2017 marks the 30th iterations of two beloved annual traditions: our own humble tournament and Shark Week. As we ascended from the filth of a college dorm room to become the World's Preeminent Tournament of Names, our brethren running Shark Week took an idea and created what Stephen Colbert called the Second Holiest Week of the Year.
Shark Week hatched in a smoky Manhattan bar, where a group of Discovery executives boozed and blustered until someone hit upon the perfect intersection of education and entertainment. The lineup was tame at first, filled with documentaries about diving cages and shark behavior. Each year, however, improving camera technology and better understanding of sharks lead to shots that had been impossible the year before. The series developed widespread cultural awareness as well as a small, fervent following that grew by the year.
Shark Week’s popularity took off in the late aughts thanks in part to another TV program. On a
2006 episode of 30 Rock, Tracy Morgan's character advised a colleague to "live every week like it’s Shark Week," a line that more than a decade later decorates dating profiles nationwide.
Few people can say with more certainty that they live up to Morgan's rejoinder than the man we are here today to celebrate: Dragonwagon Regional six-seed Andy Brandy Casagrande IV. ABC4 is one of the camera people who makes it possible to see sharks shred seals in HD. He is no ordinary cameraperson; he has won an Emmy for Outstanding Nature Cinematography and Popular Mechanics called him "the gutsiest shark photographer ever".
Growing up in small town Western Pennsylvania, Andy dreamed of the deep sea. He first went to Florida International University to study marine biology but found himself discouraged by grad students studying small sea creatures. He transferred to Pitt, took a semester on a cruise ship, and several years later found himself with a degree of psychology, an unfulfilling job in tech, and a longing for the sea.
Frustrated sitting at a desk, Casagrande bet the house on a future as a videographer. To prove his skill in the sea, he wrote "The Great White Shark Song" and took footage of himself swimming cageless with a guitar and great whites. After he sent that clip to nature film producers worldwide, a Cape Town-based crew gave him a three-month internship solely on his enthusiasm for sharks.
A decade and a half later, his purview extends across the animal kingdom in his work for NatGeo, Discovery, and the BBC. Still, sharks remain his one true love. Casagrande is famous for hacking together new rigs to get inventive shots, such as a pair of tongs and a GoPro that attach to a dorsal fin to show a shark’s eye view of the sea, or foam seal dummies that capture the moments immediately before mauling. "Basically," he told Popular Mechanics, "I go to the plumbing department, or I go to a sporting goods store or Walmart, and I gather materials."
With a life out of a movie and a name the high committee cannot decide how to pronounce (Andy, if you have guidance on ca-sa-gran-day vs. ca-sa-gran-dee vs. ca-sa-grand, hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org), he's a dark horse to outperform his seed. If he is to join other rhyming greats like 2015's Amanda Miranda Panda in the Hall of Name, he will first have to get past lacrosse player and potential Commodores lover Brickman House. Vote on that matchup and the rest of the Dragonwagon region below and don't forget to follow us on Twitter.
DRAGONWAGON REGIONAL, ROUND ONE
#1 Chardonnay Pantastico, softballer for the University of Hawaii, vs. #16 Chance Comanche, Arizona Wildcats basketball player
#5 Luiji Vilain, incoming University of Michigan defensive end, vs. #12. Demon Clowney, South Carolina defensive end and Jadeveon Clowney’s cousin
#4 Kitty Chiller, Australian who complained about conditions at Rio’s Olympic village, vs. #13 Christian Joo, musician
#6 Andy Brandy Casagrande IV vs. #11 Brickman House