As we exit 2014, let's talk about what we hope stays there. Here's Deadspin's list of things that should die in the year to come.
It wasn't that long ago that I referred to College GameDay as my "favorite television show." For sure, we've collected more than 500 GameDay sign screencaps over the years, but our enthusiasm for ESPN's Saturday morning fanfest is waning, both for reasons inherent to the program itself and due to an emerging competitor on one of the Worldwide Leader's own networks.
This past season of College GameDay took a huge step backward in quality after years of the program's subtle slipping; it hasn't been fun to laugh at Lee Corso's schtick for several seasons, but other factors really made 2014 a rough year for the show, which started airing live on college campuses in 1993. Among these: a revamped and ruined theme song, a distracted host in Chris Fowler (who took Brent Musburger's job as ESPN's top college football announcer), and weak recurring gimmicks like the weekly appearance of "DJ Babi Mac." The show's growth from a fast-paced 120 minutes to a slogging three hours in length haven't helped things, and the signs haven't been good for years, either.
Of course, we'd all still watch absent a legitimate alternative. And, oddly enough, one exists—over on SEC Network, where SEC Nation goes live at 10 a.m. with a formula that closely resembles vintage GameDay. Not only has Joe Tessitore already proven himself as good a show host as Fowler, he's joined by panelists that provide, if not always more intelligent and informed, more provocative commentary than the milquetoasty Herbstreit and Howard. And SEC Nation's theme song, by Robert Randolph & The Family Band, blows "Comin' To Your City" out of the water:
You had a good run, GameDay, but it's time to hang up the mascot heads. — Tim Burke
There is a genre of YouTube videos that is particularly loathsome, created by try-hard morons who seem to think that cruelty and boorishness are the same thing as wit and humor. These people create "prank" videos that rack up millions and millions of views on YouTube, and they need to go ahead and fuck off somewhere.
Assholes email these videos to us all the time under subject lines like "Hilarious prank! Must see!" and they are always terrible. That's because nothing that happens in these videos could be classified as a "prank" by anyone who is not currently on a paste-dominant diet. See for yourself:
That's not a prank! That's just a shitty bro being skeevy and making women uncomfortable, which happens to be the theme of a lot of these stupid-ass videos. Here's one in which a guy just walks up to random girls and asks them if they'd like to have sex with him. Here's another where a guy walks up to girls and waves a fake boner in their faces. Such great pranks!
And if doing gross stuff to women isn't exactly tickling your funny bone, don't worry, because there are other "pranksters" out there who specialize in doing gross things to black people!
All of these people can go to hell, but before they do that we all need to agree to stop watching their dumb videos and allowing them to call themselves "pranksters." These guys are not pranksters. They are people who think farting in someone's face is a form of comedy that is a bit too elegant. They are the people who still think it's hilarious to draw dicks on public property. They are the assholes who will punch somebody in the nuts and then laugh and say, "Just kidding!" When these knobs were in high school, they probably spent one day getting really high and trying to think of a sweet senior prank, and while all their friends were coming up with good stoner prank ideas like "What if we put the inside of the school on the outside?" the only ones these dirt-people could muster were "Let's sexually harass some women!" and "Let's steal from people!"
We need to make these people go away. — Tom Ley
Writing about football in the South
If I were in the South, the land of insults that sound like compliments, I might say something like, "Bless your heart, it's just so sweet that you worked so hard on that football story. But maybe it's time you took a break and tried writing about something else. You know, change things up a bit." I'm not in the South anymore, though, so I can be more direct and leave it at this: Shut up.
I cannot read any more features about football in the South. For one thing, what's left to say? What has not been said? Did you know the South likes football? Did you know they take it seriously, probably too seriously? Sometimes, young lives are damaged by football. Sometimes, young lives are uplifted by football. All these themes were addressed in Friday Night Lights, which was a book ... and a TV show ... and a movie. (Don't tell me that west Texas isn't part of the South. I get it.)
Still, these features come at me, every year, always following the same formula of awe and wonder at The South and How Seriously It Takes Football, as though it were religion.
From the Washington Post this year: Where college football is a religion, and religion shapes college football
From Bleacher Report in 2013: College Football: The Pride and Joy of the South
From the New York Times in 2012: Passion Plays, College Football Rules the Land in the South
I could go on, but you get the idea. Even worse is what the subject does to writers, who suddenly submit to the urge to churn out bloated sentences of no consequence. From a Sports Illustrated feature on last year's Iron Bowl:
You get 29,000 mornings, if your life is the average length, and some of those mornings follow sleepless nights, and sometimes your head feels like broken glass, and sometimes you rise in a stumbling frenzy because every minute you spend getting ready is one more minute you're late for work.
Way to describe my life back to me like a rejected verse from Rent. This is what writing about football in the South does to writers. It makes them temporarily stupid. They get so worked up about the importance of football in the South, the game's history, the legends, and the lore that they lose sight of the fact that they're writing about a game—one that started with the very un-southern Ivy League. Set aside the whiskey and the thesaurus, take a breath, and think about all the sports stories not being reported on that could use some attention. Football down in SEC country? I might have heard that one once or twice before. — Diana Moskovitz
It's obvious that we're nowhere near the point where American sports can finally toss off the self-imposed shackles that are the various rules enforcing parity—though if new NBAPA president Michele Roberts plans to stick by her tough talk, we're maybe not as far away as many would assume—but the least we can do is stop carrying water for these billion-dollar industries and the imaginary carrot they dangle in our faces. Parity, both in theory and in practice, is bullshit.
Parity advocates would argue that American sports are so compelling because in any given year, any given team might win a championship. What they don't get is that this is only true because the mechanisms by which leagues enforce parity—the salary caps, draft system, luxury taxes, trades, salary scales, and more—ensure that no one team can get too good.
Parity is why the Thunder were punished for drafting too well and had to trade James Harden. Parity is why the 76ers have followed the tanking pit to the center of the Earth, happily scalding themselves in molten lava for the benefit of a slightly better chance at maybe possibly selecting a college prospect who might be able to dig them back to the surface. Parity is why Russell Wilson's artificially depressed contract is nearly as important as his ability to throw on the run for the Seahawks' Super Bowl hopes. The parity rules are purposely in direct opposition to individual teams' attempts to improve, and we're supposed to think that's a good thing.
And anyway, the fact that a team can go from chump to champion in a year or two should not be a mark in a league's favor. Any title that can be won by a team that has proven its mediocrity over the span of a full season or two is a shitty title. Every time a wild-card team wins the Super Bowl or World Series, the value of said title decreases a little bit.
Sure, sports are supposed to be entertainment, and the unpredictability of truly competitive playoffs is awesome if excitement is all you care about, but there should be some underlying structure to why teams win and lose. Otherwise, we're all just shouting our heads off about coin flips. The better team should win, and teams shouldn't be limited in their ability to improve.
The evils of parity are almost unending, like how the NBA's salary cap put the economic burden of team building on the players, the oft-derided "millionaires" who are supposed to take less money so that their billionaire owners can make more, but we'd be here forever listing every insidious effect of this policy. Suffice it to say, parity sucks, and it's not fair to hobble players and teams who do their job well in the misguided, often futile attempt to help teams that do their job poorly. The sooner we all admit this, the easier it will be to get rid of it. After all, if we don't demand fairness in sports, can we really say we support it at all? — Billy Haisley
National Signing Day
Every year, the NCAA makes high school athletes wait until the beginning of February to officially declare where they'll attend school. But what purpose does this bureaucratic rule really serve?
Even though most players verbally commit to schools much earlier than signing day, verbal commitments do not prevent coaches from other schools from trying to poach players. And getting constantly bombarded by recruiters is probably pretty stressful and annoying for a teenager whose mind is already made up. Allowing players to sign whenever they want would give players a realistic option for putting an end to the unwanted attention.
But giving "student-athletes" choice could come off as sacrificing power. As we know, with the NCAA, it's not about "developing young people." It's about the rules. Especially when they serve no real purpose. — Ross Benes
Performative Nick Young fandom
As far as NBA players go, Nick Young is alright. On most teams, he would get 10 minutes per game; on the Lakers, he should probably be a starter. He takes a lot of shots, scores some points, plays bad defense, and doesn't do much of anything else at all. He's average on a good day, passably bad on all others.
And yet, basketbloggers won't shut the fuck up about "Swaggy P" (an idiotic nickname that Young gave himself). These basketbloggers, ready as ever to feign enthusiasm for some middling player as a way to show themselves to be basketball connoisseurs of true discernment, have embraced Young like he's the second coming of Christ himself. They freak out over GIFs of him doing something slightly out of the ordinary, latch onto his every postgame word, and are waaaaaay too invested in his relationship with Iggy Azalea.
Left alone, Nick Young is only a smoldering ember of ridiculousness. But basketbloggers provide the oxygen to turn him into a firestorm of annoyance, where his off-the-court antics draw most of the attention, and the only time his play is mentioned is to collectively freak out when he attempts some off-balance 29-foot turnaround three with 22 seconds left on the shot clock. In 2015, I hope we pay as much attention to him as we do to Gary Neal. — Kevin Draper
There's gotta be a better word for denigrating people who have no idea of what the fuck they're talking about. "Mansplain" is a shitty word, and it's been overused to the point where it's mostly just a cheap way of telling someone they aren't entitled to have any opinion on anything. If you used it in real life, you would be greeted by nothing but the white of everyone's eyes. And if you're a man and you use this word, there's a pretty good chance you've been stricken by another thing that ought to die in 2015—thirst. — Drew Magary
This list of LeBron James's "accomplishments"
Let me preface this by saying you shouldn't read Facebook comments, ever. (This Onion article is the most accurate thing ever written on the internet.) There's a trend I've noticed on ESPN's website, though. On every article involving LeBron James, some orc comes out to post this huge laundry list of James's failures. I think ESPN's moderators are actively deleting them now, but you can find them on many posts. It's always credited to "AJ Walkin":
Credit to AJ Walkin: Please take a moment to admire the great LeBron for the special talent he is. It never gets old looking at the King's history. So many accomplishments Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan will never achieve:
1.Only player in NBA history to quit because of Air Conditioner.
2.Quit on his team the year after he promises a championship.
3.Dunked on by a high school kid then confiscates the tape.
4.Bail on the dunk contest 9 times.
5.Only able to win a ring with 2 superstars.
6.Play on same team as his moms boyfriend.
7.Average 1.8 pts in the 4th quarter of NBA finals.
8.Lose not 1, not 2, but 3 times in the Finals.
9.Host a national televised TV show to leave his team.
10.Go 2 for 18 in an NBA playoff game.
11.Get stuffed by a player under 6 feet. (Nate Robinson)
12.Flop every single game in the playoffs.
13.Choke 4 out of 5 finals games by dropping FG% by 18.
14.0 Rings if not for refs calling early fouls on Durant and Westbrook it threw them out of rhythm, made them play soft, and sit for big parts of the game which changed the flow and momentum of the finals.
Though I've only noticed it on ESPN, a search shows that it's not exclusive to there. People post it all over the place. The famed AJ Walkin apparently posted it on LeBron's Facebook page back in July, and it actually has a lost 15th item: Two bronze medals. BOOO! YOU SUCK, LEBRONZE.
See, when LeBron James won his first championship, I was slightly relieved, because that meant endlessly recycled "LeBron has no rings" jokes would go away. Of course, one wasn't good enough. Yeah, but it was a strike-shortened season. So, the Heat repeated. Yeah, but he hasn't three-peated. The Heat lost in the Finals last season, and now we're back to seeing if James can win a championship in Cleveland. Never mind that Miami was the fourth team ever to go to four consecutive Finals. James gets a laundry list of strong takes written in broken English. LeBron James is little baby girl for air cramp. His mom fuck by teammate.
I don't know if I actually want this comment to die, because at this point it's funny more than anything—like ">Tebow" in the old ESPN threads—but the people who read AJ Walkin's list and think, "Hey, he's right," are such doofuses. The sweet justice, however, is that ESPN's the site polluted with this line of thinking, because they employ the people responsible. — Samer Kalaf
Image by Jim Cooke