A few months back, I wrote up an application for Ryan Divish’s affection which resulted in absolutely no women responding and, to date, still hasn’t netted Divish a dependable girlfriend. Thanks, jerks.
Anyway, my friends still got a kick out of the matchmaking attempt and recently started pressuring me to write up a similar document for our good friend Jayson Jenks. For those of you who don’t know Jenks, he’s the newest (i.e. backup) Seahawks beat writer for The Seattle Times. A year ago, he was the Times’ prep sports reporter, which means if you have a teenage son or daughter who you think will get an NCAA athletic scholarship (they probably won’t, so stop bitching), you probably sent Jenks a nasty email at some point for something he did or didn’t say about your kid.
In addition to all that, Jenks is like 24 years old and looks like he just had his Bar Mitzvah. Needless to say, he’s single, though his Facebook profile lists him as in a “complicated relationship.” Which is a nice way of saying he has carpal tunnel syndrome or something like that, I imagine. Frankly, he could use a nice woman in his life. That’s why we’re here today to help him out.
If you or anyone you know would like to submit an application for Jenks’ affection, please fill out the below document, which you can download by clicking right on the image itself. Once completed, send your app to firstname.lastname@example.org and you might just win a date with Jayson Jenks, himself! Good luck!
Filed under: Other Sports
First, some context. The below video was made by a guy named Don Joss, owner of DJ’s Sportscards in Renton. For anyone who grew up in the Greater Seattle area and collected cards as a kid, DJ’s is basically a mecca. Occupying an unassuming storefront in a small strip mall on the corner of Duvall Avenue and Sunset Boulevard, DJ’s is stacked floor to ceiling with all sorts of sports cards and memorabilia. It’s been there since those of us who are now adults were kids. It’s a great memory for so many and unlike most similar shops around the nation, it still exists.
The owner, Don, is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He makes you want to collect cards again. If for no other reason than because you want him to do well. I mean, this is a guy who still, to this day, owns a card shop. That’s on par with owning a phonograph dispensary or a pager company. I don’t know what the going salary for a card shop owner is, but I have to imagine it’s not enough. Card shop owners are living out the dreams of every ’80s- and ’90s-era kid. When I was a kid, I only wanted to be two things: professional baseball player or sports card shop owner. I failed on both accounts.
Anyway, whether you care to purchase cards ever again or not, I urge you to watch the following video. This video is supposed to be an ad, of sorts, but I damn near shed a tear. Hoops, Skybox, Fleer Ultra, Topps, Bowman…so beautiful, all of it.
Filed under: Other Sports
I hate losing. I once sat in a 1991 Toyota Previa in the Factoria Square parking lot and bawled for an hour because I had pitched poorly in a Little League game and had cost my team a victory. My family went inside to eat dinner and I stayed in the van, refusing to eat, refusing to move. I don’t do well with defeat. I never have. Even now, there is little that can be done to assuage me when my team so much as drops a rec basketball game. I will either a) sit in grim silence for an entire car ride home, or b) verbally break down every single thing that went wrong on our failed quest for triumph. My friends deserve a lot of credit for dealing with that version of me that, to this day, struggles to cope with losing.
I guess in many ways it’s ironic that I am a Seattle sports fans — I don’t know how to lose, and seemingly all my teams do is just that. My whole life, I’ve encountered failure from these entities I hold so dear to me, and yet I’ve never learned how to accept the bitter taste of defeat. I sat through an entire childhood of Seahawks futility, labored through thousands (literally, thousands) of Mariner losses, had seats in the upper level for every home game of the only 0-12 season in University of Washington football history, then paid witness to the ultimate heartbreak when the Sonics were taken from us and moved to Oklahoma City.
When I started this website and began writing in a public forum, I didn’t really know what would happen next. On the day I embarked upon this journey — November 12th, 2008, officially — Seattle was in a rut. We were only a couple months removed from losing the Sonics, in the midst of that fateful 0-12 Husky football campaign, had just suffered through a 100-loss Mariners season, and were on the verge of watching the Seahawks put together a miserable 4-12 finish. Things were worse than usual and I felt compelled to share my emotions. For me, it was the only way to cope with, at that time, 24 years of misery come to a head.
Over the course of four-and-a-half years, I’ve witnessed firsthand what bonding over tragedy truly looks like. We tend to think of the loss of human life as one of the few instances where the term “tragedy” applies. On a much smaller (and undoubtedly, less important) scale, however, losing a game, a playoff berth, or a team is viewed as a tragedy in the microcosmic world of your typical sports fan. Knowing that, Seattle sports fans must be some of the most grief-stricken people in the history of organized athletics. We should be miserable. At all times. And occasionally we do get that way. But for all the shit we go through so frequently, there is this perpetual hope existing amongst all of us that bears mentioning. It is not at all insignificant in its existence.
I remember the day the Sonics left town back in 2008. I didn’t mourn that day, or anytime shortly thereafter. It took me until the opening day of the ’08-’09 season to realize that we weren’t getting our team back anytime soon. Up to that point, I had refused to accept the inevitable. I just could not do it. That might make me the least credible person in the world when it comes to saying what I’m about to say, but screw it, I’ll say it anyway.
I may be naive. I may be on an island. I may be the only one who still believes after the events of Monday afternoon that Seattle is destined to get its NBA team back. But I truly have faith that this good thing, this return, is going to happen. I have no sound logic behind my faith, because really, that’s not what faith is. Faith is believing in something not knowing if that thing actually exists. Faith is blind and sometimes stupid and often irrational and possibly inane. But faith is necessary. Faith exists to give us hope and reason to get up each morning. Faith exists to make us smile even though we’re sad, to persevere when times are tough. I have faith that, even though the NBA has told us we won’t get someone else’s basketball team on this day, we will still get our Sonics back.
On this day, things kind of suck. We’re hurting, and no one wants to hurt. We’ve been down this road before, this path to what appears to be yet another tragic ending. All along, though, we’ve never given up. This city and its fans have pulled together time and time again for reasons unknown. We’ve bonded in moments of adversity on countless occasions and we’ve done so with little more than faith holding us together. I don’t really know what it means to be truly exceptional, but I like to think that Seattle sports fans are exactly that. We don’t settle for the tragedy of losing. We fall, and then we rise again. Every single time. So why should this time be any different?
If the NBA spurns us — if the NBA spurns Seattle and Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer and all the good people who have made this new arena we’re going to build a reality — it will be a blow to our collective psyche that I don’t want to try to process right now. It appears today that the NBA may be one step closer to disappointing us, but I like to think there’s something else going on, something good, that maybe we don’t know about yet.
I have this unreasonable amount of hope for us. I know that. I may be foolish for that. Whatever. When you’ve been through as much crap as we have, there really is no other way to approach obstacles as they present themselves.
I believe in Seattle. I believe in Seattle’s sports fans. We are strong individually and even stronger together. We’re destined for good, I just know it.
So I leave you with this clip. As dumb as it is, it makes sense on this day. Because nothing is over until we say it is.
Filed under: Other Sports
Before reading the following, I encourage you to read Jason Collins’ first-person piece in Sports Illustrated, the article announcing the 34-year-old’s sexuality. No matter your stance on the issue, the article is incredibly well-written, insightful, and moving. Aside from such a groundbreaking announcement, Collins’ personal reflection is admirable and intelligent. The column should serve not just as a revelation in its message, but also as a lesson in self-awareness. Regardless of Collins’ status as a professional athlete, it’s absolutely clear through the strength of his voice and the content of his character that he is more than capable of being a vocal leader in the gay community. Props to Jason Collins on being a trailblazer and, in his words, starting the conversation.
Jason Collins is the first athlete in a major professional sport to come out as gay and my first reaction is not one of shock over his sexuality, but shock that he still plays in the NBA. Because in all honesty, I thought Collins had long since gone the way of Mouhamed Sene and departed for a league overseas or the sanctity of retirement. Alas, to my stunned surprise, that isn’t the case at all. In reality, Collins is still an active NBA player. Imagine that.
My reaction is just one of a litany of reactions that will be inspired by Collins’ announcement. Personally, I don’t care whether a guy is gay, straight, or what-have-you. Maybe that’s why I was more shocked to learn that Collins is still an active NBA player as opposed to a former one — my ignorance is limited to Jason Collins, NBA player, rather than Jason Collins, gay NBA player.
In general, we’re progressing as a society. The world hasn’t stopped dead in its tracks with Collins’ revelation coming to light this morning. A quick gauge of my Twitter feed shows that people are just as concerned with the likes of Tim Tebow getting cut by the Jets as they are about a gay basketball player. Maybe that says more about Tebow and the media spin cycle (thanks, ESPN) than it does our views on sexuality, but I choose to believe that this is less a show-stopping news story than it is a natural progression. We know that a statistically significant percentage of the population identifies as homosexual. In acknowledging that, we understand that in every sport there will always be gay athletes. Whether or not those athletes choose to come forth with information on their personal lives is what makes this news.
For those of us who identify as straight, there is no comprehending the weight of the decision that individuals face when coming out. We can listen and react. We can express compassion or malevolence, countenance or condemnation. But we cannot truly empathize. Being straight doesn’t require an unveiling. Being straight doesn’t cause others to reevaluate how they feel about you. Straightness is an assumption we make of just about everyone until proven otherwise. So to minimize what Collins has done on this day would be incredibly stupid.
No matter how we choose to interpret his announcement, there is no denying that a heavy dose of gravity sat upon Collins’ shoulders as this revelation was being considered. In opting to thwart secrecy and face the unexpected, Jason Collins is many things for which we only have so many descriptors: brave, heroic, a pioneer. None of these defining terms miss their mark. They are as accurate as the words we use to describe Collins’ physical traits on the basketball court: tall, strong, energetic, rugged. We all may not ooze emotion in finding out that Collins, or any athlete for that matter, is homosexual. But we should take a moment to acknowledge the magnitude of what this individual has struggled with in preparing for this announcement. It is not insignificant.
As mentioned earlier, there will be a litany of reactions inspired by Collins and his sexuality. It’s crazy to think that the life choices of one solitary individual who, as recently as yesterday mattered very little to us, now have such an amazing impact on so many. Thing is, we don’t know Jason Collins. We aren’t impacted by his actions or his life choices. He’s just another guy. He made a courageous announcement — many of us will applaud that and move on. With any luck, there will be others who hear Collins’ message and are given the courage to face similar revelations with as much aplomb.
At the same time, there are those who will be upset over this announcement, those who can’t process what this means for sports or humanity, those who are filled with intolerance for reasons that people like you and I may never fathom. Those people will always exist. Those people are the reason why this announcement is considered groundbreaking, why it’s new and important, why it’s worth a feature on the cover of Sports Illustrated. As a society, we’re lucky Jason Collins has opted to speak up so publicly. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s unfortunate that we have yet to achieve a point in our history where this is considered normal. Perhaps we’re on the way there today.
This one announcement by a journeyman center will bring out the best and the worst in us. Jason Collins was tested every day he lived a life shrouded in secrecy. He passed that test and overcame any doubts or fears he had when this decision to come out — to everyone — was made.
Now it’s our turn to be tested. We will be tested in the way we react to a guy that has averaged 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game over the course of a 12-year pro career. From a basketball perspective, all that should matter is whether or not Collins can keep crashing the glass, putting the ball in the hoop, and setting the blistering screens that have kept him on NBA rosters since 2001. From a societal perspective, all that should matter is that Collins seems like a good dude who happens to be well-spoken and well-rounded, alike.
Can we pass this test? Let’s hope so.
Filed under: Other Sports
This is not looking good. I’ve been feverishly checking my inbox and have yet to run across a 100-page manifesto on the failures of local sports journalists, a manifesto I was expecting to receive no later than today. Granted, there’s still a ton of time before Friday comes to a close, but the situation is grim, to say the least.
I don’t even know what to think right now. I’ve gone to all this trouble clearing 100 pages of online space right here on this site and now? Now I’m at a loss as to how I’ll fill that space if my columnist doesn’t come through.
You may be wondering how I came to be fortunate enough to be promised a 100-page manifesto in the first place. Great question.
It all started on Tuesday night, when our would-be author John Stringer (@johnpstringer on the Twitter) went on a rampage, sending a flurry of tweets to a handful of local media members, including our good friend Ryan Divish. Stringer, it seemed, had a problem with Divish’s lack of subjectivity (???) towards the Mariners and let him know about it in a less-than-friendly manner. That spawned a revolt of sorts from Divish and his colleagues (myself, included), which led to the following pledge:
@ryandivish then where is your negativity about this team??? I havent read 1 line of it from you or anyone else..over the last decade?
— John Stringer (@johnpstringer) April 24, 2013
@johnpstringer If you can’t give examples of how that’s being done, your point is moot. I want a 10-page paper with references by tomorrow.
— Seattle Sportsnet (@alexSSN) April 24, 2013
@johnpstringer Then do it. I’ll give you til Friday. email@example.com. Send it there.
— Seattle Sportsnet (@alexSSN) April 24, 2013
As you can see, plain as day, we were promised a 100-page paper. Now, the deadline for this paper was set by me, which as I would later mention to John, comes with the territory. Having worked for a newspaper before, I can tell you that deadlines are not often in the writer’s control. That’s why I initially offered John the opportunity to write a 10-page paper, as opposed to something ten times bigger. But John being the ambitious sort opted to go the extra mile, which I can certainly respect. However, his failure to follow through up to this point is disconcerting. Who knows for sure, though. Maybe he’s feverishly scripting his manifesto as we speak. Let’s hope. Because people are legitimately excited about this manifesto:
I gotta be honest, as completely idiotic as this guy and his point are, if he ACTUALLY sends @alexssn a 100 page paper I’ll love him forever
— Tyler Hansen (@Thans3) April 24, 2013
Regardless, if fans are going to hold journalists to a certain level of unattainable accountability, then demand that those same journalists simply “do their job” to an ambiguous standard set by those without the credibility to determine such a standard, well, two can play that game.
You have thirteen hours remaining, John.
Filed under: Other Sports
Playing baseball on Sunday afternoons until the sky turned red and the shadows disappeared. Until my arm ached from hundreds and hundreds of tosses (forget pitch counts) and my legs tired from all the running. Until dirt stained my socks and sweat softened the bill of my cap.
I remember laughing for no reason and shouting for fun. Chasing ground balls and fly balls and bugs and just about anything else that was deemed worth chasing.
I think about diving into the grass over and over again, trying wholeheartedly to snag pop-ups that fell just out of reach. It wasn’t about the catch; it was about the leap and the fall. It was about the cushion that the cool, green earth somehow provided. That feeling of hitting the ground and caring about nothing else in the world besides getting up and doing it again.
These were nights when my biggest concern was making sure my homework got done. A set of math problems, a few lines of cursive, a book report on Maniac Magee, reproduced to the ignorance of my teachers on multiple occasions.
In the background, light standards would hum with electricity, their buzz commingling with the shrieks and yelps of those of us too young to worry about staying quiet for any amount of time.
The air would grow increasingly crisp as the hours wore on, the scent of a grill permeating the twilight, calling us to dinner without a word being uttered. We only ate when the playing stopped; barbecue in the springtime had a way of stopping the playing.
We would fight over nothing, make up minutes later after shoving and pouting, then return to the vagary of turning sticks into swords and trees into enemies.
These are the nights when I think about my memories here, all located in one neat little area of the map that sits between mountains and surrounds a sound. This is the one place on the globe that my spring nights are consistent, dating back forever and ever — or nearly three decades, if counting is a must.
See, when tomorrow hits and Monday morning lands squarely upon our calendars, we’ll go back to being adults. Our issues will center around work and finances and all sorts of varying realities. When it comes to sports, we’ll fret over a struggling Mariners squad and the fortunes of the NBA in this town of ours. We’ll agonize over so many things we can’t control and turn the littlest issues into the biggest deals. All of that will happen and we’ll accept it, because it’s who we are now.
But for today, for tonight, for every seemingly perfect spring evening that passes through this haven we call home, we can be young again. Enjoy the innocence.
Filed under: Other Sports
When I think about all the things that I’ll look back upon as my life is coming to its close, terror and tragedy will not be among them. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding my demise, I’ll have images of laughter and happiness and love on my mind as I go. These are the things I can control, no matter how uncontrollable the moment in and of itself may be. In spite of what we’re facing at any given point in time, knowing there are these good things that fill us, that compel us, that bring us to muster the courage we may not otherwise be able to summon in that instant, makes all the difference in the world.
Whenever something we care so deeply about is threatened, we’re scarred in a way that can hardly be put into words. It doesn’t matter what that thing is, either; it could be anything. On this particular week, it happened to be some combination of sports and freedom and security and shreds of innocence and more. All things we cherish, all things that, when threatened, leave us scarred.
This isn’t really about a geographic location, though our thoughts certainly go out to Boston in the wake of the senseless and horrific acts of violence that took place there. This isn’t really about security, though our concerns towards safety certainly increase in times like these. This isn’t really about freedom, because that can never be taken from us, even if there are those who would like to see it blemished. For right now, this is about two things: sports and life.
The backdrop for the two explosions that shook Boston happened to be the city’s most distinguished sporting event, the Boston Marathon. A race spanning 26.2 miles and 116 years of history, the Marathon epitomized the spirit of athletic competition in America. This was, in a nutshell, the upper echelon of what we’ve come to know as sports.
We don’t yet know why someone chose to impose carnage upon such a setting. In the most ethereal sense, the why doesn’t really matter. There is no good why for an act like this. It happened and it’s horrible. We can try to understand it all we want, but there’s no understanding evil. Evil just is. It’s not big or vast or rampant, evil. But when it strikes, it has a momentary impact upon all our good. We withstand evil because we have no other choice. And yet as the inimitable Patton Oswalt reminded us on Monday, “we would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.” And he’s right. We don’t need to understand evil, but it’s important to know that evil is heavily outweighed by good.
Sports are among the good we bring to our lives. Sports build character, they motivate, they entertain, they invoke joy and emotion and the very best of the human spirit. Sports aren’t for everyone, though there are so many positives bred from sports that it’s hard to imagine anyone truly being better off without them. Sports are games, they’re a luxury, they exist because we want them to, not because we need them to. It is that facet of sports — the want versus the need — that causes these games we play to be a source of occasional, if not frequent, contention. It’s easy to take out one’s frustrations upon something we don’t necessarily need. And so those who haven’t found the value in sports, who haven’t shared the joy and emotion of sports that so many of us have, will attack them with vigor because they are not imperative to the everyday. They won’t feed us or clothe us or shelter us or supply us with the vitals we need to survive. They could therefore be deemed useless.
It’d be incredibly foolish to try and generalize some relationship between sports and acts of terror. Again, there is no good why for evil. So why pen relationships between two otherwise unrelated objects that have coincided on a day that should have been nothing but ordinary? We don’t need to do that.
For me, however, when I consider all the good in my own life, I know that sports play a significant role in bringing me all the happiness I will one day envision as I pass. From moments I’ve paid witness to, to moments I’ve shared with the people I care about, to memories that have etched themselves in my consciousness for all eternity, sports have become that one giant thing that has consistently defined my joy. It almost seems silly to say that, but then I think about the connections I have with my friends and family members — the connections I’ve made, the connections I was born with — and the majority of those kinships have either been borne out of or enhanced by some marriage to sports. These games we play have not just made my life better, in large part they’ve made my life what it is.
The evil exists to threaten the good and we all understand that. But when it’s our good that gets threatened — our thing, our oasis of happiness — that evil strikes a little closer to the heart than we thought possible.
As it stands, our good has thrived for so long for a reason. And our good will continue to flourish for that same reason. That reason is simple: the good will always triumph over the bad.
Sports are part of our good. They exist for a reason in times like these. They give us a needed distraction from the crap that infiltrates our day-to-day reality. There is a contingent of people out there that will seek to separate sports from anything else of worldly relevance — often referred to as the “stick to sports” crowd, since they want nothing more than to see sports stuck to, I suppose — but there are times when the world and sports coincide upon a star-crossed path. We can’t always stick to sports. And sports can’t always separate itself from more serious truths about life as a whole.
The fact is, we can’t control evil. Try as we might, evil will spontaneously rear its ugly head whether we like it or not. But we can control good. We can perpetuate all the good we want and nothing can stop us from doing that.
So I encourage you to play and watch and enjoy and be about the good that encompasses so much, including sports. When I die, I’ll remember finding a baseball in the Kingdome stands when I was five, I’ll remember hitting a home run, I’ll remember playoff runs and championships, I’ll remember the everlasting bonds I made with people I love through seemingly meaningless games we played. I’ve found my good in sports. I’m sure others may do the same.
Filed under: Other Sports
It’s that time of year again. Dance time. Formerly “Bigger” Dance time. But then some blowhard decided “Bigger Dance” was too close to “Big Dance” for the comfort of some asshole’s lawyer, so here we are with “The Dance.” As if this is like the shindig of the year at a local high school or something.
Anyway, enough about that. You need to fill out a Dance bracket and you’re looking for some help. That’s where I come in. I’m not an expert, but I do pride myself on being judgmental. As we’ve done here in the past, we’ll go through every single Dance matchup and give you a winner. From Game 1 to Game 64. And right about now if you either a) need to fill out your Dance bracket at Sports Radio KJR or b) are just plain confused as to what all this is really about, please click here and achieve both a) and/or b).
To your left you’ll see a picture of a beautiful woman. That’s Lucy Pinder. She won this competition last year. There will be more pictures of beautiful women as you scroll down. Enjoy that. Maybe don’t read this at work, but enjoy it nonetheless. Without further ado…
Region 1: Chelada
Sofia Vergara vs. Alicia Keys
Just the other day I happened to be watching BET (they show reruns of Family Matters in the afternoon, in case you were wondering why) when I caught a showing of the movie Soul Plane. I’d never seen Soul Plane before, but wouldn’t you know it, one of the flight attendants for NWA Airlines was played by Sofia Vergara. So not only has she captured the Latino vote (naturally) and the white vote (Modern Family), but she also has the black vote. Even Alicia Keys isn’t that omnipresent. Winner: Vergara.
Taylor Swift vs. Olivia Munn
The longer Taylor Swift stays relevant, the more annoying she becomes. She’s 23 years old now and still composing whiny ballads professing teenage angst. What does she even know about teenagers anymore? Did she recently date a teenager who broke up with her? I assume that must be it. Winner: Munn.
Amanda Seyfried vs. Erin Andrews
Erin Andrews. My Belmont. Every year, I hitch my wagon, driven by my foolish heart, to Erin Andrews. I do the same thing during the NCAA Tournament with the Belmont Bruins. More often than not, I am left disappointed and brokenhearted when both the Bruins and Andrews lose. But this year, despite Belmont’s early exit from the Big Dance, I have faith in Erin. She’s facing Amanda Seyfried, who is not so much hot as she is kinda weird looking. Winner: Andrews.
Megan Fox vs. Arianny Celeste
In my opinion, Arianny Celeste is much hotter than Megan Fox. She’s got bronzer skin, a better physique, and has been known to dabble in MMA. That’s pretty fantastic. Alas, few people know who Celeste is, and as we all know, this tournament is all about name recognition. Hence, we have to side with the former Queen of the Hardwood. Winner: Fox.
Stacy Keibler vs. Natalie Portman
I’ve always liked Stacy Keibler, mostly because her last name sounds exactly like “Keebler,” which reminds me of cookies. I love cookies. Any woman that arouses a litany of my senses simply by existing is a woman I can appreciate. Winner: Keibler.
Rosie Huntington-Whitely vs. Kate Upton
Not only is this supposed to be Kate Upton’s year to win it all, she kicks off her championship run by taking on an opponent with a hyphenated last name. The legacy of sports greats with hyphenated surnames is neither long nor impressive. One of the aces of the hyphenated-last-name staff would be Ryan Rowland-Smith. He’d be an ace. If that’s not an indication of how bad the All-Hyphen squad might possibly be, I don’t know what is. Winner: Upton.
Miranda Kerr vs. Marisa Miller
I’m just not a huge fan of Miranda Kerr. She’s basically Steve Kerr. Winner: Miller.
Katy Perry vs. Rihanna
Nobody really likes Rihanna. She bounces from dude to Chris Brown to dude to Chris Brown to another dude, then back to Chris Brown. Basically, all roads lead to Chris Brown. Why does she keep going back to Chris Brown? No one really knows. But it bugs us, nonetheless. Meanwhile, Katy Perry set aside time within the past year to break up with longtime boyfriend Russell Brand. She hasn’t gone back to him. Good for her. He sucks. Winner: Perry.
Region 2: Bud Light
Irina Shayk vs. Emma Stone
A recent commercial for Revlon informs me that Emma Stone’s voice is raspy because she spent the first six months of her life screaming. God bless her parents for not strangling her. But that’s not gonna be enough to knock off a one-time Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover model. Sorry, Emma. Winner: Shayk.
Sara Jean Underwood vs. Keeley Hazell
This is a battle of pinups. Outside of getting naked in magazines (and in Hazell’s case, starring in a homemade porno), I’m not sure either of these two ladies has a real job. That said, they’re both really good at whatever it is they do, which I guess is just be. They are. They exist. And our world is better because of it. Every matchup needs a winner and a loser, however. Hazell’s a perennial Final Four (excuse me, Last Four) participant, and her boobs are huge. So… Winner: Hazell.
Scarlett Johansson vs. Hayden Panettiere
Hayden Panettiere was really relevant for awhile. Those days are behind her now. Scarlett Johansson, on the other hand, just keeps on keepin’ on. She’s an Avenger for God’s sake. An Avenger! Winner: Johansson.
Emily Blunt vs. Kaley Cuoco
When it comes to sexy famous people, Emily Blunt is really, really…average. About fifty-percent of the time you see her and think, “Okay, I’d hit that.” The other half the time your reaction is more along the lines of, “Eh.” She’s extremely tolerable. That’s about the nicest compliment I can give her. Kaley Cuoco, though? Kaley Cuoco is smokin’ hot. Winner: Cuoco.
Holly Sonders vs. Charlize Theron
Holly Sonders is famous for being on the Golf Channel, so chances are you’ve napped through everything she’s ever done. Charlize Theron? She’s a veteran hottie. She’s the Kevin Willis of this tournament. She may not have a great first step or be particularly explosive, but damn it, she flat-out gets the job done. She’ll throw a few elbows in the paint and Euro-step the hell out of her much younger, sprier opponent. On paper, Theron looks beatable. In reality, she’s playing for keeps. Winner: Theron.
Jennifer Lawrence vs. Anne Hathaway
This has to be the greatest time ever in the history of Jennifer Lawrence. Ever since The Hunger Games, the 22-year-old actress has been on a Jennifer Lawrence world tour, taking Jennifer Lawrence to every city on the map that craves itself some Jennifer Lawrence. She deserves this. She once had a supporting role on The Bill Engvall Show. They say you have to go through hell to get to heaven. Prime example, Jennifer Lawrence. Winner: Lawrence.
Mila Kunis vs. Maria Sharapova
I saw a picture of Mila Kunis without makeup while on a walk with boyfriend (ugh) Ashton Kutcher. It made me cringe. But then I saw Mila Kunis in a movie. It made me semi-aroused. Mila Kunis is basically Red Bull. There are some things about Red Bull that we all know are bad. But when we’re sitting there sipping from that little blue can, we really couldn’t care less about all those bad things. Mila Kunis inspires feeling and emotion. Maria Sharapova? I have no opinion on her. Winner: Kunis.
Beyonce vs. Blake Lively
Beyonce could be really hot. She should be really hot. Every woman envies her. Every man sees her in a catsuit and immediately perks up. The problem with Beyonce is that no matter how physically attractive she may be, she’s married to a rather normal-looking dude who happens to be one of those most famous music moguls on earth. She is so damn settled into that marriage that she’s lost all her zest, all her appeal, all her mystique. She’s a committed wife, which is great. But she’s unattainable, and that ruins it for us. So there you have it. Winner: Lively.
Region 3: Bud Light Lime
Minka Kelly vs. Ashley Greene
If Minka Kelly’s first name wasn’t Minka, she’d be Ashley Greene’s equal. Lucky for her, “Minka” is really fun to say out loud. Minka. MINK-uh. Minka. Winner: Kelly.
Olivia Wilde vs. Danica Patrick
Each time I see Olivia Wilde on a screen, she’s seemingly gotten hotter than the last time I saw her. I just watched The Incredible Burt Wonderstone a few weeks ago (not any better than a rental, in my opinion) and she looked amazing in her role as Steve Carell’s assistant-slash-love-interest. Each time I see Danica Patrick, she’s usually just talking about car racing and being short. That’s not as much fun. Winner: Wilde.
Kate Middleton vs. Julianne Hough
Julianne Hough is the David Duval of female celebrities. There are times when you forget she ever existed at all, and then when you remember, you just shrug your shoulders and move on with life. Winner: Middleton.
Lucy Pinder vs. Alex Morgan
It’s almost not fair. Alex Morgan is very, very cute. She’s athletic and sporty and seems like a lot of fun. She’s also roughly the size of Lucy Pinder’s right breast. Lucy Pinder’s entire chest is very nearly twice the woman that Alex Morgan is. Like I said, not fair. Winner: Pinder.
Zooey Deschanel vs. Manti Te’o's Girlfriend
I really don’t like Zooey Deschanel. I find her absolutely insufferable. She isn’t funny so much as she is irritating. Her talents are not talents at all, but blown-up mannerisms of a child with A.D.D. Why people like her is beyond me. Despite all that, Lennay Kekua jokes have gone the way of Gangnam Style, achieving a certain level of cliche in record-breaking time. I’m banking on the hope that voters are as sick of Te’o's Girlfriend cracks as I am. When it comes to the lesser of two evils, one real, one nothing more than a hoax, I’ll take the living over the imaginary. Winner: Deschanel.
Jessica Alba vs. Paulina Gretzky
Outside of being The Great One’s daughter, I don’t really know why Paulina Gretzky is famous. The internet labels her a pop singer (?), but I’ve never heard one of her songs. On the contrary, we all know why Jessica Alba’s famous. Honey, obviously. Winner: Alba.
Katherine Webb vs. Emma Watson
Emma Watson hit her peak around age 16. Katherine Webb hit her peak around…well, now. It’s about momentum, getting hot at the right time. Thank you, Brent Musberger. Winner: Webb.
Gisele Bundchen vs. Jennifer Aniston
I’ve always liked Gisele Bundchen because it’s easy to mispronounce her name as “JIZZ-uhl.” Jizzuhl, Jizzuhl, Jizzuhl. Say it five times fast and try not to snicker. Winner: Bundchen.
Region 4: Bud Light Platinum
Eva Mendes vs. Alessandra Ambrosio
Eva Mendes is supposedly dating Ryan Gosling these days. If they have a daughter together, that kid is gonna grow up to be the hottest woman on the face of the earth. Winner: Mendes.
Vanessa Hudgens vs. Jessica Biel
How does Vanessa Hudgens find herself in this tournament? She’s hot in a jailbait sort of way, I suppose. But her biggest claim to fame is maintaining a romance with Zac Efron back when he, too, was still relevant. If any team snuck into this tourney with a losing record, it’s Hudgens. Winner: Biel.
Katherine McPhee vs. Adriana Lima
Katherine McPhee. Haven’t heard that name in a while. I’m sure she’s a really nice person. But have you seen Adriana Lima?! Winner: Lima.
Bar Refaeli vs. Elizabeth Banks
Elizabeth Banks is cool. She seems cool at least. But Bar Refaeli is sexy. Bar is the Veronica to Banks’ Betty. Why did Archie Andrews always long for Veronica but settle for Betty? Because you’ll settle for cool when you can’t get sex. Winner: Refaeli.
Elin Nordegren vs. Lindsey Vonn
Tiger Woods’ former partner versus his current partner. It’s been nearly four years and we still feel bad for Elin. Four years! Lindsey Vonn is currently crippled and we still have more sympathy for a woman who won’t have to work for the rest of her life thanks to a high-paying divorce. We love Elin because of everything she went through with that cheating bastard golfer (a cheating bastard golfer who we still really like, mind you). Lindsey Vonn doesn’t stand a chance. She’s the other woman. By default. Winner: Nordegren.
Brooklyn Decker vs. Emilia Clarke
I don’t even know who Emilia Clarke is. Winner: Decker.
Carrie Underwood vs. Kristen Bell
Remember that scene in Forgetting Sarah Marshall when the title character, played by Bell, confesses her worry over becoming obsolete in her acting career? It’s crazy how life imitates art sometimes. Winner: Underwood.
Rachel McAdams vs. Vanessa Minillo
Vanessa Minillo? Is it 2003? She’s not even Vanessa Minillo anymore. She’s Vanessa Lachey, as in Nick’s wife. We don’t even know her name! Winner: McAdams.
ROUND OF 32
Sofia Vergara vs. Olivia Munn
Sofia Vergara has more curves than a California coastal highway. We’d all like to ride along that road. Winner: Vergara.
Erin Andrews vs. Megan Fox
I want to believe in Erin Andrews. So badly. But Megan Fox? Megan Fox?! Urrrrrrrrrgggggggg….. Winner: Fox.
Stacy Keibler vs. Kate Upton
All those Keebler cookies slowing her down. Upton’s so good. So good. Winner: Upton.
Marisa Miller vs. Katy Perry
If this was a singing competition, Katy Perry would win. It is not that, however. Winner: Miller.
Irina Shayk vs. Keeley Hazell
Keeley Hazell’s got that strong frontcourt. Gonna be tough to compete with that. Winner: Hazell.
Scarlett Johansson vs. Kaley Cuoco
Kaley Cuoco. The girl-next-door hottie. It’s dangerous to side with the girl-next-door types. But I’ve got a good feeling about this one. Winner: Cuoco.
Charlize Theron vs. Jennifer Lawrence
The Jennifer Lawrence World Tour rolls on. Winner: Lawrence
Mila Kunis vs. Blake Lively
In Japan, they’ll celebrate the triumph of Brake Rivery. Winner: Lively.
Minka Kelly vs. Olivia Wilde
People really, really like saying Minka Kelly’s first name. Never underestimate that on the phone lines. Winner: Kelly.
Kate Middleton vs. Lucy Pinder
Battle of the Brits. Pinder’s your defending champ. Easy choice. Winner: Pinder.
Zooey Deschanel vs. Jessica Alba
The end of the insufferable New Girl. Winner: Alba.
Katherine Webb vs. Gisele Bundchen
Mrs. A.J. McCarron vs. Mrs. Tom Brady. If this were a battle between their quarterback other-halves, we’d all know who would triumph. Should see a similar result between the Misses’. Winner: Bundchen.
Eva Mendes vs. Jessica Biel
Mrs. Ryan Gosling (du jour) vs. Mrs. Justin Timberlake. Can’t wait to get you on the floor, good lookin’. Winner: Biel.
Adriana Lima vs. Bar Refaeli
Callers are lazy. They’d prefer a one-syllable name (Bar) over a two- or four-syllable one (Adriana Lima). Winner: Refaeli.
Elin Nordegren vs. Brooklyn Decker
It’s amazing that Brooklyn Decker is still married to Andy Roddick. On the other hand, Elin Nordegren is single. Life is funny sometimes. Winner: Decker.
Carrie Underwood vs. Rachel McAdams
Carrie Underwood. America’s sweetheart. Winner: Underwood.
Sofia Vergara is like a hotter, sultrier, less tainted Megan Fox. Winner: Vergara.
Kate Upton vs. Marisa Miller
Marisa Miller was the beta version to Kate Upton’s two-point-oh. Winner: Upton
Keeley Hazell vs. Kaley Cuoco
Keeley. Kaley. Keeley. Kaley. You say it enough times and it’s like this mishmash of awesomeness. The road to the Final (Last) Four goes through Hazell. Winner: Hazell.
Jennifer Lawrence vs. Blake Lively
Blake Lively is exponentially hotter than Jennifer Lawrence. The clock strikes midnight on Cinderella. Winner: Lively.
Minka Kelly vs. Lucy Pinder
Lucy Pinder is a defending champion. Winner: Pinder.
Jessica Alba vs. Gisele Bundchen
Remember when Jessica Alba used to win this thing every year? Then she stopped making movies, became a mom, and now? Now she’s losing games to Gisele Bundchen. Winner: Bundchen.
Jessica Biel vs. Bar Refaeli
I love Jessica Biel. I’ve been enamored with her ever since she rebelled as a 7th Heaven cast member and decided to get naked for some magazine I’d never heard of. God bless the man or woman who took those photos. They were fantastic. Winner: Biel.
Brooklyn Decker vs. Carrie Underwood
I don’t even really like country music. Winner: Decker.
Sofia Vergara vs. Kate Upton
This matchup could bring about a cease fire if ever we waged war on Mexico. Winner: Upton.
Keeley Hazell vs. Blake Lively
Keeley Hazell has really big boobs. Winner: Hazell.
Lucy Pinder vs. Gisele Bundchen
Lucy Pinder has really big boobs. Winner: Pinder
Jessica Biel vs. Brooklyn Decker
If I missed on this pick and Jessica Biel went on to win the whole thing, I’d be okay with that. It’d be like going to a game today and witnessing a Raul Ibanez home run, a Matt Hasselbeck touchdown pass, a Marcus Trufant pick-six. It’d be a tip of the cap to another era. And it would be fantastic. So let’s hope if I screw this one up, Biel just blows everyone out of the water and takes home the crown. Winner: Decker.
FINAL (LAST) FOUR
Kate Upton vs. Keeley Hazell
This is Upton’s year. Winner: Upton.
Lucy Pinder vs. Brooklyn Decker
It’s like the Bullets versus the Sonics in ’79. Lucy Pinder, the Bullets, took home the title last year. But this year… Winner: Pinder.
Kate Upton vs. Lucy Pinder
And your 2013 Queen of the Hardwood is…Kate Upton!
Filed under: Other Sports
You gotta give Jenna Shea some credit. There may be no better time in history to call out Peyton Siva than in the midst of what we can only imagine to be his life’s crowning achievement to date. She saw her window and she jumped at the chance to gain a little notoriety. That’s the kind of enterprising spirit any media whore can appreciate.
For those who may have missed the interaction, here are the tweets that sparked a social media firestorm after Louisville’s National Championship victory:
— jenna shea (@iamjennashea) April 9, 2013
Ok peypeysiva instagram.com/p/X3tguhsWbh/
— jenna shea (@iamjennashea) April 9, 2013
More from peypeysiva thankin his girlfriend but hitting me up LOL instagram.com/p/X3tqrKMWbn/
— jenna shea (@iamjennashea) April 9, 2013
Upon clicking through to those Instagram links, you’ll quickly discover the crux of the matter: Siva, it appears, was exchanging suggestive text messages with Shea while in a relationship with another girl, who he allegedly deemed his girlfriend. Shea, in turn, either took exception to Siva’s perceived infidelity and chose to air her frustrations, or simply seized the moment to boost her Klout score.
No matter the reason behind her posts, Shea’s tweets struck a chord with sports fans all across the nation. While many voiced their support for the Seattle native and Louisville point guard, others sided with Shea.
Some will argue that Shea shouldn’t have tried to rain on Siva’s parade. Others will counter by saying that Siva shouldn’t have been directing his attention to other women while in a committed relationship.
Regardless of where your loyalties lie, the fact is Siva’s girlfriend likely won’t break up with him over this because, frankly, star athletes get away with this kind of thing all the time. And we tolerate it because that’s what we do, we extend special benefits to athletes that we wouldn’t afford to “normal folk.” To quote your average athlete, it is what it is. And it happens more than you think.
At the end of the day, Siva’s a national champion who can take his pick of a handful of beautiful women, I’m sure. And not that my advice matters, but here it is anyway: When you’re a 22-year-old college superstar, don’t suck an innocent girl into a relationship. One, you’re probably not gonna last with that chick. Two, you’re 22, so naturally you’re gonna want to boink everything in sight. Three, in time you’ll find someone who you actually want to marry. Four, it will keep you from cheating on that innocent girl when you hit the national spotlight and all those girls in your line of vision reciprocate your desire for sex.
And five, upon achieving your sport’s highest honor, a porn star, of all people, won’t be putting you on blast on Twitter.
Filed under: Other Sports
The first time I ever saw Troy Hennum, he was following my buddy Phil around. Phil stood 6’7″, played for the University of Washington basketball team, and cast a long shadow over his much more diminutive tagalong. The alignment was symbolic — Phil silently and casually strolling into the IMA (UW’s student gym) with Troy damn near stalking the Husky athlete as he ran behind him, all while talking a million miles a minute. It was the personification of jersey-chasing, and it was awesome to behold.
They say that one of the best ways to find out about a man’s character is to play basketball with him. On that day, I played ball with Phil and Troy, Troy for the first time. Immediately, he bugged the shit out of me. This was a bro’s bro. A headband-wearing frat boy instigator, the ultimate in brodaciousness come to life.
On the court he not only rubbed both his teammates and his opponents the wrong way, he also seemed content to play the role of Kobe Bryant when given the opportunity, despite his unequivocal lack of talent. He was the kind of pickup basketball player that made you roll your eyes and hope to God that you’d never be stuck on his team again. I’m not saying I’m the ultimate teammate or anything — my penchant for taking ill-advised threes and believing I can make any attempt this side of halfcourt is probably my undoing — but I knew my role on the squad, which Troy did not. On top of that, I wasn’t walking around the gym practically begging everyone in shorts to fight me. So yeah, right away I knew this dude had some character issues.
A short time later, my intramural coed softball team, the Athletic Supporters, took on Troy’s team. We were the three-time defending coed champions at UW. We were damn good. But so were they. It was the league semifinals and things got a little heated. Throughout the game, Troy played the role of Earl Weaver, protesting calls, barking at whoever would listen, and just generally being a douchebag.
Tensions flared as the game stayed close all the way to its finish. In the end, Troy’s team beat us and went onto the coed championship. We were upset but weren’t distraught by any means. We’d won three titles in four years — it was a pretty good run. More than anything else, though, everyone was a little chapped over Troy’s behavior. Take away one dickhead and what you had was a well-played, hard-fought contest between two solid teams. Unfortunately, that had all been spoiled by a jerk. Such was Troy.
A few years passed and any memories of Troy Hennum expunged themselves from my brain. That is, until the day the Mariners traded Cliff Lee for Justin Smoak.
On that particular afternoon, I took to Facebook and rejoiced over acquiring a talent like Smoak (how quickly we forget that Smoak was once a talent). Back then, prior to getting Zuckerberged, I happened to be the proprietor of a Seattle Sportsnet Facebook account — later on, that account would be disabled by the Facebook team because Seattle Sportsnet, as it turned out, “wasn’t a real person.” Anyway, on that day my account still existed, and among my 4,000-some-odd friends was one Troy Hennum, who quickly proceeded to shit all over the Mariners’ trade on my Facebook wall.
Troy didn’t like Smoak, nor did he like any of the players acquired. Basically, he thought the trade was crap. His points were valid, but it was the way he issued his complaints that irked me. So to call his bluff, I offered him a bet. I insisted that within five years, Justin Smoak would be an All-Star; Troy obviously felt otherwise. The payoff was a steak dinner or something of the sort. At the time, I felt the bet was a sure thing (now I’m not as confident, but whatever…you can still do it Justin!). More than that, though, I wanted to take this bro’s money, and this was a way to do that. So the bet stood and still stands today, with three years remaining until one of us is forced to pay up. We’ll see how this plays out in time, I suppose.
A year or so later, upon forgetting all about Troy once again, I read a blurb in The Seattle Times that mentioned Troy Hennum as the head softball coach at Lake Washington High School. I could feel my eyebrows arch as I read the words on my computer screen. Troy? That Troy? A softball coach? Really? First of all, the extent of the guy’s softball experience was as an intramural coed player at the University of Washington, which doesn’t exactly lend itself to expertise in one’s field. Second, I had seen this guy and the way he interacted with people in college. Had he changed at all? Because if he hadn’t, there was no way anyone in their right mind would want him around their kids, let alone high school girls. It was intriguing, to say the least.
Time passed yet again. We made it all the way until today, March 8th, 2013, without the name Troy Hennum leasing any space in my consciousness. And then this story broke. Yep. Believe it or not, six days into his (new) coaching gig at Roosevelt High School, Troy had been placed on leave for using his softball players as matchmakers, asking them to find him “cute girls” he could mack on. As it turns out, asking high school girls to find you dates is frowned upon. Who knew?! And yet it took the actions of a bro’s bro to confirm what most of us probably could have guessed on our own.
To make matter worse, minutes after news on Troy’s actions broke locally, Deadspin got a hold of the story. Troy has now gone national. He is famous, although probably not in a way he ever hoped.
This is bad. It looks bad, at least. But if Troy doesn’t find a way out of this, I’ll be shocked. He seems to have that type of escapability about him. And within a few months, once all this blows over, I bet the guy ends up coaching again. These things happen all the time. And then we forget about them and move on.
Thing is, I don’t think Troy Hennum is as bad a dude as he seems to have become. I think he’s just immature, living in that ether between high school, college, and the real world, not quite committing to a path that would lend itself to staying out of trouble.
Despite his issues, I sincerely hope he turns things around. Because in a couple years, when Justin Smoak becomes an All-Star, I need that guy to have the money to pay for my steak dinner. So get your shit together, Troy. We’re going to El Gaucho, son. We’ll get a nice booth. It’ll be lovely.
Filed under: Other Sports
There’s a very poignant moment at the outset of Season 4, Episode 10 of Saved By the Bell, an episode entitled Wrestling with the Future. The moment harkens back to a simpler time, when the college recruiting process wasn’t nearly as shady, complicated, overblown, or commercialized as it is now. It recalls an era that existed prior to the ESPNs of the world smearing their greasy fingerprints all over the one day of the year that teenagers sign the remainder of their adolescence over to a university and an athletics program, that lived before those same teenagers would sit under the lights of a crowded gymnasium and select baseball caps off a table.
It is in this moment in that particular episode of television’s greatest and most influential program (ever, in history) that the following occurs:
A man in a sport coat swings open the door to The Max, everyone’s favorite after-school burger joint. He looks around, then spots the recruit he’s been tasked with locating sitting before him at a booth with his friends. At very nearly the same instant, the recruit spots the man in the sport coat in the doorway. “That’s Jeff Tramer,” says the recruit to his friends, “the wrestling coach at the University of Iowa.”
The man in the sport coat glides across the room and introduces himself to the recruit. “A.C.,” he begins, “I’m Jeff Tramer.” And then without hesitation, “I’m here to offer you a full wrestling scholarship to the University of Iowa.”
There is a pause before the man in the sport coat asks, “Well, what do you say?”
“Huh? Oh, I say great! Thank you!” replies the stunned recruit.
Beaming, his mission a success, the man in the sport coat starts to leave. “I’ll put that paper in the mail tomorrow,” he says. “See you in September. You’ll love Iowa.”
It takes no more than a minute for one of the nation’s premier wrestling programs to land Albert Clifford Slater, one of the best wrestlers (we can assume) in Southern California. The interaction is far too quick, far too ridiculous, and far too scripted for us to think real. Yet if Jeff Tramer’s forty-second pursuit of Bayside High School’s most legendary athlete is on one end of the spectrum of outlandishness, then everything about the recruiting process that we endure today, in all its goofy glory, must certainly be on the other.
So what is it about the recruiting process that embodies such stupidity?
First of all, no one should trust a high school kid to make a binding agreement that he’ll be happy about months, weeks, or even days down the road. Your average teenager is as mercurial as a chameleon and doesn’t exactly understand the implications that come with telling an adult “yes” or “no.” (Think about all the times you uttered those two words of confirmation to your parents as a kid. How often were you bullshitting out your ass, simply lying to protect yourself or someone else? All the damn time.)
Funny thing is, though, in today’s era of internet sensationalism and the 24/7 news cycle, we not only put our faith in these kids, we submit ourselves to riding the roller coaster that is their decision-making process. They commit and decommit and recommit and we willingly tag along for the journey. We’re lemmings for this shit, falling off cliffs then climbing right back up the hillside to do it all over again.
If fans are to blame for buying into this odyssey of college recruiting, then the media is certainly at fault for delivering it in such bombastic fashion. Were it not for ESPN, FSN, Scout.com, Rivals.com, and more, we wouldn’t be exposed to this mindless nonsense every single day of the year. Perhaps the national outlets are just giving consumers what they want, or maybe they’re bringing this madness to consumers who didn’t even know they wanted it in the first place. It’s a chicken-and-egg scenario that, regardless of its origin, is profitable for the people pulling the strings, puppeteering both the stars of the show (the recruits) and the audience (the fans) at the same time.
And then you have the kids and their families.
My god, if you would have told me at age 17 that I was going to be on TV, I’d probably show up naked and giddy amidst the delirium of such exciting news. I imagine that’s how most teenaged recruits react when faced with the prospect of making their college decisions before a television viewing audience.
Recruits don’t think about the consequences of their imminent actions because, frankly, they aren’t thinking clearly. They don’t realize that when they eliminate all but one school from their list of finalists, they’ll have thousands upon thousands of insane, mouth-breathing sports fans across the country who absolutely hate them. And then to make matters worse, thanks to the spectacle of this charade they’ve broadcast across the nation, they don’t understand that should they fail to live up to the hype they’ve now created for themselves, the insane, mouth-breathing sports fans from their own school will begin to hate them, too — and yes, I realize that in despising, say, Abdul Gaddy, I’ve categorized myself among the insane and mouth-breathing, which is fine.
At 17, everyone expects a highly sought-after recruit to become Mr. All-Everything in college. Should he carry out the commitment process the way we’ve come to expect, and should he not evolve into Mr. All-Everything after that, he will be labeled a failure by the masses. All because he fell victim to a media frenzy that, fairly or unfairly, put the spotlight squarely on his mug.
Branded a failure by age 22 is no place for a young adult to be, but it’s where so many of these recruits ultimately end up. Who’s looking out for them? Their parents? No, their parents are often part of the hype machine. Their high school coaches? No, because the high school coaches see the attention shining down upon their star player as a much-needed boost to their own pride and joy (i.e., ego). Should recruits be responsible for looking out for themselves? As teenagers? We’re all responsible for our own well-being to some degree, but who’s really to say. Does a kid who’s spent much of his life being coddled by a society that extends benefits to elite athletes have the ability to protect himself from scrutiny? Unlikely. So really, what we’re dealing with here is anarchy.
We’re probably better than this. Or maybe we’re not. I mean, we devour reality TV like it’s oxygen, then pay witness to the failures of others because we can’t succeed ourselves. We enjoy that. We thrive on that. And if there’s anything more reality-based than a high school recruit playing a game show with fans and hats and colleges, I’m not sure we’ve seen it yet.
This is The Bachelor with universities instead of girls and caps instead of roses. It’s Survivor with an adolescent as the million-dollar prize that each school, as a contestant, is vying for. This is so stupid it should be scripted. And it almost is. Until the broadcast ends and the unscripted part of the show really begins to take shape.
For every successful college athlete, there are at least three or four or five more busts. And those busts — as a result of a process they, their parents, their family members, their coaches, their high schools, their friends, their fans, their future fans, EVERYONE — fully buy into, are led down a dead-end path that brings with it a ton of negativity.
Signing Day and all that it entails is no dumber than the idea of an actor walking onto a brightly-lit studio set and making a two-sentence sales pitch to another actor in a tank top. Only problem is, if you don’t like it, you can’t change the channel.
Happy National Letter of Intent Day.
Filed under: Other Sports
“The reader comments section, it’s a free-for-all. The level of discourse has become so inane and nasty. And it’s not just at the Times, it’s ESPN, everywhere – people, anonymous people, take shots at the story, writers, each other. Whatever you’ve achieved in that story gets drowned out by this chorus of idiots.” -Steve Kelley, in an article by Rick Anderson appearing in Seattle Weekly, Jan. 4, 2013.
It is January 31st, 2013. Today is the final day of Steve Kelley’s employment at The Seattle Times. For four decades, Kelley has been a writer. For 31 of those years, Kelley has been a writer at the Times, first in the old, grey structure at 1120 John Street, then more recently in a neighboring venue across the concrete expanse of a parking lot at 1000 Denny Way.
Over the course of his three-plus decades in those two buildings, the 63-year-old has done exactly what a newspaper asks its columnists to do: he has elicited reactions, and strong ones at that. Love him or hate him (and for most of us, there is no in-between), Kelley has motivated people to vocalize their emotions on a particular topic. Regardless of your opinion on the man, he has been one of few individuals consistently capable of achieving such feedback from readers for more than a generation. No matter the issue being discussed in the sports section each day, one thing always remained certain: Steve Kelley would have an opinion on it.
Yet here we are, on Kelley’s last day of work, staring down the barrel of a conundrum. As Kelley greets an uncertain future, we encounter one of our own, as well. For us, however, that uncertainty revolves around media and where it’s headed. It just so happens that the man leaving media behind, the man who happens to be the subject of these ensuing paragraphs, is a casualty of our uncertainty.
It should be noted that Steve Kelley doesn’t currently have a Twitter account and, to my knowledge, never has. This factoid isn’t insignificant — Twitter has become synonymous with media in the past few years, especially sports media. So to simply shrug off the world of the microblog the way Kelley has, well, it means something. But we’ll get to that later on. For now, let’s travel back to the Eighties.
Back in 1982, when Kelley got his start at the Times, the internet was but a twinkle in a computer nerd’s eye and the word “blog” was still two decades away from meaning something. Readers could consume all the information their hearts desired straight from a newspaper, and no matter how they felt about what they had just digested, their opinions rarely carried any clout beyond the water cooler or a watering hole, depending on one’s preference of libation.
The voice of the sports fan was expressed by journalists like Kelley and his cohorts. If you didn’t agree with the local purveyor of the fan’s voice, you could do one of three things: a) write a letter to the editor and hope for publication the following week, b) bitch and moan about your differences to anyone who would listen, or c) deal with it and move on. Beyond that, there wasn’t much in the way of alternatives for a passionate fanatic. Technology had not yet been invented to bring reader and writer closer together. And so it was that columnists existed in a world unburdened by the cries of dissenters, living in what more or less amounted to a utopian bubble protecting them from the masses.
Fast forward to today and everything has been dramatically altered. Thanks to social media and the internet, the divide between scribe and audience is damn near extinct. As vehicles of change have been introduced to the public spectrum, journalism has adapted. Content is now scripted for an online viewership, rather than a print subscriber. Comments and feedback, once largely ignored, are now encouraged and desired by news providers. The public voice, rather than the voice of one anointed dignitary, is now what drives conversation. If a story is valuable, the public will often deem it so before any columnist can opine on the matter. And unlike many years ago, there is hardly such a thing as a “scoop” anymore. Breaking news is often leaked via Twitter and Facebook, with the subjects of such stories occasionally “scooping” themselves before any media member can do it.
We now live in a world where we are the newsmakers, where we are the content providers, and where we are the ones who decide what’s relevant. So what do we need the Steve Kelleys for, anyway?
The most common definition for the term “obsolete” is “out-of-date.” Some like to say that newspapers are obsolete. In a literal sense, newspapers become obsolete on a daily basis. With each morning’s edition, all previous editions of a paper have become out-of-date. But that’s not what anyone means, of course. Newspapers have attained their obsolescence through the evolving means by which we convey information. Print media just isn’t as relevant as it used to be.
We know what isn’t obsolete. Twitter isn’t obsolete. Blogs aren’t obsolete. This is how we get our news now. And not from traditional sources, either. We scour TMZ and Deadspin for up-to-the-minute stories on things we care about. We trust unpaid semi-professionals to give us tidbits of insider information in 140-character blurbs. We find our way to mainstream outlets only for final confirmation on that which we read elsewhere. This is nothing new. But for those who themselves have become, say, obsolete, this is rather unnerving.
It’s not entirely fair of me to use Steve Kelley as the case study for this piece. He’s a good guy. A better guy than most readers know. On top of that, he’s just one example of a columnist who has run his course in this business. He is certainly not alone. There are thousands of Steve Kelleys across the globe. He just happens to be local and, on this day in history at least, not obsolete.
Scroll back up to the top of this article and read the quote from the Seattle Weekly article on Kelley once more. Pay close attention to the last sentence: “Whatever you’ve achieved in that story,” he says, “gets drowned out by this chorus of idiots.” A chorus of idiots. Let it sink in.
In some ways, he’s right. A vocal group of those who may disagree with you can most certainly portray themselves as a chorus of idiots. And among any group of that ilk, there are most likely going to be a handful of goons who actually are idiots. But to label the entire group in such a way is…curious. Because what Kelley is really saying here is that his readership, or at least that faction of his readership moved to a reaction by his work, is idiotic. Which in turn means that he has made a living out of preaching to idiots. And I highly doubt that a successful 31-year career at one institution could have been supported entirely by idiots. No amount of sheer luck could have allowed that. So what, then, can we take away from Kelley’s comments?
He’s upset. And he has a right to be. The game has changed. He’s still shooting set shots while his peers throw down between-the-legs reverse windmill dunks. And the thing is, his set shots are still going in. And they still count for two points, same as those dunks. His contributions are just as valuable as everyone else’s. So why doesn’t the crowd get excited when he scores? Why don’t they light up the way they used to when he has the ball? What the hell has changed so greatly about this…this…this chorus of idiots that they can’t seem to appreciate the things he does, the things he’s always done?
He’s confused. You can see how he’d be confused. It’s a confusing situation. He scores and they boo him. He writes and they sound off on the comment boards. They don’t agree with what he’s doing even though what he’s doing still has value. They didn’t always react this way. Or did they? We don’t know. Because we never heard them before. We couldn’t. Not in 1982. Not in 1992. Nary a word in 2002, either. These are reactions are new. They’re unfamiliar. They’re confusing.
But there’s a certain psychology to it, too. Humans are more compelled to react emotionally to things they disagree with, rather than those things that align with their beliefs. That’s why a comment board, for instance, may saturate itself with negativity. That’s why a consumer of that negative feedback, like Kelley for example, may find himself in the presence of those he deems idiotic. Once upon a time, he had a moat around his castle. That moat is now gone.
As mentioned earlier, Kelley has shunned Twitter. And as I stated before, this is not insignificant. In brushing off social media, Kelley has resisted the changing tide and opted to maintain a distance between himself and his audience. There’s no fault in that, but there are consequences.
One major consequence is that Kelley’s only connection to his readership is via those aforementioned comment boards, wastelands of antagonism that they are. Subjecting oneself to the opinions of those anonymous, unaccountable malcontents day in and day out borders on torturous. Wading through that cesspool of anger and ignorance on a regular basis would take its toll on even the strongest person. Kelley has been slogging through that graveyard for a few years now, and that may have impacted him. Contrast that to the pre-internet days, when the vitriol was much more limited in every sense of its being. The change is night and day.
And it doesn’t just end there. Part of social media is about inviting the world to get to know you, to better understand you, to relate to you. By failing to extend that invitation to those who may have wanted to know more about the man whose work they’d been reading, Kelley has let only his printed opinions on sports stand as the reflection of his personality. Basically, in this virtual society where everyone can be made available and where availability is the key to gaining fans (or making “friends,” earning “followers,” accruing “Likes,” receiving “Favorites,” and gaining “Retweets”), Kelley has severely limited that access. And that, in turn, has led to today, a day in which we bid adieu to one of the greatest wordsmiths in our city’s history.
It’s microcosmic, really. Kelley’s exit signifies a much larger departure from a culture of media that stood alone, apart from the layman, in its quest for knowledge and information. He carried over from a previous generation and never really seemed comfortable in the one we now reside in. He existed in this era of new media, but he never adapted to it. And that, more than anything else, probably signaled the end for Steve Kelley.
There is no right or wrong about where we go from here. Like I said before, we’re facing an uncertain future. Who decides what’s news anymore? There are average people all over the world who have been deputized as reporters without even knowing it. We, as a collective audience of consumers, have extended that power unto them. A generation ago, no one gave us that right. None of us approved Steve Kelley’s hire or decided that he would be our voice. We had it thrust upon us and we dealt with it. We were subjects to an ever-churning machine of news that was controlled by a conglomerate. But that isn’t the case anymore.
The only thing certain about the future of media, besides its relative uncertainty, is that we dictate what occurs now. Like the saying goes, the inmates are running the asylum. It may be anarchy to some. It may be heaven to others. But good or bad, agree or disagree, this is our reality. This is media’s changing landscape. This is the song that we, as one chorus of idiots, have decided to sing.
Filed under: Other Sports
Explaining the Manti Te’o Hoax Through “Saved By the Bell,” a Self-Created Fake Hot Chick Twitter Profile, and My Own Personal Life
Season One, Episode Five of Saved By the Bell. Zack Morris’s best friend, Samuel “Screech” Powers, is feeling down. Zack wants to boost Screech’s ego so he agrees to set him up on a date with a girl named Bambi. The only problem? Bambi doesn’t exist.
Unwittingly ecstatic, Screech so strongly demands a rendezvous with his newfound love interest that Zack is forced to impersonate his feminine creation. After speaking with Screech by phone, Zack adorns himself in a purple dress, trendy spectacles, and a wig and meets his nerdy, smitten counterpart at everyone’s favorite hangout, The Max.
The girl is a figment of my imagination. She is one of three stunning coeds in an image uncovered after a quick Google search. I give her a name, a biography, a persona — she’s Samantha, a recent college graduate who loves sports and has a feisty, fun-loving attitude. She will become my social experiment. I will use her to experience life as an attractive female sports fan.
She takes to Twitter. Like most social media virgins, she gets started by connecting with those she’s closest to. She “follows” her friends — me, my girlfriend, my friends, my girlfriend’s friends. We’ve already built Samantha a network of legitimate individuals. Suddenly, she has credibility. And those credible sources, over time, will vouch for this concoction of mine.
The experiment isn’t borne out of boredom or a need for entertainment. Rather, it’s prompted by those very same friends who have adopted Samantha as their own, females who have been brazenly pursued time and time again by men online. Not just average men, mind you. Thanks to their good looks and an affinity for sports, these ladies have incurred the affections of a number of upstanding college and professional athletes. Beyond commenting on sporting events, and aside from extending a “follow” to some of the men in question, these women have done absolutely nothing to draw in their pursuers. Which makes this study all the more interesting.
Samantha spreads her Twitter wings and begins to follow a number of accounts relevant to her world — news media-types, sports media-types, celebrities, local athletes. She tweets more. She banters with her “friends.” And then it happens.
One night, not a week after her account has come to life, Samantha receives a Direct Message from one of the athletes she follows, a starter on the University of Washington football team. And against all logic, seemingly oblivious to the fact that there are three girls in Samantha’s avatar photo, he bypasses introductions and writes, “Heyy do i know you, I swear u look familiar…”
The first time I ever interacted with the girl who would become my girlfriend, I was suspicious. I issued a tweet about looking for a web design expert who could revamp my website for very little money and she was the first to respond, letting me know that she would gladly pass my request onto a University of Washington department head who worked with students looking for unpaid internships.
My suspicion stemmed from her avatar picture, the only image I could view of this beautiful woman. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t think twice about interacting with anyone on Twitter. But this was different. Her photo was too glamorous. It was too clean. It had all the makings of phoniness. It looked, well, exactly like this:
We exchanged details by email and our interaction was complete. I thought nothing more of our encounter until months later, when this girl, Andrea (or dancerAL, as I had come to know her), responded to a few more of my tweets. I replied back, she re-replied, we became friends on Facebook, and eventually, days later, she suggested we go out for drinks. I jumped at the opportunity and a date was set.
Before our first meetup, I did some recon work. I scoured her Facebook page (some might call it “stalking;” I call it due diligence), I looked her up on Google, I found the reason behind her “glamour shots” (she moonlit as a Sea Gal, dancing at Seahawks games), and even discovered a video that gave me enough reason to believe this was a living, breathing, non-fake person.
We met up. We hit it off. We had a great night. She existed. She was legit. She was everything I had hoped for the moment we met on Twitter.
Manti Te’o is not a victim. He’s been embarrassed, yes, but he has not truly been “victimized.” What has happened to Te’o happens to people every single day on the internet. Only we rarely hear about it. Because most people simply don’t carry the social prominence of a standout Notre Dame football player.
If anything, Te’o may be a victim of his own celebrity. Were he not worth talking about, surely no reporter would ever have published much in the way of details about his personal life. In turn, little would ever have been known about the online relationship — a relationship Te’o led many to believe extended beyond the virtual realm — Te’o held with a young woman by the name of Lennay Kekua.
Kekua, as we found out on Wednesday, does not exist. She did not ever exist. Kekua was made up by someone, somewhere (possibly those individuals alluded to in the linked Deadspin article) as the basis of what seems to be a vicious prank played on one Manti Te’o. Te’o claimed Kekua was his girlfriend. Kekua, through her real-life proprietary liaison, may or may not have corroborated Te’o's affectionate designation of their romantic affair, but Te’o, at least, believed their relationship to be more than platonic.
For a 21-year-old college student, love can be difficult to decipher. At that age, love is often misunderstood, the heart weakened by lust and infatuation and nothing more. Who knows for sure if Manti Te’o really “loved” his imaginary girlfriend; by all accounts he was certainly taken by her. Regardless of his true emotions, when he ultimately found out he had been duped by an imposter, it had to hurt in a number of different ways. Rather than brush his misfortune off as one of life’s little mistakes, however, Te’o let his pride interfere with this crushing news and a story began to spiral out of control.
At this point, Te’o became somewhat of a victim yet again, this time as a result of his own naivety. In a digital age, answers are everywhere; it’s just up to those willing to work hard enough to go look for them. Te’o, himself, was naive enough to not seek out answers. Had he poked around a few places, as the writers at Deadspin did, he would have found inconsistencies in Kekua’s back-story. He would have seen that Kekua wasn’t really who she claimed to be. And he might have had enough evidence to convince himself that this wasn’t a relationship worth pursuing. He did none of that, though. Or at least not enough.
Te’o was further naive in thinking no one else would unearth the mysteries behind his fly-by-night love interest. That naivety, combined with Te’o's unadulterated pride, ultimately cost the NFL prospect a chunk of his dignity when the original article broke.
As Te’o said in his own statement on the matter, he has been embarrassed. In similar situations, we all would be. But most of us wouldn’t let that embarrassment live on in print by building upon its falsehood. Which Te’o did when he continued piecing together a story founded on smoke and mirrors. Someone got the best of Te’o; he was determined to keep the scam from surfacing by continuing with the lie.
This isn’t new, of course. As any late-twenty- or early-thirty-something can tell you, this used to happen EVERY SINGLE DAY on AOL Instant Messenger. It’s just that, even as teenagers, most of us were smart enough to sniff out the imposters and ignore any attempts at what some might call a hoax. We can only speculate as to why Te’o was unable to do that, but suffice it to say he might not be real great at using the internet. Frankly, if I had to choose between being pretty darn good at football and pretty darn good at the internet, I’d probably choose football. So he’s got me there.
We can learn from this. We have learned from this. And not just because Manti Te’o is involved.
Take Zack and Screech, for instance. When Zack met up with his pal under the guise of “Bambi,” he managed to weasel his way out of having to continue any hoax by talking Screech out of pursuing a relationship. Screech, for his part, was painted as the unsuspecting dope that somehow managed to see through the absurdity of Bambi’s personality enough to know that going any further with this love affair was a bad idea.
Then there’s Samantha, my fake hot chick. I never had any intention of hurting anybody. So as each subsequent request for Samantha’s attention rolled in through Direct Message and public mention, I tended to ignore my foolish suitors. I experienced something that most average guys never get to experience. I put myself in the shoes of someone completely different than me and it opened my eyes. If more people did that, well, there’d probably be less dudes making lame attempts at obtaining naked pictures from attractive females on Twitter. Because really, it looks incredibly stupid in print. Especially when you don’t know who’s on the receiving end of your request.
And then there’s me. I’ve been down the same path that Te’o ventured down, albeit with greater success. Unlike Te’o, however, I refused to let myself be fooled. I did my homework. I saved the breadth of the conversation for our initial get-together — in fact, I made it a point not to discuss anything of great importance with Andrea via social media before our first date. I made sure I wasn’t going to get screwed over, basically. And now, almost a year later, I’m happily involved with that same person I once met on Twitter.
I know what you’re thinking. How do we know for sure? All I can offer is a picture.
Filed under: Other Sports
Damn it. It’s 5:15 p.m. on January 2nd. Do you know what this means? It means all the goddamn gyms are about to fill up with a bunch of goddamn people who are committed to no more than three solid weeks of exercise before putting it all to rest for the next 341 days of the year. That’s what anyone who’s about to head to the gym has to look forward to.
Wouldn’t you know it, I’m about to go to the gym right now. And when I get there, it will be a circus. I already know this. And I’m still going. In hopes that all those usually-unmotivated-but-currently-motivated jerks who ooze around the weight room this time of year don’t show up. I will likely be disappointed. Such is life. A college-aged girl on Twitter would slap this entire rant with a big ol’ #FIRSTWORLDPROBLEMS hashtag. But that’s only semi-accurate. If the second- or third-world had to experience this crap, they’d be pissed, too. You’ve been eating McDonald’s for three decades and you’re gonna try to make up for all that by reading a magazine while you crawl on the elliptical for seven minutes? Good luck with that shit. The secret is Diet Coke, you know. Pick up six cheeseburgers and a Diet Coke and you’re good to go. Healthy eating right there. And sugar free gum. No more Bazooka. That what’s been causing all your problems. Bubble gum and orange soda.
Be honest. How many of you mailed it in in 2012 thinking the Mayans were right and the world really was going to end? Every time you were faced with a bad decision, you jokingly uttered the “It’s cool! The world’s ending soon, anyway!” caveat and everything was okay. I know. I did it, too. I feel like 2012 was the year we let it all go. I put on a little weight, I didn’t work out as often as I’d like, I wrote one article a week (maybe), I abused the crap out of Twitter…all told, it was a disaster. And I wager I’m not alone in having lived that disaster.
For most of us, 2012 was like watching an episode of Dance Moms. You spent most of your time sitting there thinking, This is dumb, I shouldn’t be doing this. And yet somehow, against all rationality, you managed to get sucked into the stupidity of it all, knowing nothing good would come of your actions, yet letting yourself be swayed anyway. We wallowed through an entire year knowing we’d likely have to pay for our laziness so long as the world didn’t end. Our out was the world ending! How is that an out? That should never be an out! I blame the Mayans. They cost us a year. Effing Mayans. Who would have thought an ancient civilization could be wrong like that?
So this is it. The latest rendition of the new year. 2013. The rebound year. The year we atone for all of 2012′s miscues. I’m good with that. I anxiously await the challenge of actually having to follow through on stuff because the world will (knock on wood) not be ending anytime soon. We might as well enjoy our time together.
You know, a lot of people like to start off each new year with predictions. They like to take wild stabs at a handful of things that might happen over the next 12 months. The Mariners might make the playoffs. The Seahawks might find their way to a Super Bowl. The Sonics might make their long-awaited return to their rightful place on the map. I certainly hope all those things happen. But I’m not about to predict their occurrence. Predictions are overrated. You’re setting yourself up for failure with predictions. And there was enough failure in 2012 to last us quite a while. Let’s not start down that rabbit hole again.
Instead, I’ll simply say this.
I hope 2013 gives us more positive local sports stories to discuss. Because 2012, for the most part, was a cesspool. Outside of the final couple months of the year, when our football teams delivered brighter talking points, anyone opining on Seattle sports spent most of the year vomiting out the same drivel each time they put fingers to keypads. Nobody wants that. Yeah, it’s fun to make jokes about Chone Figgins and the like, but only in a cruel, sadistic way. We’d all rather laugh at another city’s expense. We haven’t been able to do that much over the years. So I hope this is the year.
And with that hope in mind, I eagerly await all the passion that each and every one of you bring to the table as fans. Win or lose, it’s always great interacting with all of you. I know for me, that passion has always served as a huge motivator to write. Without the exuberance so many of you share, I would have a tough time leading myself to a text editor with any kind of regularity. Keep it up. It’s fun to be a part of, and you all deserve to be heard. Your voice is crucial in making the Seattle sports scene as venerable as it is.
With that, I encourage all of you to insert your own cliche about this being a new beginning or a fresh start or something like that in the space below. Here’s the space:
That was great. I’m glad we got to experience that together. This is an interactive article now. We’re ahead of the curve here at Seattle Sportsnet!
Cliches aside, I’m looking forward to another year with you crazy fools. Best of luck at the gym over the next few weeks, and thanks for surviving 2012 with me.
Filed under: Other Sports
I am a 28-year-old, sports-loving American male. And as such, I grew up watching a lot of TV. I realize those two things don’t necessarily go together. But ask any sports-loving American male contemporary of mine what he enjoys, and if he doesn’t say “TV,” he’s either a liar or a guy who wears full-body Under Armour out in public. We’ve all seen that guy. He grew up hitting stitched cowhide off a tee for hours on end under the watchful eye of his five-foot-six-inch father. The same father who couldn’t quite cut it as the backup second baseman on the junior college baseball team. The same father who made his kid do 500 pushups each night before bed. Wouldn’t you know it, that father turned his kid into a weirdo. And now that weirdo can’t seem to separate himself from moisture-wicking lycra. It’s a cruel world we live in.
But I digress.
The point is, I enjoy a good television show. I always have. And since I’m a kid of the ’90s, it only makes sense that I would be a big fan of sitcoms. Sitcoms are just the best. Or at least they were. Today’s sitcoms have nothing on the sitcoms of the past. A few stand out (the Modern Familys of the world, for one), but most waffle between being edgy and being funny. There was nothing edgy about the sugary sweetness of a Danny Tanner hug, the blissful calm of a Zack Morris time-out, or the teenage angst perpetually keeping Winnie Cooper at arm’s length from Kevin Arnold (for the love of God, they were supposed to be together!). All those things? They were fun. They were enjoyable. Why do we need edgy? What about a situational comedy says “edgy”? And don’t even bother to bring up all of today’s dramas. Holy crap, the kids of the 2000s are going to grow up and become the most dramatic mofos in the history of the world. All because they stare for hours at the trials and tribulations of Meredith Grey and all her friends (and some other people, too, I’m sure). Nobody needs more drama. If we really needed more drama, we could just stay at work all day. Television is supposed to be our distraction from reality. That’s why so many Americans sit and vegetate before Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Jersey Shore. Because it’s the only place we can go to get an everyday diversion. Here we are in 2012 and so-called “reality shows” are television’s break from reality. That makes no f**king sense. Everything is back-asswards. Up is blue, down is rutabaga. WE NEED MORE SITCOMS!!!
Okay. I apologize for all that. Been building up for awhile. Didn’t mean to take it out on all of you.
Anyway, among the sitcoms of yesteryear, I’ve always felt that we tend to overlook the greatness of Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper. Yeah, it only lasted five seasons (for the record, that’s still three more seasons than Davis Rules). And yeah, the only person who really survived the wreckage of the show’s cancellation was a young Raven-Symoné (though the great Don Cheadle did appear in a few early-season episodes as a friend of the title character). But come on. The show was every sports-loving kid’s dream come true. It was about basketball after all — at least in principle. And it hooked us early on with a Season One episode featuring Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin. Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin! We had their basketball cards! We knew them! They were famous! And they were on the show. That’s so totally rad!
But these are merely aesthetic details when you consider how impactful Mr. Cooper really was.
*Side note: If you’ve never seen Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, you may be waiting for me to give you the show’s synopsis. What does this look like? Wikipedia? I’m not going to give you a synopsis because that would be an inefficient use of everyone’s time. I realize I may be losing a few of you by doing this, but to learn more about Coop (that was his nickname on the show, which I now use affectionately in reference to the program as a whole), go here. Wikipedia is never wrong. Just remember, kids. If it’s on Wikipedia, IT’S TRUE! It has to be or they wouldn’t put it there. Duh. Continuing on.
What Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper really did for every sports-loving American male was prepare us for adulthood. More than any other show of its generation. And I’ll tell you why.
Look at most sitcoms of the ’80s and ’90s. They tended to center around one of two things:
1. Teenagers. Kids who were older than many of us, but who were by no means adults (ex. Saved By the Bell, The Wonder Years, Boy Meets World, etc.).
2. Families. Groups of people who usually ended up being united around a mom, a dad, or some other central figurehead (ex. Full House, Family Matters, Growing Pains, The Cosby Show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, etc.).
And then there was Mark Cooper. The main attraction on a sitcom bearing his character’s name, Coop was a single dude in his early-thirties who lived with roommates in a suburban Oakland home. Who struggled to make ends meet as a substitute teacher. Who moonlit as a high school basketball coach. Who had only recently given up the dream of playing sports for the remainder of his existence (he was an ex-Golden State Warrior, after all). Who didn’t enjoy an exciting career tending bar (Sam Malone), playing in a rock band (Jesse Katsopolis), nannying for a MILF (Tony Micelli), delivering standup comedy (Jerry Seinfeld), coaching a college football team (Hayden Fox), or pontificating over radio airwaves (Frasier Crane). Mark Cooper, you see, was who we would become. We just didn’t know it yet.
Coop embodied the essence of the reality so many of us now enjoy/endure. Maybe that’s why we forget the show. It was too similar to the very lives we lead now. Mark tried to live the dream. He failed. He barely had a backup plan. He eked by. He survived. His athletic career had fizzled. And for five years in front of us, he wandered around the purgatory of the transition period. He wasn’t married. He didn’t have kids. He infrequently had girlfriends. He owed his buddies money, he took shit from his bosses, he wisecracked his way out of trouble…HE WAS US!
Ultimately, Mark achieved a certain level of happiness. He pursued the woman of his dreams (who turned out to be his roommate, Vanessa), and got her to agree to marry him. Yeah, the show ended right there, but we have to assume they didn’t end up divorced like fifty-percent of the couples in this country. Which means Mark made it. He made it as far as most of us will make it, at least.
Fact is, we probably won’t become millionaires. We probably won’t live in expansive, three-story Victorians with members of our extended families. We probably won’t get famous — no gold records, no standup gigs in New York City, no NCAA championships. We probably won’t do any of what we had a tendency to see as kids growing up watching prime time television.
Except when it comes to Mark Cooper. He taught us everything we need to know, fellow sports-loving American males. Never forget that.
So thank you, Mr. Cooper. You’re truly one of the heroes of our generation.
Filed under: Other Sports