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Summertime, and the blogging is easy.
For me, that means writing from my apartment, a standard New York City one-bedroom small enough that one could affix a Nerf hoop to any surface in the room and, from anywhere else in the room, at least hit rim. I mention this because of a news story I read yesterday concerning Shaquille O'Neal's wife, Shaunie. Mrs. O'Neal was quoted as telling the TV show Extra that she would be in favor of her husband being traded to the Mavericks. She said this (and I quote), "while giving a tour of the family's 18-bedroom Los Angeles mansion, which she says the family has outgrown and which is now on the market for $7.5 million." Well, who can blame her? Eighteen bedrooms can be so confining. After all, what's a palatial estate if it doesn't require a map and a golf cart to get from the kitchen to the study? Maybe the O'Neals should just skip the whole house idea and buy a town. Welcome to Shaqopolis. O'Neal could make himself sheriff, thereby realizing his law enforcement fantasy. He could hire Rick Fox to tend bar down at The Big Aristotle and mandate that gas stations pump only diesel. Every small child would learn about the importance of feeding the big man (Third-grade text: "Post Entry Passes are More Fun than Ice Cream!") and music classes would teach kids how to play all types of instruments -- with the exception, of course, of the triangle. ...
On another note, Fourth of July weekend is upon us. Nice. I always thought of it as the Arnold Schwarzenegger of holidays: all pumped up, a tad incoherent and with giant lats. Wait, I meant to say that Schwarzenegger is the Fourth of July of governors: overwhelmingly patriotic, grandiose and conducive to groping. That doesn't make any sense either.
Which leads me to the theme of today's blog: pop-culture references in sportswriting. No doubt, you've encountered them as a reader. The golfer "so glamorous she is the Pam Anderson of the links." The pitcher whose start "lasted only slightly longer than Chevy Chase's talk show." Just last week in this space, a writer with a name suspiciously similar to mine compared Phil Mickelson to Cheech Marin. This guy then compared Cheech to Tiger Woods. It was a real yuckfest.
Such references may appear to the untrained eye to be merely bad one-liners meant to fill space in rambling blogs and columns, but they are not. They serve a far greater purpose. Allow me to explain.
Here at Sports Illustrated, we differentiate between two types of pop-culture references. The first we call the inclusive reference, or "the inky" for short. An example is the golfer analogy above. We know who Pam Anderson is, and so do you! Here, the idea is to connect with the reader through the shared language of mass entertainment. We try to use only the most popular movie stars, singers and public figures, so as not to confuse any of our valued readers. There is a master list of these people -- at any given time, it holds between 62-68 names -- posted in every cubicle at the SI offices. For example, Jack Nicholson is on the list. Steve Guttenberg is not. (If you're asking, "Who's Steve Guttenberg?" right now, then we've done our job.)
The second type is the exclusive reference, also known as The Dennis (in honor of Dennis Miller). These are used sparingly at SI, usually for humorous purposes, and must be vetted by a special counsel. Here, the idea is that the more esoteric a reference is, the more innately funny it is. Basically we are assuming that, while we know who Mikey Poncy is, you have no freaking idea. If, for some reason, you do recognize the reference, then we've made you feel extra special and we have bonded as reader and writer in a profound manner. Were we to see each other at a bar -- say McAleer's on 81st street (another random reference!) -- we might buy each other a draught beer, pull up a stool and revel in our shared knowledge of Mikey Poncy. You might even renew your subscription to the magazine for, say, another 19 years.
Besides connecting with readers, another reason to "drop the pop," as SI editors like to call it, is that we believe merely the mention of a star's name will draw in you, the reader -- especially when that name is placed in bold, as in done in certain columns. So, naturally, you might wonder why a sports column would be mentioning Alan Alda. Or, for that matter, Axl Rose. Or Lita Ford, John Irving, James Taylor (not to mention James "J.T." Taylor of Kool & the Gang), Don Imus, John Goodman, Joel Stein, the Road Rules cast, Jim Belushi, Dolly Parton, Will Farrell, Jay-Z, Dick Clark, William Shatner, both the MJs (Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan) or Gary Coleman.
Better yet, to really target sports fans, we've learned it is important to mention the names of women between the ages of 18-34, preferably ones who are exceptionally beautiful. Aren't you intrigued, for example, about what's rumored to have happened between Derek Jeter and Angelina Jolie? Kate Bosworth and the Canadian national hockey team? Or how about the whispers regarding Eva Mendes, Penelope Cruz, a sixty-pound vat of whipped cream and one lucky NFL punter? So are we!
So, as you see, sportswriters such as myself put an awful lot of time into our pop-culture references. It's all part of our pledge to serve you, the reader, as best we can. You can thank us later. ...
A couple notes before handing off the blogging baton to my next SI compatriot. First, a reprimand to Danny Habib, who blogged yesterday: Don't you know never to mix Kalamata olives with capers? What folly! To Josh Elliott, who blogged Wednesday, I recommend a prison break. To media mavenRichard Deitsch, I respectfully ask for you to share your five best Q&A moments that didn't make the mag. And to anyone who took the above stuff seriously -- the SI policy and list of 62 names and pretty much everything else -- I suppose for legal and professional reasons I should make it clear that I was, in fact, joking. Except about the Kate Bosworth thing.