Thursday, March 30, 2023

Elderberry Embraces Mulch Madness

In the history of marketing, Mulch Madness will never rival the success of, say, the shampoo industry, which somehow got the public to buy twice as much product by including “rinse, repeat” on its bottles.

But getting a group of non-sports fans excited about the NCAA men’s basketball tournament was never going to be an easy sell. The wonderful folks at Elderberry are keenly interested in gardening and hiking and living cooperatively, not who the 3 seed is out West. Or, for that matter, how do you fill out one of these blasted tournament brackets.

But when it was suggested we have a contest – is that allowed in cooperative culture? – for last year’s NCAA tournament, there needed to be the right structure and incentive. Because no one in Elderberry – other than Mary Kay and Keith – even followed college basketball, we decided everyone would select a team name out of a hat that corresponded with the 16 teams left after the NCAA Tournament’s first weekend. Then, to build excitement, we needed a prize – and a catchy name -- that would grab the community’s interest. Thus, Mulch Madness (not yet trademarked) was born.

Last year’s inaugural winner was Karolyn, whose excitement of getting a bag of mulch was tempered by the knowledge that Mary Kay had created a trophy that had to be prominently displayed in the winner’s house. Now that Karolyn, and Florida Atlantic, are in the Final Four, she is torn between being the repeat winner and having to stare at that dang trophy for another year. 

What follows are the series of messages surrounding this year’s tournament that offer a glimpse into how a non-sports, non-competitive community grew to embrace Mulch Madness. 

On Thu, 16 Mar 2023 12:18:35 PM, Keith Lawrence wrote:
Subject: Mulch Madness!

Yes, it is Christmas Day in March for college basketball fans (except maybe Tar Heel fans, whose team somehow didn’t qualify for the NCAA Tournament even though a toothpaste — Colgate — did)! 

On Monday, we will be down to 16 teams, which means we will be selecting out of a (Duke) hat which team may win you the coveted bag of mulch and nifty Mary Kay-designed trophy. Since we number more than 16, we will try to ensure each house gets one selection — those families with COVID are disqualified — and then any leftover slots will be given out to those at Good Night.

The excitement is real; good luck to all!

Received: Thu, 16 Mar 2023 012:27:58 PM, Mary Kay wrote:
Subject: Mulch Madness!

That comment about Colgate was uncalled for. Hahaha!

And in case you’re wondering who I’m rooting for without the Tar Heels, Purdue has a player that’s 7’4”…jus’ sayin’.

Beware the 5-12 curse Duke!!! 😈

I also want to note that the current trophy holder is allowed to modify/embellish the trophy as they see fit before passing the baton.

Mary Kay

Received: Thu, 16 Mar 2023 01:05:58 PM, Vonda wrote:
Subject: Mulch Madness!

OK you can count on this house here will have COVID by Monday!!!   :-)    😃😃


On Fri, Mar 24, 2023 at 1:14 AM, Keith Lawrence wrote:
Subject: Mulch Madness update

After a super-exciting night of athletic competition, four mulch-owning wannabes — Chuck/Elissa, Mike, Chuck/Barb and Meg — grab a crying towel as their respective teams fail in their pursuit of the coveted chopped-up wood product. 

Advancing are Don/Theresa (Kansas State), which won the tournament’s most exciting game to date, Marjorie (with perennial also-ran Gonzaga), Joyce (and her home-state UConn) and defending champion Karolyn/Richard, whose upstart Florida Atlantic team isn’t about to  relinquish the stylish trophy that graces their window without a fight! 

The other 8 teams are in action tonight, and by Monday we will be down to four!
Good luck.

Received: Fri, 24 Mar 2023 03:21:31 AM, Diane wrote:
Subject: Re: Mulch Madness update

I am so excited, I can’t sleep! My team Texas will be playing Xavier, a worthy opponent, but I can’t help but feel that the mulch is MINE!


Received: Fri, 24 Mar 2023 07:28:17 AM, Karolyn wrote:
Subject: Re: Mulch Madness update

And I made sure that Florida Atlantic beat Tennessee (sorry Barb & Chuck) - just for Duke and our Mulch Madhatter!


Received: Fri, 24 Mar 2023 08:03:56 AM, Joanna wrote:
Subject: Re: Mulch Madness update

Wow! You got the power!


Received: Fri, 24 Mar 2023 08:25:21 AM, Joyce wrote:
Subject: Re: Mulch Madness update

I guess the holder of the trophy still manages acts of magic! And I understand UConn ran circles around Arkansas! Just saying, I’m starting to look for that perfect trophy location...


On Sun, Mar 26, 2023, at 8:04 AM, Keith Lawrence wrote:
Subject: A tribute to our defending champion

Now that defending champ Karolyn (and her 9th-seeded Florida Atlantic Owls) have defied the odds and clawed their way to the Final Four, I think a tribute is in order.

If you would please beg my pardon

But a Karolyn win could cause arteries to harden

So, sweet woman, for goodness sake

Give the rest of us a break

And just return to your precious ______.

Keith Lawrence

On Mar 26, 2023, at 8:09 AM, Joyce wrote:
Subject: Re: A tribute to our defending champion




Received: Sun, 26 Mar 2023 08:20:59 AM, Marjorie wrote:
Subject: Re: A tribute to our defending champion

In the spirit of “sort of” cooperation I have decided to become a fan of Karolyn’s team - Atlantic something…? I like seeing that trophy in the window so I am now an official cheer member of team Karolyn- ok Karolyn? 😁 Go Karolyn!!

PS this loyalty will last as long as team Karolyn is winning


Received: Sun, 26 Mar 2023 08:23:03 AM, Mary wrote:
Subject: Re: A tribute to our defending champion

Hi all!

Here in OH I have a nephew who is doing great with his bracket. His strategy was to map all the teams and choose the winners in order of their proximity to Disney World. So with both FL Atlantic and Miami still in he’s doing very well!

Cold and nasty here but having fun with all the relatives. Miss you all!


On Mar 26, 2023, at 6:00 PM, Karolyn/Richard Mangeot wrote:
Subject: Re: A tribute to our defending champion

I have remained silent until now, mostly because I was dumbstruck by the limerick and wanted to wait until I could send my "guard in." But now that I know the Evensens' Aztecs will be fighting the Mangeots' (well, mostly one Mangeot) Owls - game on! Wait, wait, no. The trophy would look great up around 102 EB Lane! 

A recovering competitive former trophy winner


On Sun, 26 Mar 2023 07:18:00 PM, Joyce wrote:
Subject: Re: A tribute to our defending champion



On Sun, Mar 26, 2023 at 8:57 PM Keith Lawrence wrote:
Subject: Re: A tribute to our defending champion

First rule of fandom is never cross the basketball gods. Diane learned this painful lesson tonight. At Good Night, Mary Kay reported that Diane’s team, Texas, was comfortably ahead of Miami in the second half, giving Diane the false hope that she surely would advance. She even mused about spreading the victorious mulch in her yard. Ah, rookies! By now you should have guessed that Miami rallied, sending Mary into the Final Four and Diane into a downward spiral. 

Fortunately, she can ease her pain with the knowledge she is about to embark on a 10-day trip to Italy this week. Still, we wonder as she gazes in awe at the Coliseum whether thoughts of the winning trophy will spoil the moment.

By now you may be wondering how Miami coming back and winning has anything to do with the transitive property — you remember from math that if a>b and b>c, then a>c. Well, Duke has beaten Miami twice this year, so should Miami win it all this year, shouldn’t the transitive property give the trophy to Duke. No? A guy can dream, can’t he.

Now, back to the tourney. Our four finalists are Mary, Jeff/Anne, who have San Diego State, plus Joyce (UConn) and Karolyn/Richard (Fla Atlantic). Here at Mulch headquarters, our crack research team (yes, they are on crack) found that San Diego State’s mascot, the Aztecs, developed writing skills and a calendar but also were a fierce and unforgiving people who sacrificed humans to please their gods. Now how Jeff and Anne can support that agenda will be something worth watching this week.

So good luck to our finalists. The semi-finals are Saturday and the final game is Monday. I hope we can watch some of the games together in the Hive!

Keith Lawrence

On Mon, Mar 27, 2023, Diane wrote:
Subject: Re: A tribute to our defending champion

What's worse than being a rookie? A presumptuous rookie, as I learned last evening. I do thank Keith for coming over after the game (he probably knew I was not watching), breaking the awful news, and making sure I was still breathing. 

I consoled myself with a simple dinner of hot popcorn, cold beer, and the realization that I could now turn my attention away from trophy altar-building, toward a crash course in Italian. I will send photos of the Coliseum to anyone who would like to pick up that building project and wants inspiration. 

Since I will not be here for the final games, I'll just say now that I am pulling for Karolyn/Richard, so they may admire the trophy 24/7 for another 365. 


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