07 April 2014

Tourist Trap Tournament: Final Fjord (Plus Three More)

After 63 game recaps and more than 300 puns (and perhaps five good puns), the Tourist Trap Tournament comes to a close with the Final Fjord Plus Three More. 

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Fjords v Las Vegas
Mascots: Haddock v Sinners

After a long run of flash and swagger, the Sinners made all kinds of questionable decisions, basically rolling right over and submitting to their Norwegian foes; there’s no doubt they were out partying a bit too hard these last few days, because they sure looked washed-out, as the Haddock darted around with ease. Some commentators have voiced suspicions that the Sinners were betting against themselves, but the reality is that the Haddock were simply the better team, with a positively oceanic gap between the teams in terms of endurance and general clean living.

Running of the Bulls v Easter Island
Mascots: Stampeding Hemingways v Furious Foreheads

The Stampeding Hemingways often have their ups and downs--they may get knocked down, but make no mistake, the Run also rises. The Furious Foreheads never found the upper hand, and seemed weighed down by a mental block. The Stampeding Hemingways move on, as war-proven veterans, making for an intriguing final match-up against the Fjords: The Old Men and the North Sea. 

* * * 

Thanks so much to all the fans on the blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook. These two teams wouldn’t have gotten this far without you--the Fjords had a particularly strong base of supporters who most certainly nudged them forward.

Let’s look at the match-up:

Running of the Bulls:
Strengths:  Brute force, killer instincts, famous fans, and man can they run.
Weaknesses: Easily distracted by the color red, frequently called for charging, not a ton of finesse.

Strengths: Long reach, incredible history, rock-solid foundation, stoic endurance beyond compare, utter charm, ability to get out of tight spots.
Weaknesses: Slow-moving, stuck in their ways.

Final result: Running of the Bulls!

(After--by my count--more than 300 puns, I’m fresh out right now, so no extended recap. Maybe later!) 

03 April 2014

Tourist Trap Tournament: The Most Excellent Eight

Once again, some fierce competition in the Tourist Trap Tournament, as the Most Excellent Eight battled it out: 

Art & Architecture final: Pyramids at Giza v Easter Island
Mascots: Pharaohs v Furious Foreheads

With their dueling long-standing traditions and chiseled physiques, these two teams were closely matched. The Furious Foreheads finally found their legs at the end, while the Pharaohs lived up to their reputation of slowing down, looking petrified out there and, at best, merely walking like Egyptians, and leaving the crowd tut-tutting .

Culture (or Something) final: Running of the Bulls v Forbidden City
Mascots: Stampeding Hemingways v Dynasties

The Forbidden City was strong, no question, ruling the court and showing off the philosophies of their famous playbook, Classic of Rites. But in an amazing race-to-the-end finish, the Stampeding Hemingways narrowly beat the horn, ending the Dynasties’ long run.

The Natural World final: Norway’s Fjords v Maasai Mara National Park
Mascots: Haddock v Big Cats

This was a wild one, with raw natural talent on full display, with breathtaking shots all over the place, shutters clicking everywhere. The Scandinavians’ chilly, stoic might won the day, getting out of many a tight spot.  

Cities & Squares & Markets final: Las Vegas v Dubai
Mascots: Sinners v Shiny New Stuff

These two teams entered the competition with outsized reputations for swagger and excess and more than a bit of trouble in their backgrounds—and a hope for redemption. The Sinners’ strong suits: sprawling reach, a willingness to take chances, and a reputation for conjuring big-time magic. The Shiny New Stuff’s key strengths: boldness and ambition like no other, style somewhat less profane than the Sinners’ ways, and an array of innovative ways of doing things. Ultimately, the numbers simply favored the Sinners and their decades of experience in the game.

* * * 

And then there were four:

Easter Island v Running of the Bulls

Norway's Fjords v Las Vegas

Make your picks in the comments! 
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31 March 2014

Tourist Trap Tournament: The Supreme Sixteen

Round 3 begins with sixteen competitors--that's the Supreme Sixteen to you (because, trademarks)--and ends with a Most Excellent Eight. All the recaps below! And if you're just joining us, you can relive all the excitement, game by game, round by round, over at Tourist Trap Tourney Central

The current bracket! Click for full size.

Pyramids at Giza v Sydney Opera House
Mascots: Pharaohs v Avenging Arias

The crowd-pleasing Avenging Arias soared early once again, but came out flat after the intermission, their long run ending on a bad note. The Pharaohs, meanwhile, had their day in the sun, with an epic Ra-Ra-Ra spirit—they’re gods now.

Manneken-Pis v Easter Island
Mascots: Wee Whizzers v Furious Foreheads

Purists may cry foul over the Wee Whizzers’ style, but there’s no question that the little lads of Brussels have their eyes on the prize, Number 1 in their sights. Problem is, they’re atrocious at long range. And though some teams get distracted by the Wee Whizzers’ antics, no one keeps a stiff upper lip like the Furious Foreheads, the enigmas of the islands, the face of Pacific exceptionalism, long a regional secret but quickly becoming world-famous, and rightly so.

Running of the Bulls v Oktoberfest
Mascots: Stampeding Hemingways v Drunks

You have never seen such a chaotic bloodbath. The Drunks finally stumbled—and how. They could barely keep upright, their communication was off, and everything they threw up was awful, a case study in what not to do. The Stampeding Hemingways ran right through their opponents, showing no hint of mercy. They’ve taken a circuitous path to get this far, but they’re in the home stretch now—the question is, Can anyone stop them?

Hagia Sophia v Forbidden City
Mascots: Mosaics v Dynasties

It was a classic showing by the Mosaics: unquestionably stylish, but mighty complicated. If there’s one knock against them, it’s that they’re the very definition of Byzantine. They sure looked it against the Forbidden City and their renowned guards and penchant for order—in the Dynasties’ hands, the venue became a Hall of Supreme Harmony,  

Lake Atitlan v Fjords
Mascots: Holistics v Haddock

The magic finally wore off for the Holistics of Lake Atitlan, its famous towering threesome all but dormant while the Haddock made waves with their outlet passes and world-class spread.

Maasai Mara v Petra
Mascots: Big Cats v Obodas

The pride of Kenya pounced again, with the Big Cats working their Mara Triangle offense to great effect, thanks to their Big Five. The Obodas showed off with some Siq moves, but it wasn’t enough.

Great Wall of China v Las Vegas
Mascots: Earth Dragons v Sinners

Nobody puts on a show like the Sinners, proof that with cash comes flash—and a reputation for offensive powers. So it was an incredibly close contest with the Earth Dragons and their famed defense, until the Great Wall showed some gaps and lapses, and the luck ran out, as always seems to happen against the Sinners.

Times Square v Dubai
Mascots: Bright Lights v Shiny New Stuff

With famous cheerleaders like Frank Sinatra and Jay-Z, the Bright Lights are big-city ballers with pedigree, and were their usual impressively frenetic selves, with ceaseless action in the lane. But in this showdown of two decidedly unsubtle competitors, the Bright Lights hit a roadblock in the form of the Shiny New Stuff and its dizzying excess—all height and go-for-broke style—led by its famed “seven-star” all-star. 

* * *

That leaves us with eight teams, with the regional finals coming up next. Make your picks in the comments!

Art & Architecture final:
Pyramids at Giza v Easter Island

Culture (or Something) final:
Running of the Bulls v Forbidden City

The Natural World final:
Norway’s Fjords v Maasai Mara National Park

Cities & Squares & Markets final:
Las Vegas v Dubai

30 March 2014

Tourist Trap Tournament: Cities & Squares & Markets, Round 2

Sure, the Tourist Trap Tournament proceeds at a slower pace than its basketball-centric imitator, but travel just plain takes longer than tossing a plaything around little ol' room. In any case, Round 2 has just finished up, and here's where things stand, with recaps from the Cities & Squares & Markets Regional below.

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Great Wall of China v Piazza San Marco
Mascots: Earth Dragons v Gondoliers

The Earth Dragons have had their ups and downs, but their talent stretches clear to the horizon—and it doesn’t hurt that they’ve recently acquired a famous fan in First Lady Michelle Obama. If only they could get over their tendency to put up bricks over and over again, as they did on this occasion. No matter, though--the Earth Dragons slowly found their footing and eked out a victory over the Gondoliers, whose smooth strokes (and snazzy outfits) weren't quite enough.

Las Vegas v Red Square
Mascots: Sinners v Embalmed Lenins

As the Embalmed Lenins learned all too well, the Sinners are a tough team to read. Cool and calculating, they know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em; they know when to walk away and know when to run. The Embalmed Lenins were left lying lifeless, seeing tsars.

Angkor Wat v Times Square
Mascots: Dancin’ Asparas v Bright Lights

The real American Hustle? That would be Bright Lights, known for their skill and flash. The Dancin’ Asaparas were their usual splendorous selves, all timeless elegance, but they we no match for Times Square, who last night shot the lights out for an hour. [Topical! -Ed.]  

Dubai v Machu Picchu
Mascots: Shiny New Stuff v Altitudinous Alpacas

Known for their sheer height and innovative formations, the Shiny New Stuff are establishing a wide gulf between themselves and their challengers (although there are also quite a few whispers of scandal behind their sudden rise).  The Altitudinous Alpacas remained a mystery, Inca-trailing the whole way.

28 March 2014

Tourist Trap Tourney: The Natural World, Round 2

Lake Atitlan v Iguazu Falls
Mascots: Holistics v Naipís

After a pep talk by superfan Aldous Huxley, the Holistics erupted stunningly, continuing their improbable run and leaving the Naipís utterly drained. The oft-overlooked Holistics are quickly turning into cult favorites to usher in a new age in this competition.

Great Barrier Reef v Fjords
Mascots: Bombastic Coral v Haddock

The Bombastic Coral had the crowd support from all their swimmer friends--the whole school, in fact, but the tide was simply stronger for the Fjords. The Haddock were efficient [say it out loud … -Ed.] in their efforts, and impressed with their skerry guards.

Copacabana v Maasai Mara
Mascots: Tan Lines v Big Cats

The Big Cats came in with something to prove to the world—namely, that despite their internal rifts and reputation for spottiness, they’re still the pride of the Africa, and prey to no one, certainly not the oh-so-vain Tan Lines. The result: a thorough Brazilian waxing. [Yup. -Ed.]

Petra v Grand Canyon
Mascots: Obodas v John Wesley Powells

The rugged Americans entered this match-up as heavy favorites, and they quickly showed why, as they ran wild with their dapper, speedy starting line-up—nicknamed the Class Five Rapids. The Obodas had impressive staying power, but were slowly worn down and left, as one commentator put it, “rose-red as if the blush of dawn.”

27 March 2014

Tourist Trap Tourney: Culture (or Something), Round 2

Running of the Bulls v Graceland
Mascots: Stampeding Hemingways v Gyrating Hips

Perhaps the sequined outfits were a bad idea for the Gyrating Hips, who faded fast, their early vigor giving way to something more melancholy and bloated, a desperation that said “Don’t be cruel.” To which the Stampeding Hemingways taunted, “A little less conversation, a little more action,” and showed the way with a terse, urgent, no-frills style that nonetheless captivated the crowds—a noble effort, indeed.  

Oktoberfest v Terracotta Warriors
Mascots: Drunks v Mount Li Legends

The party’s only just begun for the pride of Munich. Against all expectations, the Drunks stumbled to victory, unfazed by the Mount Li Legends’ seeming ability to be everywhere, all the time—perhaps the Drunks are simply used to overwhelming numbers due to their tendency toward seeing double, or triple (and, anyway, their Party Zone defense negates any concern about man-to-terracotta-man coverage).

Blarney Stone v Hagia Sophia
Mascots: Kissers v Mosaics

The Kissers are a one-trick team, but what a crowd-pleasing trick it is. They found their sweet spot again and again against the Mosaics—who seemed like they were having a bit of an identity crisis about how their very foundational identity, and could be seen raising their hands to the heavens for guidance.

Wall Drug v Forbidden City
Mascots: Jackalopes v Dynasties

In a classic showdown between East and Old West, the Dynasties were the emperors of the court, using some 8,886 box-out moves to keep the Jackalopes at bay. The South Dakotans looked flat-footed and lethargic, causing many fans to yell, “Why not rush more?!”