Welcome to Top 5 Fun Friday, a regularly-occurring blog feature where I give you a list of extremely specific pointless shit from my life no one asked for. Why? Because the internet is STILL incredibly un-fun in 2021 and I enjoy blogging. It’s Friday and these will be fun! This week’s list…
Top 5 Athlete Types I Would Be If I Had a Genie
Sometimes people ask me what my goals are for my company or my podcast, and I never really know what to say. I tend to keep my goals pretty modest because having interviewed people professionally for more than 7 years now, one thing I know in my bones is that finding interesting, meaningful ways to pass the hours every day is what makes life truly worth living. You have to find joy in the work, and fulfillment often comes after a long grind.
That’s a weird way of me telling you that when I daydream about sports stardom or celebrity or any of that other ethereal, impossible shit, it’s pretty much never about being the best in the world. That’s way too much pressure, and too many demands on my time. As it translates to sports fantasies, it’s always about niches. Finding those comfy little spots where athletes can make their mark in an interesting, unusual, and memorable way, but not be burdened with the suffocating attention that comes with being a centerpiece.
So, since there’s a metric asston of great sports on at the moment, let’s delve into what I think are the 5 most fun-looking athlete types I’d like to be if a genie were to offer me this very odd and specific prompt. Get ready to be disappointed by my anachronistic choices!
Hot shit NFL shutdown corner (bonus if I kick ass at returning punts!)
I’ve been told by several people – notably one of my best friends and no less than my own wife – that I run like a fucking dork. I don’t really have a response to this because I’m not going to engineer a new run at nearly 40 years-old, nor do I especially give a shit about looking stupid when I run. Laugh all ya’ want, me and Phoebe Buffay are going for a run in the park.
But I also know that I always wanted to be fast, and I suspect the way I run now grew out of that quixotic childhood desire. I am extremely not fast, and never will be. So, in terms of NFL Draft fetishes, I actually share something in common with noted disgusting creature from the underworld (and deceased Raiders owner) Al Davis. I used to use the same criteria when playing Madden. I’d look at these guys’ 40-yard dash times and draft whoever had the fastest one of the players available. Granted, speed had an outsized impact on Madden at the time, but still!
And I grew up absolutely loving the secondary. I adored Dennis Smith and Steve Atwater as Denver’s safeties. I was absolutely STOKED when the Broncos signed Ray Crockett as a cornerback away from Detroit. Deion Sanders didn’t so much tackle guys, but the rest of him was hypnotic. And Champ Bailey is an icon. I loved how a hot shit cornerback seemed to have preternatural instincts about receivers, quarterbacks, and his coverage teammates and could make game-changing, split second decisions based on them. God, what a cool skill to have.
And I don’t have a ton to say about this, but as long as I’m wishing to be fast, I might as well wish to be able to break off a kickass punt return while I’m at it. Everyone loves a spectacular punt return, and it took me a good five minutes to fill in the rest of this sentence because I was daydreaming about what it would be like to break one off and take it to the house. Nice.
Left-handed Specialist MLB Relief Pitcher
Baseball is currently run by a man who seems not even to like the sport over which he presides, and populated with owners, the vast majority of whom, have learned they don’t have to pursue a championship in order to maximize profits. It’s made a game that’s already old as fuck harder to like and defend. With the goal of reducing game running times, baseball has instituted a number of idiotic rule changes, one of which has rendered one of my favorite athlete types all but obsolete. And this pisses me off.
Because I LOVE the left-handed specialist. These are the guys a manager leaned on when he absolutely HAD TO get the other team’s best hitter out in a high leverage situation (only if that hitter is left-handed, of course). This guy has ONE job, and he’d better do it right, in what I consider to be akin to an NFL long snapper. The stats alone are worth it to me. The first guy I always think of when I think of a left-handed specialist is Mike Myers (not that one). The dude pitched in in 883 games for 9 different teams, but only accumulated 541.2 innings. In 2013 Joe Thatcher appeared in 72 games but had only 39.2 innings pitched. From 1991 to 2003, Jesse Orosco didn’t average more than an inning per appearance and then retired at the age of 46!
Now Major League Baseball forces a pitcher to face at least three hitters in the name of trying to limit pitching changes during an inning. To that I say pbbbbbbbbttttttt. Bring back the left-handed specialist because in my next life, that’s what I’m coming back as.
Sure, there’s a lot of pressure, but most jobs have a lot of pressure. In this case, warm up, go into the game, get the guy out (or don’t!), go sit down and maybe do it again the next day (or not!). Earn at least 6 figures for your effort. What could be better?
Narcissistic, high flying pro wrestling heel
First of all, heels have the most fun. Secondly, being a narcissistic heel gives you lots of options for character notes to play with. You can go vicious. You can go chickenshit. You can go manipulative. You can go underhanded. It’s a virtual buffet of fun acting choices. Third, similar to my desire to be a hot shit NFL cornerback, I want speed an athleticism in spades. Finally, anyone who hasn’t fantasized at least a little bit about being better-looking than they already are is an insane sociopath.
This trope goes back as far as professional wrestling itself. In the 1940s and 50s, Gorgeous George used to spray the ring down with “cologne” before matches to rid the ring of the stench of his opponent, the ref, and the crowd. In August 1992, “Sexy Boy” Shawn Michaels and “The Model” Rick Martel had a “no hitting faces” match to preserve each man’s handsome countenance.
But by far my favorite version of this character is the original incarnation of Tyler Breeze (pictured above) in NXT. He lounged on the ropes. He took a truly staggering number of selfies. He had elaborate entrances and ostentatious costumes. And here’s what set this character apart… he was fucking VICIOUS. Push Tyler Breeze too far, and he will hurt you and hurt you BAD. He looked and sounded like Derek Zoolander, but he had a nasty mean streak. Those are the best types of pro wrestling characters – the ones with layers you can play with, accentuate, hide, or reconfigure to suit any number of story types. Mmmmmm, gorgeous.
A “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” Winger
The Colorado Avalanche are the current favorites to win the Stanley Cup. Thanks to the endless and deeply stupid pissing match between Kroenke Sports and Comcast, I haven’t been able to catch many games this year. But one thing I seem to read again and again is how our captain Gabriel Landeskog doesn’t take any shit and won’t back down from anyone. That to me is so fucking cool when your captain is ready, willing, and excited to drop the gloves and take care of business.
This isn’t to take anything away from Joe Sakic who is probably the greatest professional athlete in the history of this town (yeah, I said it, don’t @me about it if you disagree), it’s just that I like my hockey gritty. And for those who don’t know, the “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” is a colloquial term indicated a player has gotten a goal, an assist, and a fight in a single game. Adam Deadmarsh is almost certainly my all-time favorite Av, and he embodied this ethos – reliable for 45 or so points a year, hard checks to anyone who crossed his path, and a bunch of kickass fights against the various thugs and punks populating the NHL.
I don’t need a scoring title or a Lady Byng. And I don’t need to be some dopey goon either. The rhythms of hockey necessitate such beautiful team play, let me be a guy who’s maybe not the first guy you think of on the team, but the guy you always think of fondly when you think of him. Remember that time Eks put Roenick on his ass with a hard check in the open ice that triggered that breakaway? Or how about when Eks beat the holy living dogshit out of Darren McCarty?
Yeah, that’s what I want.
NBA “glue guy”
NHL players are freaks. They’re goofy, they’re strange, and I seem to remember Bill Simmons or someone speculating that if the NHL didn’t exist in its current form in America, these guys who are the best in the world would still probably play hockey for like $55,000 a year. I agree with this, and anytime you see an interview with a pro hockey player, it’s easy to be endeared by them.
NBA players are often freaks of nature. They’re wildly oversized. Their athletic ability is wholly unique. And if you’ve made it to the NBA, your game, your personal life, your physical attributes, your upbringing and everything else has probably been publicly scrutinized in more excruciating detail than 99.99% of the rest of the people currently living on earth.
Those experiences are something like universal for NBA players, yet unique to each individual player. How do you form a cohesive unit and win against that backdrop? Answer: Find the “glue guy.” The guy who can relate to anyone. The guy who walks in a bunch of different social circles. The guy who knows when to speak up, and when to shut the hell up. The guy who can probably reasonably play at the 2, 3, or 4 (and fill in at the 5 or the 1 (but not both) in a dire emergency). The guy who can lock down a defense, provide a spark on offense, shoot a clutch 3 when the situation calls for it, or take it to the hole and HARD. Or at least make sure they have moderately impressive combination of those attributes in some measure.
Essentially, you need to clone Robert Horry and put him on your team. Granted there’s only one Robert Horry, but if you can’t find him, get yourself a Boris Diaw, an Aaron Afflalo, or a Tayshaun Prince. The “glue guy” is the one who gives the team a huge piece of its beating heart.