Sports and comedy don’t always have a comfortable marriage. As a rule, sports guys think they’re funnier than they really are and there’s one particular tool in the Sports Guy arsenal that I think needs to be melted down and buried. I could be talking about the incessant forced laughing that sports guys do to pump up all their bad attempts at jokes like on NFL pre-game shows. I could be talking about mis-guided skits wherein a former athlete dresses up like a woman for mild comedic effect. (I’m looking at you Larry Johnson.) I’ll save those for another day. Today I’m attacking the lazy reference.
A reference is really one of the lowest forms of comedy. Think about it. You aren’t actually saying anything funny. You’re merely trying to outsource the funny by referencing something that was once found to be universally humorous. Now, I may not be the funniest guy you know, but I think I know comedy. I don’t need to be Louis CK to decide which of his bits or TV episodes are funnier than others. I don’t have to be capable of producing Billy Madison to know — even on an expert level — at which point Adam Sandler started to lose his touch as a comedic actor and movie producer. It’s with that in mind that I think it’s time to retire the following references that sports guys use to try and be funny.
This is one of the funniest clips of all time to be sure as Suzyn Waldman’s thick Boston accent came flying out as she talked about Roger Clemens re-joining the Yankees in May of 2007. Jim Rome, Opie and Anthony and countless other radio hosts have spun pure radio gold out of this sound clip for years. I occasionally hear more casual references to it though and it doesn’t work. If you set the scene, play the clip and bask in the uncomfortability of it all, it’s a blast. When it’s sledgehammered into a conversation though, it doesn’t really work as a disjointed reference.
Yes, it was funny when it happened, but it’s over ten years old now. Allen Iverson was criticized by outgoing Philadelphia coach Larry Brown for his lack of practice on the heels of the 2001-02 Sixers being eliminated from the playoffs 3-2 by the Boston Celtics.
This rant happened by then-Colts coach Jim Mora after a loss to the San Francisco 49ers on November 25, 2001. The team was 4-6 at the time and finished the year 6-10. This clip comes up every year in the NFL when any somewhat unlikely team shows up in one of those “Playoff Picture” graphics. Usually it’s a team on the periphery of a Wild Card. Someone will do a Mora impression, laughs will occur in the studio, but is it really funny?
This one is more recent having occurred in October of 2006 after Dennis Green’s Cards lost a 20-point lead to lose to the Bears on Monday Night Football. He was mad. It built like a crescendo and he exploded. It was really funny at the time, but now, instead of saying something truly funny on the air, a sports guy will work this into their conversation and just expect people to laugh as if they are Chris Rock.
Gundy went on a hysterical tirade in November of 2007. He started off saying that he was contacted by a “mother of children.” I can remember the uncontrollable giggles that gave me. Eventually Gundy loses his mind screaming “I’m a man! I’m forty!” which made everyone so happy that this guy had become the human embodiment of the Will Ferrell “Family Dinner” character who screamed about driving a Dodge Stratus on SNL. But as time has gone on, instead of still being a funny clip that gets played from time to time, we’re barraged with a lazy reference anytime someone turns forty year old in and around a sports radio or TV show.
Those are the ones that came to mind for me. I’m sure I missed a lot that you can give me in the comments. Just remember the next time you see those former NFL’ers yukking it up in the studio on an NFL pre-game show that just because they’re pumping each other with laughs, they aren’t funny when they make some lazy reference to something else that was funny once. Don’t be fooled. Demand better.