“Who do you think is the best United States president of all time?” asks your simple-minded friend Jeff. “Uh, Abraham Lincoln, or uh, maybe George Washington,” you reply. Wrong. The best president of all time is Old Tippecanoe, William Henry Harrison—he croaked before he could screw anything up. Undefeated in office, except by colds.
That’s wildly unimportant right now, though. Here’s the question Jeff should be asking: If you were going to be snowed in for three days, which president would you want to be stuck with? To the bracket we go.
Note: This bracket was seeded by order of office, i.e. George Washington is No. 1 and Barack Obama is No. 44.
The Early Birds (1789-1849)
A known stick in the mud, John Adams’ play-in game loss to Thomas Jefferson sets up a fierce first-round matchup: Jefferson vs. Washington. Nobody wants to see the grandaddy of our country go home this early, but Jefferson brings too much to the table. Remember the Louisiana Purchase? After you bring him up to speed on modern geography, Jefferson could be the best Risk player of all time.
The rest of this time period’s hangout potential is weaker than John Tyler’s historical resonance. Andrew Jackson is too violent. Harrison would insist on standing in the snow until frostbite killed him. John Quincy Adams, James Monroe, and James Madison would make you do mock trial or watch the court scenes from Law And Order. Jefferson breezes through to the Final Four.
The Presidents You Forgot About And Lincoln (1849-1889)
The single biggest tournament beatdown comes when Lincoln meets Buchanan in a first round matchup. I don’t care if Buchanan shows up bearing a leaked copy of Star Wars VII and a full suitcase of White Castle—don’t let that guy in. Lincoln cruises past Millard Fillmore into the Elite Eight.
But then, Honest Abe stumbles. Ulysses S. Grant emerges with a 30-rack of Natty. It’s a Union matchup of epic stakes, and the deadlock breaks because you know Lincoln would spend the entire time texting and trying to console an angry Mary Todd. Grant goes through to the Final Four.
The Best Of Times And The Worst Of Times (1889-1953)
Teddy Roosevelt eviscerates his side of the bracket, burying Grover Cleveland and William Howard Taft, who DQ’d after falling in a snowbank (no Life Alert). In the Elite Eight, he meets and destroys his cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The Bull Moose lives for snow days—there’s not a board game he won’t play or a cookie he won’t eat.
Cold War Kids And Modern Day (1953-2015)
You can rule out Dwight D. Eisenhower on general grumpiness and communist paranoia immediately. Richard Nixon will get you arrested. That paves John F. Kennedy’s route to the Elite Eight after he sidesteps Lyndon B. Johnson purely on charm.
Ronald Reagan vs. George H.W. Bush—bros everywhere gawk at the magnitude of this Republican matchup. The battle decides itself—Bush decides he’d rather go fishing in the Florida Keys than endure the cold. Reagan lights up a Chesterfield and smokes his way past Jimmy Carter.
In the last arm of the bracket, George W. Bush’s loss to Bill Clinton cues up a Democrat duel: Clinton vs. Obama. Deep down, you know Obama would change the rules of Monopoly half way through. Clinton moves on, but gets too handsy and loses to Reagan.
JFK and Reagan duke it out for the final spot in the Final Four. JFK brings Marilyn Monroe and her friend with him. Camelot triumphs.
The Final Four
Grant becomes belligerently drunk and is yelling at the TV, but you suspect Jefferson is preparing to slander you tomorrow because you betrayed his truce on the Kamchatka-Alaska border. Jefferson mutters furiously over a notebook while Grant snores on the couch. You could use a nap, too. Grant to the finals.
Roosevelt is starting to drive you crazy. The guy just won’t stop telling safari stories and complaining about Taft. Meanwhile, JFK disappeared into the bedroom with Monroe and her friend two hours ago. Teddy snakes by.
Grant’s still asleep, you should probably check his pulse. On a whim, you introduce Roosevelt to the show Man vs Wild. Enraged, he declares “Bear Grylls is softer than that rogue Alton B. Parker!” and disappears into the snow, never to be seen again.
Grant wakes up with a burp and claims his crown, but no one really wins.