What do you call the part of a double-elimination tournament where the losers go after their first loss? There is a reasonable case for “loser’s bracket,” “losers bracket,” and “losers’ bracket.” Let’s give loser’s bracket two losses; this isn’t the bracket of one loser. Losers’ bracket might be stronger grammatically, but it’s not the Western’s Conference Finals, and it’s not high school boys’ basketball. In the losers’ bracket, the losers own the bracket; in the losers bracket, the bracket owns the losers, which is much better.
I hadn’t thought much about losers brackets since, say, seventh grade, when I have hazy memories of baseball coaches saying something along the lines of “This isn’t the losers bracket! The real losers are in that other bracket!” OK, caught ’em. But last month I started editing Kotaku and Deadspin’s joint competitive gaming vertical. Video game tournaments—particularly in fighting games—are very often double elimination, and I regret to inform you that Compete has used all three permutations of losers bracket, including multiple ones in the same article.
But why use any of them all? Gamers famously hate being disrespected, to the point where their refusal to be disrespected in any way is so firm that it has shifted the goalposts in American politics and culture. Gamers fucking hate when you call them “Greg!” Why would they let themselves be called losers?
Luckily, there is a loser-free solution here, and one that would anger all of the right people—not gamers. We respect gamers. In Olympic rowing and wrestling, for example, the losers brackets equivalents are called “repechage.”
(A note, here, that repechage in those sports is often not quite how American sports fans are accustomed to seeing losers brackets, and that they are fucked up and confusing, and often add way more randomness than even our very random playoff systems would tolerate. But you can understand them as very fancy losers brackets.)
Repechage is a French word that means something like “fish out,” or “rescue,” which captures the spirit of playing on after one loss much better than “losers bracket” does, and is what all losers brackets should be called.
On its face, repechage sounds much cooler than losers bracket. What you lose in triumphant narratives—they overcame coming out of the losers bracket—you gain in the ability to say a cool-sounding word that means, uh, to go fishing again. Go fish, gamers and all other long weekend tournament participants!
Also, we haven’t had a good “participation-trophy-replacing-dodgeball-with hugging-millennials-are-soft” non-scandal in a while. Getting rid of losers and replacing them with a French word will raise all the right hackles in our idiotic world, and I, a loser, welcome it.