Posted: Thursday September 2, 2004 12:37PM; Updated: Thursday September 2, 2004 1:48PM
When people find out I work for Sports Illustrated, they tend to ask one of three questions: Do you know any swimsuit models? (No.) Is Barry Bonds on steroids? (Got me.) Or, Can you get me a job on the swimsuit issue? (Yes, believe it or not I can. There's a sign hanging on the front door of the SI Building that says: HELP WANTED: PROFESSIONAL OGLER. SUCCESSFUL APPLICANT WILL HAVE TWO YEARS EXPERIENCE LEERING AND WILL OWN AT LEAST ONE TANK TOP THAT SAYS "FBI: FEDERAL BIKINI INSPECTOR." Give me your resume and I'll see what I can do.)
Lately, though, I've been getting a fourth question: What's the deal with Josh Elliott?In case you missed it, Josh somewhat controversially argued for the elimination of all sports that require judging from the Olympics. It's an argument I've heard him make before--during the 2002 Winter Games figure skating controversy I seem to remember him, after several vodka-tonics at the Dublin House, saying that figure skating shouldn't be considered a sport because there's no cut-and-dried winner. He tells me he's gotten a fair amount of feedback since his last blog, which he shares in his most recent blog.
Here's my two cents: He's not too far off base. Everyone and their uncle demanding duplicate gold medals is really starting to spoil the Olympics. I'd stop short of eliminating judged sports, though. I'd just make the judging a lot simpler. Throw out all the starting values and compulsory scores and all that other junk, and have every sport be like Best in Show, where the guy who played Bobby's dad on Twin Peaks watches all the competitors then points to the one he thinks deserves to win. (Of course, you couldn't have the guy who played Bobby's dad on Twin Peaks judge every sport.) It's basically how they do things at the X Games --the judging there isn't very fancy. They just give the highest mark to the guy they think was the best. If you trust these judges enough to hire them, trust them enough to let them pick the winner. (You know what else I love about the X Games? How the athletes root for each other. It's really nice to see these guys appreciate how good their fellow competitors are instead of griping about who won and who lost. Watch and learn, South Korean gymnastics team.)
Two weeks ago I had some unkind words about fencing as a televised sport. Apparently I misunderstood a scoring rule, because the fencing community spoke out loudly and clearly. (If you see me skewered on an épée, you'll know why.) But that doesn't change the fact that it's not an enjoyable sport to watch on TV. If anything, it bolsters my argument-- if I can watch it for 25 minutes and still not know what's going on, it's probably not a good sign. It's a fine sport, just not on the tube. (But the Summer Games are filled with sports like that. The Winter Games, on the other hand, are filled with events that mix high rates of speed with ice --a recipe for excitement if I've ever heard one.)
A sign that televised poker is addictive: Lately I've found myself watching Celebrity Poker Showdown on Bravo. I stumbled upon it during the Olympics and quickly became hooked. It's a bit of a trainwreck. First of all, the word celebrity is used pretty loosely. I think one player's claim to fame was that he used to be a gaffer on Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Second, the quality of play isn't that great: lots of players folding out of turn. And finally, it's hosted by Dave Foley. What happened to this guy? He went from being one of the funniest men on earth (Kids in the Hall and News Radio, maybe the most underrated sitcom ever) to competing with Norman Chad to see who can come up with the best one-liner about the perils of playing pocket fours.
The only comparable fall from grace I've seen was a few months ago on the Food Network. (Yes, I watch the Food Network religiously. I'm not very cool, in case you haven't worked that part out yet.) Anyway, Emeril was on and he was cooking with liquor. So he had a guest sit in with the band. (Why the guy needs a band is beyond me.) That guest? Tequila apologist Sammy Hagar. Twenty years ago this guy took over frontman duties in the biggest band in the world. Now he's singing "I Can't Drive 55" to an audience of people whose motto is "I Don't Drive 55" and whose idea of a good time is clapping feverishly every time a cajun chef puts butter in something.
Quick thought from the Video Music Awards: How absurd was the introduction for Alicia Keys? First she was compared to Marvin Gaye, which was galling enough. Then she was compared to Mozart and Beethoven. Right. They played the piano, too, so I guess you can lump 'em all together.
Chris Ballard recently opined as to the best cover song. Nothing gets my goat more than an artist taking a song a superior artist wrote and adopting it as his or her own. It annoys me that people hear Downtown Train and think of Rod Stewart instead of Tom Waits. Having said that, my top five covers are: 5. Police on My Back, by The Clash (It was originally done by Eddy Grant, who's best known for his '80s classic Electric Avenue.) 4. New York Groove, by Ace Frehley 3. Every Day is Like Sunday, by 10,000 Maniacs (Morrissey was so peeved about this that he wrote a song ripping Natalie Merchant. Good to see Morrissey's mellowed with age.) 2. Sweet Child o' Mine, by Luna 1. Wild Horses, by the Sundays
Thanks for reading. Stay classy. Happy birthday Katie.
Mark Bechtel covers NASCAR for Sports Illustrated and SI.com.