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Sports And Comedy, Always Secretly Intertwined

Illustration for article titled Sports And Comedy, Always Secretly Intertwined

One more Deadspin Comedy Week submission, from clever commenter AzureTexan.

When I first read that Deadspin planned not a Maudlin Drama Week nor a Special Report With Brit Hume Week but rather a Comedy Week, I chuckled, which would have been an appropriate response had the chuckle derived from anything but derision, of the kind that accompanies the knowledge that the Playboy Channel plans a Tit Week or that Cinemax plans a Somewhat Guilty-Feeling Late-Night Masturbation After Which You Make A Plate Of Nachos And Switch It To ESPN Week.

After all, given the contributions of writers who've turned the sports wing of the Fourth Estate into the comic theater of the Third Double-Wide On The Left, plus those of a dedicated band of commenters who, rather than fulfill their obligation to the billable hour, craft witty one-liners that should make the Leno staff reeeallllly want to learn how to cut-and-paste, every week is Comedy Week at Deadspin.

I look back now on my own life in sports and find a lot to laugh about. Some memories are inspired less by the moment than by the picture of the moment: There I am, fully framed in my flag-football uniform, a second-grader kneeling spread-eagle in a bright red jersey and dark brown Toughskins stained darker at the crotch. It wasn't the piss of impending terror; no, it was the piss of morning Tang.

The funny followed me into high school, manifesting itself in weird but wonderful ways. Yes, I played Texas high-school football, but the funny thing was, it really wasn't Texas high-school football. It was football that happened to be played in Texas, and there's a pretty big difference. Mine was a lower-class school in the middle of the city, and ours were games attractive primarily to those who wished to see the award-winning drill team and then leave before the third quarter, at which point, more often than not, we were comfortably behind.

We were terrible, a tragedy considering that as freshmen we'd been undefeated, 10-0, and primed for years of conquest. By junior year, however, our head coach had taken our optimism and tossed it to the ground, along with the half-smoked cigarette he always left smoldering while stating the obvious, such as "hit the hole" or "block the linebacker" (but never, strangely, "I'm going to die of emphysema within two years"). During practice on a bleak November Wednesday sandwiched between stinging defeats, our unorthodox tight end, Trent, decided he'd had enough of hopes gone to ashes. Standing at the 10-yard line, he slowly took off his uniform, pants, shoulder pads and all, and strode triumphantly from the practice field wearing only his jock strap. We had needed that guy. He was a good receiver. But god damn that was funny. And we all laughed. Didn't matter how many wind sprints. We all laughed.

And yes, there was the hilarity of the pre-game prayer, during which we beseeched the Lord God Almighty to help us in this our time of need and also to smite our opponents, especially that summabitch at tailback, but also, Hell yes, oh Lord, please protect our players and keep them from harm, as it is now November and we are down to just 21 guys on varsity, and as you know, Sweet Jesus, ain't nobody down on JV can do jack-shit.

Then to college I went, and the funny would find new ways to manifest through sports. I walked onto the D1 baseball team but quickly walked off, convinced that 92-mph fastballs would interfere with Spring Break. I was right. No way could I have hit that pitch while upside-down on a keg. Without games to play I went into sports writing, the nerd's way to stay in touch with what he could never master, and it was with the reporter's carte blanche that I recorded a hilarious array of ways to say, "Well, we lost." The football team was awful. I once asked the coach if he wanted to quit. He replied, and I quote, "Quit? Hell no. Gin is the only thing I look forward to."

I continued writing sports, careful to separate the subjective from the objective, the amusement from the point. And the point was to report, with the dryness of Phyllis Diller's crotch, the facts of the game. Protocol prevented me from cracking wise in print, but there was always something funny, always an athlete who'd forgotten his cup, so to say, and, more, always a feeling that punchlines were floating formless and gettable in the fetid post-game air, amorphous masses of satire that needed only structure, architecture, for their introduction as jokes.

Alas, dead trees had seen to it that humor should also die.

And so the home team won again. It wasn't even close.

On paper, journalism should have defeated any witty journalist, and it did. Editors, birthed from the same humorless womb that gave us Ms. Davis down at the local DMV, excised even the subtlest bit of humor, as if it were a malignant tumor that might metastasize to the Local Section, spoiling all its sober accounts of families killed in that eight-car pile-up.

It was as if humor awaited a savior, a global messiah to rescue it from the clutches of boring sports and its dull correspondents, and here we are now, at Deadspin, working these words into public view.



Early in my career, I had the privilege of playing in a fair number of media golf tournaments, the kind sponsored by a tournament site, usually a country club, just prior to its hosting a PGA event.

One year, about 45 minutes prior to tee-off, I began walking toward the practice range so as to prepare methodically for a day of duck-hooks and shanks. About midway there I saw a golf cart slowing beside me. Inside were two men, and the driver asked if I'd like a ride. It was a nice gesture, sure, but the driver looked at me as if in a show of gratitude I should have genuflected right on the spot. I really didn't know why he'd given me this look, but as I hopped onto the back of the cart, I didn't worry about it.

Standing behind them, I decided to be polite and inquire as to their provenance. I was a lowly writer, and I reckoned that this pair occupied the same occupational caste.

"So," I asked, standing on the back of the rolling cart, "where you from? What paper do you guys write for?"

In response, the driver slowly turned his head to the right. He did not look at me; rather, he looked directly at his seatmate, as if he, the seatmate, were the intermediary between a god and his flock.

Thou shalt deliver my message.

Thou shalt tell this moron who the fuck I am.

I was a young guy, barely out of college, and I could scarcely afford breakfast, let alone the indulgence of a working TV.

The seatmate turned to look at me.

"He," the seatmate said, nodding toward the driver, "is on ESPN."

Seconds later, wordless, He dropped me off at the range.

After hitting a few dozen balls, I began walking back.

My ride had left.

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