Saved By The Bell
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
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
Life isn’t always fair. Take that photo to the left, for example. That’s a stock image of Kelly Kapowski, the prettiest girl at Bayside High School, as played by Tiffani Amber Thiessen. The picture? It was taken right around the second season of the perpetually iconic Saved By the Bell, when Kelly was a sophomore…and Thiessen, in real life, was 16 years of age. Seriously. Sixteen. Look at that picture. Think about that age. How messed up is that? Like I said, life isn’t always fair.
Much like all you horndogs who now find yourself reluctantly longing for a barely-legal (in this state, at least) Tiffani Amber Thiessen, fairness and life aren’t exactly aligning themselves for your Seattle Seahawks, either.
For starters, Wednesday brought with it a reported $21,000 financial penalty for wide receiver Golden Tate, deliverer of this perfectly legal, fantastically jarring block on Dallas Cowboys’ linebacker Sean Lee:
The only thing Tate should be fined for is supreme awesomeness. Look at Lee’s face in that action shot. Just look at it. He looks like a zombie that just got smoked out by Woody Harrelson in that one flick. No, not White Men Can’t Jump, the other one, the one about zombies. Zombieland, that’s it. Makes sense. How can you fine someone for helping take out a zombie? That’s just not right.
But that’s only one isolated example of what the Seahawks have endured of late.
In spite of their 27-7 blowout over Lee’s Cowboys on Sunday, national commentators have been discrediting the Hawks and their effort. NFL Network analyst Marshall Faulk was quoted as saying that Dallas “played down to the level of the Seahawks.” Which is completely inaccurate. The ‘Boys lost by 20. The level they were playing at was way below whatever level of futility Faulk envisions for Seattle.
And then there’s this article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Bob McGinn. Among other subtle jabs at the hometown 11, one quote from a rival scout rises above all else: “I don’t think [the Seahawks] have enough skill in the secondary to compete all night.” This same scout also believes the Packers will win by two touchdowns. I had no idea the fired scout from Moneyball caught on with an NFL team. Good for him.
It’s one thing to flat-out say you don’t like a team; it’s another to fail to do your homework on a ballclub. Anyone who has watched the Seahawks play know they don’t align with either of the aforementioned individuals’ opinions of them. An idiot could research this team on paper and form misguided impressions of the Seahawks’ ability. A much wiser person could pay witness to Seattle’s collective skill in action and see that this club is still in the process of reaching its potential.
Not that this is anything new. The Seahawks have always been looked down upon by anyone who considers themselves an “aficianado” of NFL football. Maybe it’s our relatively distant location on the map, maybe it’s the ex-college coach, perhaps it’s the unheralded budding superstars on the defensive side of the ball, or quite possibly it could be the diminutive rookie quarterback. Or it might be that we’ve never won a championship. But that’s neither here nor there. Those media guys need to stop being jerky jerkfaces. Separate the past from the present, right? Right. And regardless of the reason why they don’t like us, the fact remains that the Seahawks are better than the credit they’re receiving.
Nevertheless, the team must prove it on the field. Winning cures all ills, and amidst an evident parity shift in the league — the NFC keeps getting stronger as the AFC regresses — the time is ripe for the Hawks to seize America’s attention and earn the respect their due.
That quest for justice begins on Monday night, in front of a national television audience, against the media darling Green Bay Packers. Consider it a date with Kelly Kapowski.
Yeah, this just got weird.
Filed under: Seahawks
SBTB on romance
First of all, we give Zack Morris too much credit. Way too much. We can all agree that the man was an absolute player. If you had a vagina, he wanted to be near it. If you had breasts, he wanted to talk to you.
Throughout the course of his high school existence, Morris dated, kissed, or tried to hook up with the following cast of characters: a paraplegic, a homeless woman, an obese gossip who didn’t “look like Elle McPherson,” the captain of the cheerleading squad, his best friend’s girl, his other best friend’s little sister, his other best friend’s ex from out of the country, the school nurse, a biker chick, his girlfriend’s little sister, his immediate superior at the Malibu Sands Beach Club, a wrestler, his best friend’s adopted cousin, the school bully, a chick from USC, and a mom in Hawaii.
That’s an impressive list to say the least.
But let me ask you this. Did you ever see Morris take any of these girls past the proverbial first base? Huh? Did you? Because I did not. Which means that for all his “play,” Morris was nothing more than a glorified friend. Sex was never even hinted at with any of these women. Sure, there was some kissing here and there, some flirtatious glances, lots of hugs.
But foreplay? No.
What did Zack Morris do for all those years on television? He taught young men the world around how to make the first move…but nothing after that.
And now? Now there are guys in every corner of the globe that grew up watching this supposed master at work who can’t do anything but slap hit. They knock singles around the yard all day long. Extra base hits are out of the question. Runners in scoring position are non-existent. The collective slugging percentage of males in the 20-40 age range is lower than it should be because of Zack Freakin’ Morris. Thanks a lot, jerk.
SBTB on sports
If you go to Valley, you will lose.
If you go to Bayside, you will win.
SBTB on friendship
So long as your best friend is the star of the show, he can sabotage you, lie to you, trick you, exploit you, or take advantage of you as often as he wants and you’ll still find it in your heart to stay friends even after you’ve had your girl stolen, your business run into the ground, or photos of you in a bikini sold for profit.
SBTB on cardboard cutouts
They’re apparently really easy to get. Even if you just want a life-size paper replication of the girl you have a crush on. No problem. Store it in your closet. Do dirty things with it. Whatever.
SBTB on race relations
Race. A touchy subject, I know. But worth discussing.
Ask yourself this question: Did you ever see an Asian on SBTB? Because I didn’t. Were Asians not good enough? Who was setting the curve in the classroom without Asians? Did the Bayside badminton team ever even win a game?
Here was a production that showcased handicaps, the impoverished, and the retarded (I assume Screech was retarded). And yet we couldn’t get an Asian. Absolutely ridiculous.
I’ve been to Southern California. There are Asians everywhere. Unless they all went to Valley, this was a complete indictment on a viewer’s understanding of geography, demographics, and the law of averages. Epic fail.
Oh, and let’s not forget what SBTB taught us about black people:
If you are black and rich (Lisa Turtle), people will like you. If you are black and smart (Brian, from the “Date Auction” episode), people will think you’re a prick. No wonder it took more than a decade post-SBTB for America to land a black president. Barack Obama had to convince the entire United States that Lisa was wrong about intelligent African American males. She’s wrong, everybody! Bitch.
SBTB on the space-time continuum
If you need the world to stop for you, simply call “time out.” It almost sounds too easy. It is, however, a facet of reality.
SBTB on academics
It seems unlikely that you could score a 1502 on the SATs, get accepted into both Yale and the acclaimed Stansbury University (the Harvard of the West), help your school to a Knowledge Bowl victory, and repeatedly trick the principal into believing any number of alibis and excuses, yet still fall a credit short of graduation.
Perhaps that isn’t as pressing a question as this, however: What are the odds of you having all your classes in the same classroom with the same people all year long?
SBTB on sex appeal
If a pot-smoking movie star and a college student moonlighting as a restaurant manager show significant interest in your girl, what do you do?
Lock that sh*t up by getting married in Las Vegas before you turn 21. Duh.
After she’s had a boob job, too. (Which she most certainly did. Mosquito bites in high school, sweater pillows in college? There’s something fishy going on here.)
SBTB on your potential
You can be part of an all-girl singing group that gets discovered by a music producer.
You can model in France.
You can say no to drugs.
You can take down an oil company.
You can sneak into a club with a fake ID.
You can join the junior ROTC then quit, but not, but still never mention it ever again.
You can outwit the United States government on more than one occasion.
You can get out of detention whenever you want.
You can date Zack Morris without the use of your legs.
You can do anything in a tiny gym.
SBTB on drugs
There is a hierarchy of drugs, which is as follows (listed from least severe to most):
Marijuana -> Prescription pills -> Highlighter pens -> Cocaine -> LSD -> Whatever homemade chemical has Mr. Yuck’s face on it -> Heroin -> Speedballs -> Crystal Meth -> Caffeine pills
God forbid you ever ingest caffeine pills! Not only will they keep you up all night, they’ll make you sing songs out of key and cry, as well. This is serious business, people, I am f**king warning you! Caffeine pills are the love child of Satan and Osama bin Laden.
Filed under: Other Sports