Some intriguing match-ups in round two-- Spiderman against Superman, Mark Twain vs. Charles Dickens, the solitary Batman against the "gang" of the Fantastic Four. Who would win, who would go home to wait for next year? Onward...
#5 Fantastic Four vs. #2 Batman
The literary and sports pundits were unsure about this one-- four individuals with super-human powers against one man in a cool suit? Yet the Bat is the #2 seed and Vegas had the Dark Knight as the favorite. Somebody in Vegas knew something-- on game day, it wasn't just Batman, it was Robin, Batgirl and even Alfred. The inclusion of the gentile Alfred seemed an odd choice, until it became clear that when an extremely proper, dutifully courteous and yet persistent gentleman with a British accent asks you to sit for tea, it is virtually impossible to say no. Consequently, after jumping out to an early 2-0 lead, and appearing ready for an easy romp to victory, Mr. Fantastic, Thing, the Human Torch and the Invisible Woman found themselves seated primly around a linen draped table, dutifully sipping a nice Earl Grey. Meanwhile, Batman and his crew had the court to themselves, easily rolling up the score while showing off their mad dunking skills. By the time the Fantastic Four had finished their tea, and some delicious cucumber sandwiches, the scoredboard read 6-2, in favor of the bats. The teams exchanged a pair of baskets late, for a 7-3 final, and the Batman moves on.
#3 Spider-man vs. #1 Superman
Spidey had no trouble in the first round with Iron Man, but steel is much harder than iron, as the Spider-man soon found out. The man of steel jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, and only some magnificent web slinging and backboard climbing got Spider-man close, 3-4, by halftime. Superman was hot out of the gate again to start the second half, and Spidey was never able to quite recover, falling 6-4. Afterwards, Spider-man was both philosophical and diplomatic, "Well, Superman is, well, super. I mean, flying, able to bend steel, laser vision-- you name it, he's got it. And some amazing basketball skills, too. His fade away jumper? Money, man, just money. I played my heart out, gave it my best, and honestly I feel pretty good to have had a shot late."
#2 Mark Twain v. #5 Charles Dickens
Two prominent 19th century authors faced off in round 2, one English, one American. The result was the kerfuffle heard round the world-- well, okay, maybe not. But it was a good game, featuring bushy mustaches and florid, 19th century prose. The teams went back and forth throughout the game and it was tied 4-4 midway through the second half. At that point, Twain put on a stifling, full-court defensive press that clearly took Dickens by surprise, and two turnovers and easy backets the other way were the deciding points in Twains' 6-4 victory. Afterwards, Dickens admitted to being caught off-guard by the press, "Yeah, I didn't expect that, didn't gameplan for that. I mean, the guys been dead for nearly a century and he's out there, challenging me all the way up the court, trapping me in the corner and forcing me to pick up my dribble? Amazing stuff-- kudos to Mark, he brought his A game, no doubt."
#1 William Shakespeare v. #3 John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck has received heaps of praise and critical acclaim, and his work is worthy of all of it and more... but his opponent is William Shakespeare. From a literary standpoint, still the man even four centuries later. So, while some forecast a close game, almost no one expected Steinbeck to take out the Bard of Avalon. Which is why, as they say, you play the game. Steinbeck came out hot early, burying long-range jumpers from all over the court. Shakespeare, by comparison, seemed tentative, a little out of synch. At halftime it was 4-2 and most of the pundits believed that Shakespeare would regroup during the break, refocus his prodigious talents and come out and make a serious run at Steinbeck. They were wrong. Instead, it was Steinbeck that opened the second half with a run and he cruised to victory, 7-3, throwing many brackets into disarray in the process.