I’ve Been Hanging Around The Mistletoe. Want Proof? Here’s A Top 10 List.

We’ve noticed these balls of leaves in the trees since we moved to Switzerland.  It’s all over the place here.  Only after a year did I lean what they were… mistletoe!   With Christmas fast approaching, I thought it was the perfect time to talk about these strange green balls.

The top ten things you may not have know Mistletoe (Phoradendron flavescens or Viscum album):

1.  It is a parasitic plant whose roots invade a tree’s bark, allowing the mistletoe to absorb the tree’s nutrients.   Sometimes, it harms a tree and causing deformities in the branches, but it’s not in the mistletoe’s interest to kill its host.  If its tree dies, it dies.

2.  Mistletoe isn’t a complete drain on the host tree (usually oak, apple, hawthorn, or poplar).  Its small green leaves give the host plant with energy through photosynthesis.

3.  Mistletoe is aggressive.  A mistletoe plant to grow on top of another mistletoe plant.  It’s also “aggressive” to your digestive system so don’t eat the berries…regardless of how many glasses of Egg Nog you’ve consumed.

4.  Birds, however, eat Mistletoe’s berries and well, everybody poops.  Eventually, they eventually leave their droppings where they hang out, on tree branches.  Their droppings contain the seeds (which have a sticky coating), which sprout their roots into the tree branch.

5.  Although it’s a European plant, birds travel.  It grows down the eastern Atlantic  coast of the United States, from New Jersey to Florida.

6.   You can grow your own.  Click on this link if you want to indulge your inner Martha Stewart.

7.  Kissing.  Smooching.  Tonsil Hockey.  Snogging.  While it’s got as much credibility as an urban myth, why tempt fate?  Legend has it that couples who kiss underneath the mistletoe will have good luck (for the traditionally minded marriage and a long, happy life together), but standing underneath it and not doing so is bad luck.  In any case, it’s the perfect excuse for a little PDA…and to invite George Clooney to your holiday festivities.

8.  Although American’s know Mistletoe from Christmas Carols, other cultures saw it as a much more powerful symbol.  Ancient Druids used it for performing miracles (perhaps I should climb a tree and get myself some), providing fertility, to healing diseases and protecting people from witchcraft.  Yep.  I definitely need to get me some. especially since…

9.  Britain’s Druids weren’t the only ones who were hip to  its powers.   Vikings believed mistletoe had the power to raise humans from the dead!   When the Zombie apocalypse starts, you know the cause…

10.  Oh yeah, and the Bieb’s like’s it so much that he sings about it.  Here’s a link to Justin Bieber’s song Mistletoe on YouTube.  Happy Holidays!

Justin Bieber at the 2010 White House Easter E...

Justin Bieber at the 2010 White House Easter Egg roll. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Bracketology: How To Fill Out A Bracket

Warmup before the 2006 NCAA Men's Division I B...

Warmup before the 2006 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament National Championship Game (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Last week, I posted about trying to explain March Madness to non-Americans.  Now, I’ve compiled some suggestions for our non-American friends who are wrestling with their NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament brackets.  Here is their introduction to Bracketology, the art and science of filling out a winning bracket.

 

  • If you are filling out a bracket for a giant pool online, feel free to go nuts and pick crazy upsets. Otherwise, play it safe.  Smaller pools tend to be won by those who do.

 

  • The early rounds are not as important as the later rounds.  It is virtually impossible to win if you haven’t picked some of the teams in the Final Four.  The best way of ensuring this is to look at each region before filling out the bracket and choose the team you think has the best chance to come out of it.

 

  • After picking your Final Four teams, choose the highest of those to win the tournament.

 

  • Pick all of the No. 1 seeds to win against the No. 16 seeds.  The No. 1 seed has always won against the No. 16.

 

  • While you are at it, pick the No. 2 seeds to win.  They have always won the first game.  They don’t always win the second.

 

  • Since you have picked all four No. 1 seeds to win their first game, how far do you have them going?  In theory, your chances are probably better with all four No. 1 seeds the Final Four, but this rarely happens in practice.  A good rule of thumb is to have two No. 1 seeds in the final four.

 

  • It is probably safe to keep them winning through the Elite Eight.  The teams that are left at that point are all good teams and who have beaten other good teams.  At this point teams seeds do not matter as much as the individual matchups.

 

  • While there are occasional upsets, the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds win their first games over 80% of the time.  However, No. 4 seeds don’t win as often as No. 3 seeds in the next few rounds.

 

  • The odds say that a No. 5 seed will lose.  Almost every year, one does.  The No. 12 team that knocks them off is known as a Cinderella.  This team will likely win one or two games, but is not likely to make it past the Sweet Sixteen and almost never makes it past the Elite Eight.

 

  • You may as well flip a coin when trying to pick the winner between the No. 8 seeds and the No. 9 seeds.

 

  • The seed means  little to nothing with the  No. 7 and No. 10 matchup.  Ignore the seeding and just pick who you think is the strongest.

 

  • The No. 13 and 14 seeds are not expected to go far.

 

  • The No 15 and 16 seeds lose their games.

 

Now that you have some general guidelines, here are some things (in no particular order) to consider when choosing your winners:

 

  • Travel – Do any of the teams have to travel a long ways, which is tiring and time consuming?  If they have to change several time zones, it is even mores.

 

  • Location close to home – the closer a team plays to home, the more fans who will come to support them.

 

 

  • Talent – It is good to have it.  No surprise there.  The more of it, the better.  It’s good to have a deep bench.

 

  • Age of the players – Experience counts.  Teams packed with older players, upperclassmen, are less likely to be thrown off balance, used to the drill and have more leaders.

 

  • Past tournament experience – this is invaluable.

 

  • Coaches – Some coaches have a history of winning in the tournament.  They know how to prepare their teams and are able to get the best out of their teams there.  Teams coached by these guys have an edge.

 

  • Free-throw shooting – Free-throw shooting is important.  Everyone should be good at it, but they aren’t.  Teams that can make free throws have an advantage.

 

  • Offense and defense – Teams need to be able to play both to win the tournament.  Be very wary of any team that can’t and pick winners that do both well.