Thursday, March 07, 2013

Stompin' Tom Connors and hoserism

Wednesday's news that legendary singer Stompin' Tom Connors had passed away at 77 is making waves across Canada, and for good reason. Yes, he was known for his odes to hockey, football and more, but his impact went well beyond that, and even beyond his songs. One of the most poignant statements he ever made came in 1978, when he returned his Juno Awards in a protest of the American-focused state of the Canadian music industry at that time; Dave Bidini has an excellent piece on just what that meant here. It wasn't a contrived or spotlight-seeking moment; indeed, after doing so, Stompin' Tom withdrew from the Canadian music scene almost completely for much of a decade. Instead, returning those awards was a natural extension of what he believed, what he sung about and what made him so important to Canada.

A Twitter hashtag I use a lot is #hoserism, and I think I can trace its origins back to Stompin' Tom. It's my version of Canadian nationalism, and it's a little different than how nationalism often shows up. I'm not out to prove that my country or my province is better than yours, or that everything Canadian's automatically better than anything from anywhere else, or even that the sports team from my country should defeat the sports team from yours (which proves so much, of course). For me, it's more about celebrating the uniqueness and the diversity of what we do have in Canada. I unashamedly like and celebrate a lot of Canadian things, from Rush to SCTV to the CFL, and I'm just fine with that, but they each have their own attractions, and it's not about yelling about how one of these things is the best level of Canadian culture and everything else is inferior. In my mind, that fits in with a lot of what Stompin' Tom wrote about. Many of his songs are about incredibly specific Canadian places, their glories and their problems, but you never really get the sense that he's trying to boost one part of the country over all others, or even that he's trying to criticize the rest of the world. Instead, he was showing off his pride in this entire country, and I think that's laudable. His "Stompin' Grounds" is a perfect example of this:

Perhaps most importantly, though, Stompin' Tom constantly fought against the idea that the only real Canadian successes were those who went and made it big south of the border. Personally, I'm fine with Canadians deciding that living in the U.S. is a better fit for their life or their career; everyone's situation is unique, and a lot of those Canadian exports have done great things for this country's profile. What Stompin' Tom really promoted was the idea that that's not the only means of success, though, that it's just fine to be focused on a Canadian audience. That's something I try to embrace personally, primarily writing about the CFL the way I do. Sure, I do some wider-audience stuff, and that's fun too, but I don't necessarily need to cover a sport that's popular worldwide to have a fulfilling career. There's no shame in liking and writing about Canadiana even if it doesn't make you a huge worldwide name. Stompin' Tom's career is absolute proof of that, and the impact he had on this country is one to be admired.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

On Michael Jordan and the value of access

Wright Thompson's ESPN The Magazine article on Michael Jordan at 50 is getting plenty of praise, and deservedly so. Thompson paints an excellent, nuanced portrait of Jordan, highlighting both how he's changed and how he hasn't since he quit playing. In order to do this, Thompson gains plenty of access to Jordan's life and his inner circle, and he uses it well: there's plenty of insight in his piece into what drives Jordan, and it's a worthy read. However, while reading it, I couldn't help but think back to an earlier magazine piece on Jordan, Brett Popplewell's December profile in Sportsnet Magazine. Both pieces are well worth your time, and they highlight different aspects of Jordan, so it's not like we have to unequivocally declare that one is better. However, if I had to choose just one piece I'd recommend to someone curious about Jordan's post-playing career, I'd go with Popplewell's. That might surprise many, as unlike Thompson's, it doesn't contain a single quote Jordan gave Popplewell.

Access has often been seen as one of the holy grails of journalism, and for good reason. It can be extremely useful to hear what players and coaches are thinking, to hear their rationale on why they made the decisions they did and to try and understand them as people. Moreover, access of the sort Thompson had can be the most valuable; spending more time with a subject than a quick interview in a locker room can be extremely useful, as can seeing how they behave at home and how they interact with friends. Some of my favourite sports books have followed these lines, spending a season around a team and portraying how they behave on and off the court; a few examples include Jack McCallum's Seven Seconds Or Less, David Halberstam's The Breaks Of The Game and one I'm currently reading, Roy Blount Jr.'s Three Bricks Shy Of A Load. In all of those cases, the authors used their access effectively to portray the teams and characters they covered in a deep way, and the books are better for it.

However, there's often a lot of value to pieces written with little or no access to their subject as well, and that's what stands out about Popplewell's piece. It's an extremely well-researched, well-written look at Jordan after his playing career, and it gets there without a single quote from the man himself. In many ways, it's better for not having Jordan speak (technically, there's one quote from him, but it's an old one from a 1992 interview). Instead, we hear about him not primarily from the friends and associates Thompson quotes, but from the Bobcats' fans who watch Jordan's team, from the buskers in his city and from Popplewell's own writing. Both articles arguably have Jordan the crazily-intense competitor at their centre, but the accounts of Jordan's behaviour in Thompson's piece are tempered by comments from his inner circle about how critics misunderstand him (particularly, his Hall of Fame speech) and by humanizing, compassionate moments from Jordan himself. Given that this is Jordan we're talking about, it leads me to wonder how much of that's real and how much of that is him applying his legendary competitiveness to "winning the profile". Thompson's piece is no hagiography, and he does a good job of revealing and illuminating Jordan's flaws as well as his strengths, but Popplewell's seems to me to give a more accurate picture of the man.

Is that a call to throw out the old pillar of access, to move all journalism to the Deadspin tagline of "Sports news without access, favor or discretion"? No, it isn't. As mentioned above, there's significant value to access, and significant value to pieces' like Thompson's. I see the takeaway here more as that you can still produce some pretty remarkable journalism with little (while Popplewell didn't interview Jordan, he did interview some people) or no access. There's a long tradition of that in journalism too, as seen in articles such as Gay Talese's famous "Frank Sinatra Has A Cold" piece in Esquire and many of the works of another Thompson, Dr. Hunter S. (whose "Fear And Loathing At The Super Bowl" in particular might be my favourite thing ever written about a sports event, despite it including very few quotes from anyone involved). In my mind, that's an inspiring message as well, one to encourage people to get writing and keep writing regardless of if they're working for Sports Illustrated, ESPN The Magazine or just their own independent blog. Not everyone can hang out in Michael Jordan's penthouse, but that doesn't have to stop you from writing something great about him.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Don't stop believing, Manti Te'o

Continuing our quest to be your number-one source of sports song parodies, here's the most appropriate (far more than some, at least) way to summarize the saga of Manti Te'o and his fake girlfriend. Is that...Journey? Why, yes, yes it is:

Just an internet girl, livin' in a made-up world
She took the midnight calls from anywhere
Just a ND boy, living in South Bend, not Detroit
He made the midnight calls goin' anywhere

A hoaxster in a online room
 A smell of pizza and pot fumes
On the phone, they can share the night
 It goes on and on and on and on

Media, waiting, up and down the boulevard
Writing profiles in the night
Te'o, deceived? Or lying just to find emotion?
Hiding, somewhere in the night.

Working hard to get his fill,
Looking for that online thrill
 Payin' anything to talk to her,
 Just one more time

Some will win, some will lose
Some were born to sing "I'm used!"
Oh, this story never ends
It goes on and on and on and on

Media, searching, up and down the online trail
Deadspin breaking bad news in the night
ESPN, playing catchup, sending in Jeremy Schaap
He'll summarize interviews in the night

Don't stop believin'
Hold on to your feelings
For fake girls

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

C'lay Travis Outkicks His Mental Coverage Once Again

Unsurprisingly, this is one of the first pictures that pops up for "Clay Travis".
The Deadspin story about Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o's oft-referenced girlfriend being illusory has spurred plenty of interesting reactions on what this means for the media, story verification procedures, his draft stock and much more. Unfortunately, it's also stirred up some of the worst detritus of the Internet. A case in point comes from C'lay Travis, who's covered college football for Deadspin, AOL FanHouse (RIP), and his current Outkick The Coverage site, plus hosts a Nashville radio show. What's Travis' take on this complicated, layered story that's still coming together? The only plausible rationale here is that Te'o is gay:
This is actually the only story that makes any sense at all. And even if it's true, Te'o will probably deny it because, unfortunately, football players aren't exactly the most welcoming of homosexuality. Otherwise, how are you the star player on a football crazy campus and having an online-only relationship with a woman you've never met? Even Tim Tebow thinks is ridiculous. If you're gay and girls are throwing themselves at you left and right but you continue to rebuff their advances, isn't one of the easiest stories to tell your teammates about why you don't hook up with any of these girls that you have a girlfriend? Even if, you know, that girlfriend isn't actually real. Couldn't being gay even make you more than willing to overlook the fact that your girlfriend didn't want to meet with you? It might be that on some subconscious level Te'o welcomed the hoax because it kept him from having to explain why he didn't have a girlfriend. Furthermore, given that Te'o is Mormon and attending a very religious school, wouldn't being gay be unacceptable to pretty much everyone around him? Having an online girlfiend is an awfully convenient cover. Again, this is just speculation and Te'o would probably deny it anyway, but it actually makes a ton more sense than any other wild theories being tossed out there, that Te'o used the online relationship as a cover for his hidden homosexuality.
To be clear, C'lay is far from the only person who's suggested this, and if this is in fact the case, there will be plenty of support for Te'o from this corner. C'lay has the dubious honour of broaching the topic in the least-tasteful, most-repugnant way possible, though. This is not "the only story that makes any sense at all". C'lay is not inside Te'o's head; he doesn't know the linebacker's motivations, he doesn't know how this apparent relationship unfolded and he certainly doesn't know Te'o's sexual preferences. So why has he come up with this speculation? Well, as seen from other parts of his piece, C'lay believes that all straight men are attracted to the same things and all men handle relationships the same way. Another choice quote:

Monday, January 07, 2013

Who do I root for? Team Grantland Rice

Tonight's BCS National Championship Game between Notre Dame and Alabama has college football fans everywhere picking sides, and for good reason. These programs both have incredible histories, and millions of fans have deep connections to them. For me, though, the first thing that comes to mind when I hear "Notre Dame football" isn't Rudy, or Joe Theismann, or Lou Holtz. It's what's probably my favourite piece of sportswriting ever, Grantland Rice's "The Four Horsemen". A selection of what makes this stand out for me:
Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army football team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds yesterday afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down on the bewildering panorama spread on the green plain below. A cyclone can't be snared. It may be surrounded, but somewhere it breaks through to keep on going. When the cyclone starts from South Bend, where the candle lights still gleam through the Indiana sycamores, those in the way must take to storm cellars at top speed. Yesterday the cyclone struck again as Notre Dame beat the Army, 13 to 7, with a set of backfield stars that ripped and crashed through a strong Army defense with more speed and power than the warring cadets could meet.
Since the publication of that piece, in the New York Herald-Tribune in 1924, a hell of a lot's changed in the sportswriting world. Plenty of those changes have been for the better; so many more people have an opportunity to write for a big audience now, whether that's through traditional outlets or non-traditional blogs, and that's led to a much greater diversity of information and perspectives than was ever available in Rice's day. I think we've partially lost something along the way too, though; especially in the traditional outlets, there's been a lot of blowback against far-flung analogies and loquacious wording. To me, that's a loss. Not everyone needs to write like Rice, one of my favourite sportswriters (unlike the site that bears his name today) and his contemporaries, but I think there's a lot to admire in what they did, and it shouldn't be so casually dismissed.

One of the main criticisms of extensive analogies like the one Rice uses here is that they trivialize real-world events (cyclones, death, destruction and the like), and that's partially fair. Yes, football (and other sports) are nowhere near close to actual battles or disasters, and they shouldn't be seen as such. From here, there's always plenty of room for analogies, though. It's like reading or watching fantasy or science fiction books or novels; you know it's not strictly reality, but that doesn't make it invalid. That's why this corner will always support brilliant efforts along those lines, such as everything ever done by Bring Your Champions, They're Our Meat. It's also behind our ongoing silliness in everything from Tebow showtunes to Lord of the Rings/CFL comparisons. Of course, they're not strictly accurate, and they don't tell the whole story, so there's always plenty of room for traditional news pieces as well. It's just worth pointing out that sometimes it can be much more enjoyable to read something where someone lets their imagination fly. Imagine if Rice had today's editors hacking and slashing the above piece of his? You'd wind up with something like this:

"Notre Dame beat Army 13-7 thanks to the efforts of four stars in front of a crowd estimated at 55,000."

And I doubt that game recap would be remembered almost 100 years later.

This touches on objectivity versus fandom a bit, but that's a complex issue that deserves more discussion of its own. Suffice it to say that from this corner, there are plenty of merits to both approaches. Root for whoever you like or don't root at all, but don't let anyone else make that decision for you. Over here, though, rather than root for Notre Dame or Alabama, I'm firmly in the corner of the sportswriters, particularly those who are willing to take a few leaps Rice-style rather than insisting on dull, just-the-facts takes on everything. That's why I'm wearing this shirt tonight; it's not an endorsement of the Irish, but an endorsement of one of their most famed chroniclers:

War Damn Sportswriting. Roll Tweets.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

When Tebow's a Jet, he's not a Jet all the way

Continuing the quest to make this the top corner of the Internet for Tim Tebow song parodies, here's the latest one that popped into my mind: a rewrite of the first part of West Side Story's "Jet Song", set last week before Rex Ryan reportedly asked Tebow to play Wildcat QB and Tebow reportedly turned him down...

REX RYAN: Against the Chargers, we need every man we got.

GREG MCELROY: Tim don't belong any more.

REX: Cut it, Alabama boy! Even if I won't let Tim start for the Jets.

MCELROY: Well, he acts like he don't wanna belong.

JEREMY KERLEY: Who wouldn't wanna belong to the Jets?!

MCELROY: Tim ain't been with us for over a season.

DUSTIN KELLER: What about the day we clobbered the Colts?

JOE MCKNIGHT: Which we couldn't have done without Tim.

KERLEY: He saved my ever-lovin' quarterback rating!

RYAN: Right! He's always come through for us and he will now.

Justin McElroy's "Tebow, The Weak-Armed Bronco"

In an effort to corner the market on Tim Tebow-themed musical compositions, here's another one! This isn't even written by me, but was brilliantly put together in a Christmas Eve series of tweets by Global's Justin McElroy (a former CIS Blog colleague). Here they are, preserved in a Storify for posterity and ease of reading:

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Wisdom Of The Internets

I normally don't advocate reading comments, but the brilliance of a few of the best ones on my 55-Yard Line piece about Tim Tebow should be preserved for posterity:

What the hell do you know about football to say that about T-Bow. He took Denver to the playoffs you idiot!! His record isnt' any good because he is NOT used!!! Remember .... Gators ..... DUH!!! Get a job Bucholtz.. you obviously know nothing about foot ball!!!
tebow was what?7&1 with a playoff win last year?bucholtz your daddies little reporter not a sports analyst.Now 7&1 doesn t mean he is the greatest but the nfl is tough ask sanchez,or does he suck too?football is a team game not some #$%$ with a tache writing alone in his wackoff lair.would he be good in cfl??i think Jacksonville would give him a shot before that happened.
I love when these little twerp sports reporters, who never played a single down of football, make fun of Tebow as if he is some sort of clown. The truth is, the typist who wrote this article doesn't like Tebow because he prays openly. It's simple. A shallow little man like Bucholtz isn't half the man Tebow is. And from the picture at the top, I don't think too many pretty girls are breaking down his door to get a date, as they seem to be with Tebow. I guess the world will always be full of shallow little men. Sigh.
What a shoddy excuse at "journalism" penned by an obviously myoptic hater with a chip on his shoulder. Back to writing obituaries, eh? Guess you're still ticked off over losing that plum job at National Enquier. What a hack.
you are a sanctimonious jerk off.
Gretzky was too small and too slow .... All he and Tebow have ever done is win ... You can expect a head from your #$%$ extractor for Christmas ... Enjoy it !!!
so does it just totally suck being canadian? is that why you wrote this bizarre little comment?
Now, back to your regularly scheduled avoidance of comment sections...

Friday, November 23, 2012


One of the stupidest things I've ever seen on television.

Friday, September 28, 2012

On The Ground: John Chidley-Hill on the Fast Break conference

Here's the third and final companion interview to this piece, with John Chidley-Hill of The Canadian Press, who helped put the Fast Break conference together. This is the one that particularly motivated me to run these separately, as John had a lot of great things to say about the conference that I wasn't able to squeeze into the story. To me, it's very important to see these kinds of conferences, and they're a terrific idea, so I wanted to make sure John's comments on them in somewhere. I got on-the-record responses from John to four questions: What was your role in putting this together? How do you think it went? Are these sorts of events useful for young journalists?How'd Jones' comments sound in person? Here's what he had to say.

What was your role in putting this together?

Nadine [Liverpool] and I are both graduates of Centennial's sports journalism program and we sit on the Program Advisory Council as alum. She brought up the idea of doing a conference for aspiring sports journalists at one of the PAC meetings and I tried my best to chip in and help. Program director Malcolm Kelly, dean Nate Horrowitz, some of the current students and a couple other alum pitched in too.

My main contribution though was inviting Julie Scott -- my boss at CP -- to be one of the panelists. I did some other stuff in the background, but really, this was Nadine's baby. She did the heavy lifting.

On The Ground: Steph Rogers on her Fast Break recap piece

Continuing the companion interviews to this piece, here's what Steph Rogers, author of the J-Source recap that got me interested in this story, had to say. I quoted the part of her recap that stood out to me, then quoted Jones' response, then asked for her side of the story. Here's what she had to say:

(I'm a little surprised that there was any issue that arose out of Chris' advice, but I nevertheless, I'll hope that the purpose of your piece isn't to crucify me.)

As a journalism student, a lot of the advice that I often hear given by people in the industry is very helpful, but also a lot of the same.

I thought Fast Break provided an extremely honest perspective from all four of the panelists as moderated by Nadine, and particularly Augustine and Jones on likability.

I'm amazed at the things I see said on Twitter, Facebook, and in the comment section of articles. Rude and malicious remarks are common practice because people feel the internet is faceless. Especially including someone's @-name on Twitter in an insult? Happens all the time.

On The Ground: ESPN/Esquire's Chris Jones on his comments at Fast Break

I wrote a pretty in-depth look at context and criticism over at Awful Announcing that was published today. Doing interviews is rewarding, but you often wind up with more material than you can use, and it would seem a particular shame to take anyone out of context in a piece about context. It's also a good chance to show those interested just how the sausage gets made. (Hilariously, the origin of that quote itself is in dispute.) Thus, continuing the On The Ground interview series, I'm using this space to post my questions and the full on-the-record responses I received. First up, my interview with Chris Jones of ESPN The Magazine/Esquire, whose comments as relayed in this piece started this whole thing. I first just asked him if there's additional context I should consider. Here's what he had to say.

Glad you're writing a piece about that night. It was fun.

I'd say, first off, make sure you read the rest of the quotes from me in that story. I think I've been really supportive of young writers and have gone out of my way to provide advice and encouragement. I believe that optimism and open-heartedness are important.

That part of the story you're talking about—and that's not a quote; that's in the writer's voice—came after Akil, one of the other panelists, talked about how your "likability" factor will play a big role in how far you go. I was agreeing with him: Journalism is a people business, built in a lot of ways on connections and relationships. You know that. It's important not only to get your job, of course—because so often, you'll get a break because someone else puts in a good word for you, which has been the case with my own career—but it's just as important once you're in this business. At both of my shops, I work closely and usually one-on-one with my editors, and if either one of us was an asshole, it wouldn't work. There has to be trust and faith and all sorts of good things there.

So if I see a young writer talking shit to veterans, about shops, just generally being cynical and miserable, I'll remember that. I'm hardly a gatekeeper, but if someone did ask me what I thought of someone, and I'd seen them acting like an asshole online, I wouldn't recommend them. (I'm not talking about thoughtful criticism here, by the way; I'm talking about being a snarky jerk, purposeless stuff.) Why would I? Who wants to work with assholes? If two writers were of equal ability, I'd pick the nice guy. The vast majority of people would. So my advice at Fast Break was: Don't be a dick. It is a bad career move. Tell me I suck and I'm an idiot and ESPN or Esquire sucks and then ask me for help getting a gig? Not going to happen. Give me a good reason why it should. This seems like common sense to me.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Casting the CFL edition of the Lord of the Rings

There's nothing like a good round of recasting TV or movies for sports, and one particular adaptation that's been in my head for a while (thanks to Twitter discussions with Jenn Annis and Matthew Scianitti) is a CFL version of The Lord of the Rings. Given that I spend far too much time thinking about the CFL and am a complete Lord of the Rings nerd, this was an obvious choice. Here's what I came up with. (Keep in mind this is all in fun, and not meant to suggest that certain teams or personalities are good or evil!)

Jim Popp/Montreal as Sauron/Mordor: If anyone deserves the title of Lord of the Rings in the CFL at the moment, Popp's a good candidate. (You can make a case for Wally Buono as well, as he actually has five Grey Cup rings to Popp's four, but Montreal's eastern geography, long string of divisional championships,  recent back-to-back Grey Cups and overarching dominance speak in favour of Popp, plus there's a better fit for Buono later on.) This would make Anthony Calvillo the famed Witch-King of Angmar, so he's probably going to keep dominating the CFL until someone puts a female quarterback up against him. Is Icebox busy? I guess she is...)

Toronto as Minas Morgul: Sure, the Argonauts aren't really on the side of the Alouettes, but the depiction of a once-proud city (Minas Ithil) that's abandoned its CFL past seems pretty apt at times, and the ruinous infighting between Shagrat and Gorbag could accurately sum up a lot of the organization's recent history. Plus, the Toronto-Hamilton rivalry seems perfect for Minas Morgul and Minas Tirith. Guess that makes you Osgiliath, Mississauga...

Monday, May 28, 2012

The SEC "Community": recasting a great comedy for college football

Community and SEC football are both great things, and as we all know, great things are great together. Also, my mind works in mysterious ways; ESPN declaring Steve Spurrier as the most-hated coach of all time surprised me, as South Carolina-era Spurrier seems to give off a Pierce Hawthorne vibe; sure, he's often annoying, grumpy and pushing others' buttons, and he's an odd fit amongst today's group of SEC coaches, but there's value to having him around and everyone just sort of ignores his terrible moments. That led to a discussion with Lisa and Eddie about recasting Community SEC-style, and it turned out to fit surprisingly well. Here's what we came up with (casting's a group effort, comments are mostly mine):

Steve Spurrier as Pierce Hawthorne: Spurrier's famed trash-talking of other schools ("You can't spell Citrus without UT," "Free Shoes University," Auburn library fires, etc) is straight out of Pierce's playbook, but both of our "villains" have their softer sides and can be crucial parts of the group at times. Plus, I can see Spurrier saying "I can't hear you over the sound of me rubbing his sword on my balls."

Derek Dooley as Jeff Winger: Much like Winger, who had to go back to community college to get his bachelor's degree and return to practicing law, people might think Dooley's more qualified than he is thanks to a certain bloodline. Winger walked into a weird situation at Greendale, and Dooley walked into a weird situation at Tennessee, replacing the infamous Lane Kiffin. Both are lawyers, both are also known for being continuously well-coiffed, and like Winger, Dooley's been known to inappropriately reference historical events (while Winger once invoked Sept. 11 to get a client off on a DUI charge, Dooley compared his team to the Germans in World War II). Both can give a pretty good speech, too. "To victory; it feels unfamiliar, but it tastes like chicken."

Will Muschamp as Troy Barnes: These two have incredible enthusiasm in common: Muschamp enjoys going "BOOM", while Troy likes bouncing around in video games and on trampolines. They also had pretty notable football playing careers, and Muschamp might just make a good dancer. "Wi-ll Muschamp in the MORNING!" "There was an episode of Happy Days where a guy LITERALLY jumped over a shark, and it was the best episode ever!"

Ole Miss (and coach Hugh Freeze) as Britta Perry: Much like Britta, Ole Miss is just the worst. It's possible to see the Rebels more concerned with the beleaguered status of gnome waiters than actually winning games, and it's very possible to see them mispronouncing "bagel". Freeze's recent overrecruitment also smacks of Britta's initial additions to the study group, and the way Freeze was involved with Michael Oher seems very Brittaesque."I want to know why these defenses are attacking us. Maybe this gridiron is their rightful land."

Vanderbilt (and coach James Franklin) as Abed Nadir: Abed is an outsider who sometimes seems above the rest of the study group and sometimes doesn't seem to fit at all; does that sound like Vanderbilt's football program to anyone else? Their presence in this conference is appropriately meta. Also, if the SEC ever descends into madness or civil war, you know Vanderbilt will be filming it. "When you guys first came in, we were as wholesome as the family in the Brady Bunch. Now we're as dysfunctional and incestuous as the cast of the Brady Bunch."

Mark Richt as Shirley Bennett: Both are generally overwhelmingly nice and outspokenly Christian, which makes them interesting fits in these cutthroat groups. I can see Richt being told at a coaches' meeting that "You're not allowed to have baking things as an identity!" Like Shirley at foosball, though, Richt's will to win can also be strong. Richt's comments on vampires and Shirley's attempts to keep Britta from one fit, too. "Oh, look. Britta brought what she believes in: nothing."

Kevin Sumlin as Annie Edison: Like Annie, Sumlin's relatively young by the standards of this group, and he's quite enthusiastic. Maybe he's also a little naive about how things work in the SEC, and the conference is sure to warp him like a Barbie in a microwave. We'll see if gifs of him become as popular, and if he's able to obtain Pegasi. "I don't want to die in a place like this. People shouldn't die in the same place as People magazines do."

Bobby Petrino as Star-Burns: Many hate them, they both left in odd ways, and dying when the meth lab in your trunk explodes is right up there with getting fired over an affair with a subordinate that was discovered following a motorcycle crash. "El Starprince" is the equivalent of Petrino's 11-2 2011, and like Star-Burns, we may not have seen the last of Petrino. "Who wants to walk my plank, huh?"

John L. Smith as Leonard: One's a 63-year-old who skydives and wants to "go get on a mountain"; the other's a man of indefinite age who swims naked, takes over the PA system, only racked up two pregnancy scares in a year and has been banned from a Denny's. As Pierce said, "Everyone hates him; that's why he's cool." Tell me you can't replace Smith with Leonard in this EDSBS piece and have it still work. I'd also watch Smith reviewing pizza. "I'm thinking about breaking into the TV game, seeing as it's apparently sticking around."

Les Miles as Chang: What's crazier: posing as a Spanish teacher or pulling off this win? Living in the vents or eating grass? A one-time Spanish professor raising an army of kids and taking over the school, or a man who tweets "Woeojuwejhdjwe" winning a SEC championship without a semblance of an offence?  It's tough to pick between them. Plus, Chang goes by "El Tigre", and Miles coaches the LSU Tigers, and both recently had their convoluted schemes crash down around them. "I did what any man would do. I faked my way into a job teaching Spanish at a community college using phrases from Sesame Street."

Mike Slive as Dean Pelton: Someone has to keep the asylums of Greendale and the SEC in minimal order, and that job falls to Pelton and Slive. They both have their own weirdness, though, and both often preside over strange rituals and ceremonies, from the STD Fair to Missouri's induction. The world would be a better place if Slive donned Pelton's outfits to visit coaches. "Just reminding you to keep any April Fool's pranks physically safe, politically balanced and racially accessible."

Nick Saban as Vice-Dean Laybourne: Saban can appear evil and manipulative at times, and like Laybourne (especially early on in his arc), it often looks like he's running the show. I imagine Saban speaks about defence the way Laybourne does about air-conditioning, and they're both known for their ability to recruit and their single-minded focus. I can also see Saban manipulating people into a war and destroying friendships along the way, as Laybourne did with Troy and Abed. "Once you're in, you're in. Air-conditioning repair will be your life."

Gary Pinkel as Dr. Ian Duncan: Duncan's a professor who gets no respect; Pinkel's a new SEC coach who gets no respect. I envision the rest of the conference reacting to Missouri exactly as Jeff reacts to Duncan in the pilot: "You can't talk to me that way! I'm a professor!" "A six-year-old girl could talk to you that way!" Both have also had their issues with DUIs, but Jeff wasn't around to save Pinkel. I'd love to see Pinkel try to rap, too.

Gene Chizik as Fat Neil: One glorious triumph (national championship/the Dungeons and Dragons episode), but everyone still picks on him anyways.

Joker Phillips as Professor Marshall Kane (Michael K. Williams' bio professor): Both Phillips and Kane are tough, serious men in difficult situations; Kane spent most of his life in prison, Phillips has spent his football head coaching career at Kentucky, which may be worse. "Something happened while I was inside: Harry Potter Legos, Star Wars Legos, complicated kits, tiny little blocks..."

Dan Mullen as Magnitude: Mullen's received a lot of attention thus far as a head coach, but his Mississippi State team hasn't really done all that much yet. Similarly, Magnitude gets a lot of attention and love over just two words.

Further suggestions for the Community-SEC crossover? Leave them in the comments, or yell at me on Twitter.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Tebow Christ Superstar Redux: The Manning Move

When I wrote a total conversion of Andrew Lloyd Webber's famed Jesus Christ Superstar rock opera about Denver Broncos' quarterback Tim Tebow, most of it fit surprisingly well. The issue, of course, was betrayal, though; while Tebow may be overhyped and overrated, it was difficult to imagine his own team turning against him, so I had to concoct a Spygatesque plot to get it to work. Truth remains stranger than fiction (a surprisingly excellent movie, by the way), however, and the Broncos have just executed a stunning betrayal of Tebow (who did manage to lead them to a playoff win over Pittsburgh before getting crushed by New England), signing Peyton Manning to take over at quarterback. To that end, I've quickly rewritten the last three songs to reflect this new reality. Here they are, with Broncos' executive vice-president John Elway (the man who got the Manning deal done) as Judas, Manning and ESPN analyst Mel Kiper (one of the most prominent Tebow critics) as Annas and Caiaphas, Roger Goodell reprising his role as Pilate, Broncos' owner Pat Bowlen as the unseen presence behind the scenes, one of my other interests making a cameo, and Tebow, of course, playing the superstar: