Of the, let’s say, three jokes that I make during the pre-credit portions of Let’s Remember Some Guys episodes, the one that I like best involves hinting that the episodes are filmed either in my actual home or in the shared pastel dormitory in which all Deadspin employees live and blog. It’s not a great joke, to be honest, but you should really see the other two before making a big deal about that.
I like the joke because the Guys set is so unlike my home, which contains neither extremely large plants nor oddly oversized aquamarine chairs nor a rhomboid teal table made out of molded foam. When we arrived to shoot this episode of Let’s Remember Some Guys, our studio didn’t contain those things either. Amid the broader corporate shakeup of the last few months and an office move, the furnishings in our shared pastel living room had gone missing, and were presumed lost. (They have since been located and are safe, sound, and every bit as inexplicable as ever.) I mention all this not just to explain why the furnishings are different in this episode and why Dan McQuade and I were so downcast, but also because our initial disorientation was compounded by the cards we opened. We ripped the first of two packs of Topps American Gladiator cards that Dan bought in a haunted Philadelphia garbage mart, and these were easily the strangest product we have ever opened on Let’s Remember Some Guys. I think this is clear from the video, in which Dan and I begin with enthusiasm about American Gladiators as a program and gradually ascend into pure awe at the force of the cards in our hands.
The only competition, in terms of strange cards that we’ve Remembered on the series, were Wild Card’s Decision ’92 cards. Those cards, which I Remembered with apostate Deadspinner Nick Martin late in 2018, were about the political issues and political players in that year’s presidential election, and featured a subset dedicated to barking libertarian elf H. Ross Perot. That was a weird idea weirdly executed, but the American Gladiator pack was something else entirely—an extremely committed and extremely vividly written tribute to the syndicated competitive reality show/longform steroids advertorial American Gladiators, produced by a generally competent card company that was, if the cards are any indication, apparently going through some sort of gas leak situation at the time.
To be fair to Topps, the template for non-sports cards generally tends towards verbose overstatement; I remember building Word Power as a child by reading the backs of the company’s set of Return of the Jedi trading cards. Also, given the general way that American Gladiators was, only the most steroidal and free-associative prose would do. This is because American Gladiators was, even by the standards of syndicated sports-adjacent programming and the similarly lurid standards of American culture during the years between 1989 and 1996, just some deliriously batshit stuff.
Competitors battled each other on various goofy obstacles, boinging around on bungee cords and whacking the tremendous honeybaked gladiators with giant Q-tips and climbing walls while people named Ice and Nitro did their level best to mess them up or shot tennis balls at them out of big steel cannons. It was fun and stupid in about equal measure, and lord knows it deserved a card product that was roughly equal in that way. Topps delivered on that front beyond any expectations, and the proof is above. Our set will be back to normal in future episodes, and that’s good. I have come to love it. But I don’t believe that either Dan or I will ever really be the same.