Bread Pool Rookie Kristen Ball isn't a writer by profession, but when a trip to the remotest part of Kenya profoundly changed her outlook, she knew she had to capture her experience for posterity. What emerged was a middle-grade novel that caught the attention of acclaimed economist Jeffrey Sachs and renowned novelist Jacquelyn Mitchard, the author of Deep End of the Ocean. With allies like that, Kristen found a publisher that offered her a contact within 24 hours of reading A Calf Named Brian Higgins.
The Rat Pack sang. The Brat Pack acted. The Petroleum Pack plays an ungodly amount of ping-pong. Meet Kevin Harrington, Matt Cressman and 2019 Instead Pool champion Ryan Peckham, a rough-and-tumble trio of coyote-hunting, hockey-playing, university-teaching buddies who hold down the Bread Pool's last remaining outpost in Texas. Tethered to the oil industry in the Permian Basin, the epicenter of the Friday Night Lights franchise, the Pack has raised table tennis -- and wasting time -- to a high art.
When a dozen dudes threw $20 apiece into a winner-take-all pot at a golf course bar in the Bay Area in 1996, nobody had an inkling that we were sewing the seeds of a warped legacy. Bread Pool founder Brian "Bag O'Donuts" Higgins and Sammy "The Fish" Bozzo were among the original dozen, Dennis "Paternity Suit" Tuhn joined up in 1997 and Dennis Miller won the 2002 championship. Hear the perspective gleaned from a combined 95 tours (and just one damn title) in the Meadow of Shame.
Bread Pool Founder Brian Higgins didn't invent the vertigo-inducing, bowel-vacating, Napalm-in-the-morning feeling of horror that comes when your brackets drop out from under you . . . but he did construct the Meadow of Shame to serve as an S&M chamber specializing in that unique brand of pain. Until the 1981 NCAA Tournament, Brian was a happy-go-lucky, fledgling alcoholic attending college in Chicago. But on March 14, everything changed . . . and he was forever diverted onto a dark, twisted path to Madness.
Steve Fainaru won a Pulitzer Prize and co-authored a New York Times bestseller. USC's Jeff Fellenzer is one of America's most innovative sports journalism professors. What happened when I got both longtime BreadHeads into the recording studio? Only one way to find out!
When Curtis Chan and Dick Unsinn visited the booth on the eve of the 2018 title game amidst the most upset-riddled tourney in BP annals, both still had a shot at the $6K first prize. Little did Curtis know the heartbreak ahead: Finishing second to a Chicago BreadHead in a dramatic double-tiebreaker.
John Scher averaged a dozen entries a year and spent nearly $8,000 before he ever won a penny in the Bread Pool. But his luck has turned, winning a combined $4,000 in 2018 & 2019. John and fellow bracket hoarder Kenny Arnerich offer insight into their all-in strategy.
Two-time Bread Pool Champion Ahnika Kline heads a who's-who of the women of the Meadow of Shame. Ahnika joins actual sisters Lynae & Tasha Darbes, Sue Sigler, Suzanne Kerba (from France!) and Olivia Sanwong in discussing some most unconventional bracketing strategies.
During Bread Pool founder Brian Patrick Higgins' 2015-16 tour to promote his humor memoir, he stopped into the booth at the college radio station where spun decades earlier. Brian, Radio DePaul sportscasters Eli Hershkovich and Derek Peters discuss the station's humble roots . . . and a sex legend.
As the national media encamped in Santa Rosa during the 2017 wildfires that ravaged that town, nearby Napa and its $6 billion wine industry was poised on the verge of something apocalyptic -- again.
Brian Patrick Higgins filed this special report for NPR.
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