OM117 - Cumberland vs Georgia Tech

Scientology (OM117)

The closest thing to an American secular religion is probably Scientology. Everyone loves it unanimously, we love their ads and the celebrities who do it. It is much more down to Earth than many religions, it has spaceships and volcanos, and it is much less vague than having some higher power out in the universe. He is in a DC-10! John and Ken are going to end up on a watchlist just by talking about it this much. David Miscavige is going to come and cart John away.

Ken thinks John is going to hang out with David’s wife. Ken finds her quite attractive, but John has never seen a picture of her. John drives by their house up by Lake Arrowhead all the time when he is in the neighborhood above Los Angeles where they shot all old Bonanzas. There is a mysterious bunker house that goes down 40 stories and there is a live lion, but you can’t see it from the road.

Rugby and Curling (OM117)

John is very confused by televised Rugby and doesn’t understand what is going on. He didn’t understand what was going on back when he was playing it either and he was a terrible Rugby player! His team mates thought that he was an advantage because he was big and could take punishment and they would just send him into the fray, but then they realized that he had no strategery and no understanding what to do if he ever got the ball. The game is smart, but also very physical, so you have to be smart whilst in combat, you have to be smysical [sic] and John was not any of these things, but he was just a dumb side of beef.

John likes watching downhill ski racing and he is always thrilled when it is on. He likes watching bowling, but it is not on TV very often anymore. You can watch it and feel good about yourself because you are in better shape than all these guys. He can watch Golf or Darts all afternoon and he used to watch Curling for hours late at night. Ken doesn’t like how it has gotten some hipster appeal and everyone thinks it is hilarious to pretend to like this dumb sport. They ruin everything and they are making fun of it, like ”Haha, they got brooms!” John wonders how you can not enjoy it and he feels the kinetic power of Curling so strongly. Ken loves it, too. John and Ken go to Baseball games all summer long and Ken likes it live much better than on TV, it is an outdoor experience like going to the park or on a hike.

John’s dad loved sports (OM117)

John’s dad was an enormous sports person, he was a fan of all sports, and he played sports. One time he had a heart attack on the basketball court when he was 57 years old and charging up the lane, but that was not his final heart attack and he continued to have them for 30 more years. John’s uncle Jack was an all-star end for Yale in the 1940s and was on the national superstar team. John’s dad had a hierarchy of sports with College Basketball at the top and College Football immediately beneath that. He thought that the college games were better in every way, scrappier and more engaging, but he was born in 1921 and he was a member of that world where your college was the organizing center of the rest of your life.

Jason Finn talking about sports (OM117)

Their friend Jason Finn likes to blather about sports and John told him many times that he should go down to Kairo and get himself a sports show, but he says that he is not even at the third rank of guys who can jabber about sports all day.

Fraternities (OM117)

John’s dad was a Phi Gamma Delta and he would meet those Fijis out in the world. When he was in the hospital at 87 years old, a few months before he died, John asked him to show him the secret handshake for the Fijis, but he refused. If he had shown him, then John would be at the Fiji house right now, like ”Hey brothers! Show me the trophy room!”

At one point in the late 1980s John was living in a fraternity in Ithaca. He had a friend at Cornel, showed up at Cornell without a platypus (?), and moved into the room at the fraternity where he lived for a summer while he was working as a bartender at Cornell. He bartended the reunion for the Cornell class of 1918 with great super-old-timers in straw boaters.

During reunion time all the classes were coming back, and one time there was a knock on the door where John was staying and as he opened he saw a WWII vet standing there. The vet put out his hand and John put out his hand and the vet tickled John’s palm with his middle finger and did all those things. John was startled by this weird complex thing that was happening inside his hand and the vet got startled that John didn’t reply.

The vet had offered his fraternity handshake to a snork and asked ”What are you doing here?” - ”I’m just a guy staying in the fraternity” - ”This was my room back in Odd Four” (?) He had done a serious breach and John really cow-towed, like ”I don’t even know what happened then!” The same summer John went down and found their goat because they had left their secret room unlocked. John went in there which caused a real controversy. A goat is what fraternities call their secret meeting room where they spank each other with cricket bats and where they keep all their prizes.

They have ropes, they have Geronimo’s skull, and they are doing terrible things, but that is Skull and Bones, which is not a fraternity, but a secret society. Speaking of awful influences that have way too much power in America…

American Football (OM117)

The closest thing to an American secular religion is American Football. In the words of the Will Smith movie (Concussion), football owns a day of the week that used to be Yahweh’s, but now it is the NFL’s. John was wondering whether the days of Football had passed because he thinks of his childhood, the Dallas Cowboys, America’s team, the Pittsburgh Pirates (which is a baseball team), the Pittsburgh Stealers, Mean Joe Green tossing the Coke to the kid, Cheerleaders, and calendars, but interestingly they continued to play Football after John’s childhood.

Football is still insanely huge and it is bigger than Baseball by any numbers. Ken has been made aware of it a couple of times recently when it became a political flash point: The patriotic displays, the Department of Defense buying advertising times during games, and players kneeling during the anthem to protest awful law enforcement incidents. Even the President of the United States was tweeting his support for the beloved underdog, the NFL and Ken's son has come under its corrosive power.

John says that the Baseball stadium and the Football stadium in Seattle are about the same size and take up about the same amount of ground. You could put 50.000 people in both of them, more or less, and Football sells out their 8 games a year, while baseball almost never sell out games, but there are 81 regular season Baseball games. John always thought Baseball was bigger, just because there is more of it and Ken thinks that the amount you can care about any specific game is less than zero. John feels like that for every score in a basketball game except for the last 10, which is routinely 115:111 and it should just have been 15:11.

There is this idea that the NFL, the most popular pursuit in America, is also corrosive and is really indefensible in American Life. It turns out that hitting the largest people you can find with your head until you can’t do it anymore has long-term effects. There is also a lot of money in sports. Professional sports is racially charged as well and the optics are terrible because it is often played by young kids from marginalized communities and their only way to get out is to get good enough at their sports. They don’t care what it does to their bodies before they are 30 because they need this! For some kids it actually gives a platform for the first time and the jojos who like watching them hit their heads on things do not want to hear their social concerns. It is a very delicate balancing act for the team and the commissioner.

Ken’s son being into Fantasy Football (OM117)

Ken’s son Dylan was pretty apathetic about sports for most of his life. He would take different lessons every 6 months, like Fencing, Softball, Archery and Taekwondo, and he would love each new one until it wasn’t the new one anymore. It sounds to John that he was preparing to be a Ninja, or maybe he was going to be Batman. He will go to Tibet to study all these sports for a few weeks and he will learn how to slow down his heart rate and his breathing. Then he is going to come back to wreak havoc on the criminal inner world of Seattle.

Ken never thought Football would be his son's sport of choice because there is some vague idea that it is not the socially responsible sport to watch and it is not the woke sport anymore. The thing that got him into Football was Fantasy Football, which John has never understood for a hot second. Ken thought it was for geeky sports-geek dads, like rotisserie or sabermetrics or one of these weird mathematical things that some guys like to do because there is just not enough sports.

Sports and right-wing politics are the only fields where you can just listen, you can make your car talk about it (?) all day and it won’t even be the people who matter, but other people will be like ”You know what I think the problem is this year?” During the rest of the year when there is no Football those guys call in to WSQR, like ”This is where they went wrong, you never should have traded Johnson”, which is why they have sports radio. What are you else going to do with all the hours of the day?

Fantasy Football weaponizes actual NFL Football for the spectator in the same way that you make a virus go airborne, refine cocaine into crack, or Africanize your killer bees. It becomes irresistible and lethal because by having your little stable of guys the NFL has made you care about every single game every week even if it is the worst game. The only Football people John knows are Russell Willson and Mean Joe Green. Ken’s son bought a jersey for a player on a team he has never heard of, just because it has his star running back.

Then this guy started to beat women and got bounced out of the league and Ken's son now has a jersey for the worst man in America that he payed $70 for on a team 2000 miles away from Seattle. John and Ken continue to talk about how Fantasy Football works. When Ken’s son has his phone out you might think he would be texting his girlfriend, but more often than not he is watching Jaguars - Titans, which is a terrible game.

As a result of his new-found love for Football, Ken's son asked Ken to discuss a very particular Football game from 1916. Ken and John talk directly to him for a few sentences, ”Dylan, are you out there? Are you listening? Buddy, I just want you to know that your mom and I really love you” - ”Dylan, it was really great to see you the other day, you have grown up so fast and you are taller than your dad now” - ”I don’t know why you always put your backpack next to the bench in the hall, it would actually take less energy to put it on the bench, but you don’t, you put it under the bench” - ”Your girlfriend is extremely cute, but you spend too much time with her looking at your phone and you need to spend more time paying attention to your little friend”

When John met them Dylan was looking at his phone and she was looking at him. John thought they were probably texting, but it was Sunday night and Dylan was on the clock, he had no time for canoodling. John’s 100% goal is to embarrass Dylan now going forward. He doesn’t actually listen to the show and Ken told him he would only do this episode if he listened to the last show he requested, which was the 4th Crusade, but he did not listen to it, but listened to the Pokemon one. He could not be troubled to listen to the topic he requested.

Dylan does not want to engage with adults much. He is Mr Checkout of a conversation the second that he can, like the robot cops in THX 1138. He is following you, but the second he is no longer making a profit on the deal, he will just bow out. Ken still loves him and that is why he chose this topic, but he will have to listen to 30 minutes of this before they actually get to the game.

John says that the wonderful thing about podcasts is that air time is no longer sparse and they can talk as long as they want about anything and you can go listen to something else if you don't like it.

National pastimes (OM117)

They continue to talk about some statistics about which sports is the biggest and which sports in the national pastime. It might depend which side of the Mason-Dixon line you are on. If you asked somebody in Atlanta what the national pastime is, they would say burning crosses, curling, pecan-pie eating, and NASCAR, but they must know that whole swaths of America are pretty indifferent to stock car racing. They know that the guys on NCSI who seem nice and relatable are not sitting around watching NASCAR. If you are a fish, do you know you live in water? Stock car racing is the water of the South.

Looking at the salaries of different players in different sports, the NFL sounds like it is is ripe for a socialist revolution. Ken says that it has gotten to a point where liking the NFL is like eating meat: It is essentially indefensible unless you are just going to say ”I like it too much to quit!” Not eating meat would be a very hard case to make South of the Mason-Dixon line, but maybe they haven't heard about it North of the Mason-Dixon line either and that idea only exists in San Francisco, Santa Barbara, the Lower West Side, and probably not even the Lower East Side. People know, though. The news has been telling them for decades what meat is doing to them and how the chickens are treated. Every year there are more reasons to check out of meat. The problem is that it tastes better than vegetables and Football tastes better than Golf. It is in our blood now.

John read an article in the Atlantic magazine saying that 50% of Americans believe in demonic possession, not as a metaphor, but actual demons. Was this the moment when John had his Pauline Kael ”Nobody I know voted for Nixon” realization that he does not live in the real America because he doesn’t think half of his friends believe in demonic possessions? John knew a long time ago that he doesn’t live in the real America. The second he subscribed to the Atlantic in 1998 he knew he was in a special class of snowflakes.

Homecoming, marching band (OM117)

In the early 20th century Baseball essentially had a monopoly on pro-sports. It was not the number one attended sport in America, but College Football drew so many more attendees than Baseball. Your loyalty back then was not to your city, but to your beloved Alma Mater that you would sing about in 4-part harmony. You went back every Homecoming, and you wore the sweater. Homecoming is still a dance, but it used to be actual Homecoming when you would go back to your home and see your mates.

Last night John was at a party and the topic of marching bands came up because John goes to some scintillating parties. A married couple said that they had been in marching band in High School and in College and they have met in marching band. John wanted to know more and they said that they went to homecoming to Auburn or some crazy Football school last year and they marched with the band. She was on color guard, 55 years old, but still out there spinning the flags and marching with the band at the homecoming game.

Ken’s son is playing trumpet in marching band and this is the first time he has had some kind of collective identity. Every other sport he was out in two lessons and this time he is really one of the band. Ken went to his homecoming game and sure enough, there were alumni coming back to sit with the drum circle. He has never been to a BYU homecoming, although he has been at some college homecomings, because the idea of going back to your high school and sitting with the band is foreign to him.

Soccer (OM117)

Ken does not like watching soccer, and everyone else will tell him that it is the most aesthetically beautiful, strategically complex, dense with incident game in the world and the fact that Ken doesn’t get it makes him think that it is just because he didn’t come up with it and it is too late for him. Still, he played soccer ever recess in school.

John played organized soccer all through childhood from 2nd to 7th grade on the icy soccer pitches of Alaska, the Alaska Boys Club. He was on a team called King Tut’s Hurricanes, named after the King Tux bar (?). In the 1970s every kid’s sports team was sponsored by a bar, it was just about how dirty the bar was that sponsored the team. Little kids’ soccer pictures would be up above the bar, like the owner of the bar with his 10-year olds.

For John soccer is one of the least favorite things to watch on TV because it seems interminable and for every 2 seconds of action there are 15 minutes of walking around. Every time an America complains that there is no scoring in soccer, a European will have to tell you about your lack of artistry in your soul. Should sex be all orgasm then? Yes! If we can have that, who would be against it? Soccer is 90 minutes of foreplay and they think Americans are rubes for wanting the numbers to change. They are just numbers after all. But isn’t Baseball the most intellectual of all sports?

The development of Football (OM117)

During the first decade of the 20th century the forward pass had not yet been invented and Football was a much more physical and Rugby-like game. Every player was on the ground, and people were scrapping and punching and kicking and biting for every inch. There was no modern safety equipment. You could kick the ball and a lot of the scoring came from kicking the ball. John’s uncle played in the leather-helmet-no-face-mask-era of Football.

There were 18 fatalities in 1905 nationwide, 3 in college and 15 in high school, which became one of the biggest stories in America. There were also a lot more casualties and hundreds of guys were getting terrible head injuries every week that would make them go crazy in a 7-Eleven 20 years later. It was very heated on both sides, but people didn’t want to change the game because it was tradition until Teddy Roosevelt got involved and pushed for football reforms because his son was on the Football team at Harvard. It was the same way as Trump today standing up for the anthem.

Football is incomprehensible to most of the world and even though it is hugely popular in America it is the one variety of football that has not caught on anywhere else. There are two different Rugby associations, there is soccer, there are small fan followings in Europe but they do not understand why America sits through this irritating stop-and-go form of football with more sitting around yacking than actual play.

Baseball is very popular in Latin America and Japan, but no-one in Europe or Central Asia seems to care about it or has ever heard of it. John does wander through Central Asia, asking people what their favorite Baseball team is. He is on the silk road quite, he is part of the international heroin conspiracy and he is checking product and stuff while wearing his favorite Ichiro baseball jersey. The fact that India still loves Cricket to this day makes it look like a historical accident. India got into Cricket at the right time, Japan and the Dominican Republic got into Baseball at the right time, Lithuania got into Basketball at the right time, and America has Baseball.

Football survived because of reforms and the main reform was the forward pass which didn’t exist in the early 20th century. No crying in baseball, no passing in football! Once it was legalized, coaches didn’t like to do it because they thought it was wussy stuff. This is a tough man’s game and they were not going to throw a beautiful spiral pass in their game of inches and gravel and broken teeth. The Basketball player Rick Barry threw all his free-throws underhanded and retired with the best free-throw percentage in NBA history, but it looked ridiculous and no-one would do it.

In 1916 WWI was raging in Europe, but America was still very isolationist. It was before the Flapper era and ladies all had 10 feet of hair that they kept pinned up above their heads like a Gibson Girl. The shoe fashion was those weird Witchy Shoes, Straw Boaters were popular, and the Spanish Flu was still a couple of years out until 1919.

If they did the WWII thing to John, trying to find out if he was a Nazi spy, asking ”Who plays third base for the tigers?”, John would say that he didn’t know but he would tell them all about Scrappy Doo. You can’t be too good, either, because if you actually know some Platoon player for the Orioles they will think you have studied a list. John’s answer to this challenge would be the same as his answer to every challenge: ”Shut up! Who the hell do you think you are?” - ”Oh, I recognize John Roderick’s voice from a podcast!” Ken thinks that John would end up in front of a firing squad. His strategy worked a lot better in the Grunge era than facing a WWII court marshal. ”I’m not here to answer your questions, bro!”

John dropping trou (OM117)

At a certain point during the Cumberland vs Georgia Tech game John would certainly have taken his pants down, even if he were on Georgia Tech. Mooning the crowd was one of his moves in college, but not his signature move because he had some more signature moves than that. Dropping trou was certainly in the quiver of possible responses to situations for John in a college situation when he couldn’t think of a witty remark. If John was being publicly disciplined by a football coach, or if G. Gordon Liddy came to give a speech, he was not above standing up and taking his pants down. He does an audio pants drop a couple times an episode. Ken should have a slide whistle because then John would have his bell every time he doesn’t like a joke, and Ken would have a slide whistle for every time John dropped his pants for no reason.

John Heisman (OM117)

One of the most elite Football programs in the South was the Yellow Jackets at Georgia Tech with a coach named John Heisman of Heisman Trophy fame, which John has heard about, so now he knows two Football players and one coach. Heisman coached both the Baseball team and the Basketball team. His name will live forever because the trophy will be named after him in the future and no-one will know anything about his actual accomplishments. It is a common way to become famous.

The Bunsen Burner is way more famous than any experiment Dr. Bunsen Whoever (Robert Bunsen) actually performed. Half the names we know were just people who were lucky enough to wear a new kind of sweater like Mr Cardigan. Mr Shrapnel and Mr Boycott were just in the right place at the right time. The Futurelings will sit atop their Roderick stools, laughing at John who still does not know that the Roderick stool will become the only thing for fashionable Futurelings to sit on. The stool guy had music? Did you know he had a podcast, too?

Old-timey faces (OM117)

John Heisman had that combination of a chiseled-looking and handsome face from an earlier time. They don’t make these faces anymore and the question is if it is an illusion of glasses and haircut or if our genes really changed and those 1920s jar-lines don’t exist anymore? On a photograph of a college team from 1910 a lot of the faces are faces you have never seen before because they are old-timey faces. Ken will sometimes see a throwback-guy on the bus and think he is from the 27 Yankees.

The Prince trophy (OM117)

During the week Prince died every white person had to tell you how much Prince meant to them as a sign of their wokeness and bonafides. John was awarded the Prince trophy last year for ”Funkiest White Guy” He is going to keep the trophy and be the funkiest white guy in perpetuity, which is why the Roderick stool is so famous.

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