in the National Championship that made him a national name for reasons he obviously wouldn’t like. But in the face of a public, high-profile mistake Matt stayed strong. He sat through every question, every negative comment, every thought about what could have been to stay the awesome guy he was. In April I wrote an open letter for him that’s the most read post on Unbreakable by a lot – more than twice the second place post. What started as a spit second drop has turned into a promising pro career for OC – that is as big a win as any.
Bill Simmons vs. The XFL
Bill Simmons deserves to win this matchup only because he has somehow completely changed the landscape of sports media in the matter of a calendar year. At this point last year Grantland was up and running better than ever and Bill Simmons was a proud ESPN employee. This New Year’s Eve Simmons is employed by HBO and has his own podcasting empire that is better than ever. Simmons somehow got better by getting cut by ESPN, which seems impossible. But here we are.
Meanwhile the XFL – my fantasy football league with friends and family – would have faired better in this tournament if I won this year’s championship game rather than my girlfriend. Not that I’m bitter or anything. But I was robbed. I should be champ. But, again, not bitter.
John Oliver vs. McDonalds Breakfast
At long last I can eat a sausage egg McMuffin for dinner. It seems like in America, the land of freedom to eat whatever we want (that’s what Washington and Jefferson were going for, right?), I would have had this right in the Constitution much earlier. But you know what? I’ll take it. I’m happy and full of evening hash browns, so I can’t really complain.
But John Oliver continues to be amazing and produce terrific segments for Last Week Tonight. Given the retirements of Jon Stewart and his fellow late night hosts, Oliver has jumped to the ranks of the elite with funny, interesting investigations that are better and more informative than nearly half the classes I’ve taken in college. Oliver continues his hot streak into 2016 and round 2.
Cole Srebro vs. King Curtis
Cole Srebro, my late high school buddy, is absolutely moving on here, but I need to share the King Curtis article again. In a year with a lot of sad moments Curtis was absolutely one of the brightest moments of the year given his love of snack food and his porky little authoritative demeanor.
Tracy Morgan vs. Patrick McKay
I’m going to go ahead and apologize to my roommate Pat for knocking him out in round one, but he pulled one of the hardest match ups of anyone. While McKay was huge for me this year as a two time guest on the Unbreakable Podcast and popped up many other times on the blog, he didn’t have the emotional gravitas that Tracy Morgan had in his return to prominence and SNL. Still crying tears of joy about that.
The Juno Blizzard vs. Alessia Cara
Alessia Cara was responsible for one of my favorite albums of the year, the aforementioned Know-It-All, as well as excitement about a blossoming star that wrote confident, awesome songs despite the fact that, you know, she’s 19. I’m excited because in just a matter of weeks I will get to see her live and potentially meet the Drake & Taylor Swift co-signed artist in Boston. Cara is only going up.
But Juno, much like the snow storms it brought, is not being stopped easily. This is true: It took me until December of this year to adequately recover from the problems the snow gave me academically. There were few if no things that actually found a way to change my life for 12 months in 2015. Juno was just that. Alessia is going to keep winning for years to come, but this year belonged to snow.
Marnie the Dog vs. NESN Next
Sorry girls, but Marnie has to keep going out of pure cuteness. The documentary you three made was amazing and inspirational…
…but it’s no Marnie Santa adventure.
Terrier Tailgate vs. BU Basketball
I love Boston University athletics beyond comprehension, and both of these entries make me happy beyond words. But I know which one of these needs to move on, and that’s the Terrier Tailgate. The Tailgate was the beginning of a revolution. We have never had an athletic presence outside of hockey that was deafening. We had fans, but we aren’t exactly a sports school. But beginning with the Terrier Tailgate and moving through this school year we have seen crowds in larger numbers and more invested than ever before. To say it is incredible is an understatement. The Terrier Tailgate was just step one, but I am going to have that game in mind as we keep trying to build crowds up for years to come.
CityTarget vs. Idris Elba
UPSET ALERT: I was overwhelmingly happy about the construction of CityTarget here in Boston. Semi-pathetically one of the things I missed most about home was Target, and now it’s in my backyard.
Idris Elba has been going up in star power this year and may ever get to add “Academy Award nominee” to his business card in a month thanks to Beasts of No Nation. Idris, AKA String, would also become the biggest star on the planet as James Bond – sorry, but I can’t express how excited that would make me enough. But he is going to move on to the third round of this tournament because I actually live like a mile and a half away from CityTarget, and that’s far away to go in a wheelchair. It’s the little things, man.
Laura LaBrecque vs. Foo Fighters
Seeing the Foo Fighters this Summer was a terrific experience that I had been looking forward to for months. Literally. The concert tickets I got for them were given to me at Christmas 2014. They killed it live, and continue to be awesome. But I can’t knock out Laura just yet. She just happened to do more this year. Yes, the Foo Fighters played an amazing show on that terrific July night, but she was gargantuan for Unbreakable this year. She helped create and produce the podcast, pitch ideas for articles, win the XFL, and even helped come up with more ideas to change things for the better in 2016. She just did more this year, and is into round 3.
Melvin Ramos vs. Matt O’Connor
This, again, is a tough matchup. Melvin was a very kind man, and shall forever be kept in not only my thoughts, but those of hundreds of Boston University students. He had to deal with some strong demons in his life, including some that ultimately caused his passing. But I like to be an optimist. I love both of the men in this matchup. There isn’t a really clear mission statement for Unbreakable, but one thing I like to do is to share stories of things or people that impact me/others in a positive light. If there’s something inspirational I will put it up immediately. To have something fail on you on national television, only to come back strong and make it all the way to the NHL and make everyone largely forget about said error is incredible. Matt O’Connor took control of his story, and now he is living out his dream. That’s as uplifting a story as any.
Bill Simmons vs. John Oliver
The battle of the HBO employees is here at last. Call me biased, likely because I am, but Bill Simmons is going to get the win here. Here’s the difference: Simmons had his entire career flipped on its head this year getting dropped by ESPN. He needed to come up with his next move and found a way to actually take most of his restrictions away. Now he can speak his mind more than ever before and will grow his media empire. Grantland has sadly passed on, but Simmons has a new site on the way. Throw in a new show in 2016, his Bill Simmons Podcast, and more, and Simmons owned 2016 from a media standpoint. John Oliver had an amazing year, but the slight edge goes to Simmons as Oliver continued to pitch nothing bur heat with his show in 2016. This one hurts, but it’s done.
Cole Srebro vs. Tracy Morgan
Cole Srebro was one of my favorite people growing up, and his passing in June hit me really hard. It hit my entire high school community hard. You’d be hard pressed to find someone as universally beloved as him. I miss him today, I missed him yesterday, and I will miss him tomorrow. That’s how it goes, but it’s good he’s at peace and chilling with Tupac on a cloud sipping a Mai Tai.
Tracy Morgan’s return to SNL and really the world of comedy as a whole has been amazing. We almost lost this incredible talent for good in his 2014 car accident, but thankfully he was saved. Now we get to properly appreciate his talents for years to come. It might be sad, but because we won’t get to do that with Cole, he moves on here.
The Juno Blizzard vs. Marnie the Dog
Everything about Marnie is perfect and cuddly and awesome. She is without flaw. She is good incarnate. Juno, meanwhile, is evil incarnate. Do you know how much eight feet of snow is? Like physically? Because now I do, and I didn’t want to. Marnie is like a foot long. meaning that you could stack eight MarnMarns on top of each other and you’d get roughly what Boston had early this year.
And it’s because the adorably amazing sight of eight Marnies is impossible that Juno moves on here. Damn you snow.
Terrier Tailgate vs Idris Elba
Here’s the thing, the Terrier Tailgate will live on as one of the best nights of my life and one of the best nights for Boston University in a long, long time. It’s amazing what we were able to accomplish together as a school. We need to keep doing this though. The mission for the Terrier Tailgate was two-headed. The first was immediate – get people out to cheer on the Terriers to victory against Boston College that night in August. But the larger head was to make this the beginning of a sports revolution at BU. To make our home ice advantage extend beyond hockey. Beginning with the Terrier Tailgate and now extending into basketball, that’s been happening. But we need it to continue.
Stringer Bell is the best character in television history. There, I said it. And YouTube won’t let me embed any videos that prove this, so just go watch all of The Wire. Idris is the dude, and he’s into the final four.
Laura LaBrecque vs. Matt O’Connor
Matt O’Connor is just loving to make things hard for me in this tournament. He’s pulling my heart apart with every selection. He ended up with one of the most amazing stories of the year and made my heart smile all year by overcoming what could become career defining for a lesser man. Matt O’Connor is not that. He is strong, mentally and physically, and now is going to be making moves on an NHL level.
But this bracket is about Unbreakable. It’s about the biggest things on this blog this year. Matt O’Connor may have brought more traffic than quite literally anything else, but I’m not sure there’s been anyone more important for the evolution of the blog this year than Laura. She’s helped create some of my favorite parts of this, and will continue to. All throughout year two of writing and heading into year three having help is important. She’s done that and more. Laura takes a hard-fought contest and is into the final four.
Bill Simmons vs. Cole Srebro
I really miss Cole. I’d really give just about anything to get another crazy night with Cole and Matt Bruzzano where we get back to our old shenanigans, but sadly that’s not exactly how life works. I wish it were, but alas, here we are. Bill Simmons gave me a lot of inspiration for what I could do with my own career, but Cole has impacted me every single day.
The Juno Blizzard vs. Idris Elba
Stringer Bell is a fictional character, but the ramifications from Juno were anything but. I love Idris Elba as an actor and as a man, but the biggest years for his career are yet to come. Hell, his biggest years on Unbreakable are yet to come. But Juno was something else. To properly recap, what happened: Juno dropped multiple feet of snow on Boston, choked off streets and public transport, caused the city to require national help in cleaning the mess, I could barely leave my dorm safely without fear of breaking a bone or getting stuck in the snow, and I needed to drop two classes due to attendance issues stemming from safety concerns. I only just this month finished up retaking those classes. That’s how intense the blizzard was to my life.
And the snow didn’t entirely melt until July.
Juno is in the finals.
Laura LaBrecque vs. Cole Srebro
This won’t be a matchup between friends. Rather, this will be about something important to my life. Losing Cole hurt my friends deeply. I was crushed knowing that the next time I headed home to Pennsylvania that he wouldn’t be there waiting for me. When we drafted for the XFL, which Cole was always great at, he wouldn’t be there. It was really sad. The only way my friends got through it was to be together. The only way I got through it was to go home to see them. But then I needed to come back to Boston. I had to get back to normalcy in face of a tragedy.
That’s where Laura helped. I was away from my friends and largely solo in Boston. The only way I could bring myself out of that funk was to fall back on someone that I care about deeply. Someone that has brought me nothing but fun times. Much like what Cole did for my life in high school, Laura has done in college. One of my biggest regrets is that the two never got to meet each other in person before his passing. But for what she did to help me through the loss, I know Cole would have loved her.
The Juno Blizzard vs. Laura LaBrecque
The Juno Blizzard was awful, and it almost broke me. I mean that somewhat physically, but especially mentally. I’ve always prided myself on knowing what to do when things go wrong. The last time I broke my leg I was able to take control of the situation like Tom Brady on a Super Bowl winning drive. But this winter was different. I was thrown into an unbelievable situation, something that I’ve never had to face before. I can’t think of another time I’ve had to face that amount of snow, especially without a car. That was the trick to Boston. At home I would just have my parents drive me. At school I’m alone. It was up to me. And I couldn’t handle it.
Not only did I have to figure out how to get around campus, but I had to figure out how to get food, how to not break a bone, and how to keep up with classes despite the rug being pulled out from under me. I broke down. I had an awful academic performance in the spring. I had never been as down as I was then. I wasn’t sure I could handle it anymore. I felt largely defeated. This was the biggest test possible, and I couldn’t carry the weight.
That is, I thought I couldn’t. Laura won this year outright by being there for me. So much of this blog can be framed as me being a one man show. I think that’s what most people think. I’m the sole author, my name is on the home page, I’m sharing the stuff. It’s all me except that it isn’t. I rely upon my friends to help me keep going. Today marks 730 days in a row of posting and I wouldn’t have gotten to today without my friends and family. They are who I bounce ideas off of. Who I rely upon to be interviewed for the podcast. Who I rely upon to cheer me up when I think I can’t do it.
Laura LaBrecque cared for me and reminded me that snow melts. Grades are temporary. Classes can be made up. And that all wasn’t lost. Best of all, she reminded me that people cared about me. That’s what got me back on track. Happily I type this aving gotten way better grades in my retakes of the classes than before – actually my best grades of college thus far – and Unbreakable only continuing to grow. I’m blessed in that I keep getting to do cool stuff with this blog because people believe in it. Two years in and no end in sight. This is how I deal with things good or bad. Through the emotional turmoil of losing a friend and being trapped by snow to the happiness of championships and birthdays and more.
Two years in and things are only looking to go up. Season two ends today, but Season three is about to get even better. Laura is going to be around a lot in 2016 here on Unbreakable, and she’s going to help me forget that Juno was ever an issue as we find new ways to experiment and have fun here. Hopefully you’ll keep coming back and hopefully I’ll keep giving you smiles throughout. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2015 Unbreakable (and XFL) champion, Laura LaBrecque.
And with that, I thank you for joining me for another year of Unbreakable. I’ll be back tomorrow for year number three.
This time next year will be 1096 straight days of posts. See you then.