|Tuesday, October 23, 2001|
Spike Jonze, Sweet Georgia Brown, & the real meaning of Keanu
By Locke Peterseim, Britannica.com
Special to ABC Sports Online
Kiss, Jefferson Airplane, the Eagles … Is this MNF or Behind the Freakin' Music?
The set-up: Dallas running back Troy Hambrick ran an end around.
The quip: "They could have end-arounded it again -- they had another guy there. It looked like the Globetrotter weave."
The read: Formed in 1926 as the Savoy Big Five by coach Abe Saperstein, the Harlem Globetrotters, as Saperstein soon renamed his team, did not start out as a "joke" basketball team. (Nor were they from Harlem, but rather Chicago.) In fact, the Globetrotters won the World Championship in 1940 and the International Cup in 1943.
But in the late '30s, sometimes finding themselves ahead of an opponent by 50 to 100 points, the Globetrotters began to goof around on the court to the amusement of fans. When the NBA began to integrate in the '50s, the Globetrotters distinguished themselves with trick shots and fancy ball-handling. They opened games with what would become their trademark pass-around to the tune of "Sweet Georgia Brown" and developed a figure-eight "weave" passing pattern. The Globetrotters also popularized both the fast break offense and the slam dunk -- the vertical slam dunk record, 12 feet, is held by Globetrotter Michael "Wild Thing" Wilson, who set the record in 2000.
By the '60s the Globetrotters had become purely comedy entertainment, featuring such players as Meadowlark Lemon and Fred "Curly" Neal and usually playing their traveling patsies, the Washington Generals. In the early '70s the Globetrotters began a 24-year winning streak of 8,829 games, which ended when they lost to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's All-Stars in 1995.
The Globetrotters were at the height of their fame in the '70s, spinning off "The Harlem Globetrotters" Saturday morning cartoon (they fought crime, natch) and the live-action "Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine," which loosed upon the world the ur-Gary Coleman, Rodney Allen Rippy. And at the end of the decade, there was yet another cartoon, "The Super Globetrotters," in which Curly Neal's character could transform into a guy with a giant basketball head. Supervillians everywhere were terrified.
|The most dangerous dribble known to man.|
The set-up: Dan Fouts noted that Dallas running back Robert Thomas injured his hand in practice last week, requiring stitches, to which Miller added, "Ripped the bone right through the hand." After Fouts cringed at the graphic description, Al Michaels chided Miller about having gone to medical school and so Miller rephrased his diagnosis.
The quip: "The metatarsal ripped right through the hand."
The read: The metatarsals are the five tubular bones that form the arch of the human … foot. The bones in the hand are the metacarpals. We're guessing Miller matriculated at one of those Caribbean medical schools where you work on your tan in the morning and then have a couple of piña coladas before physiology classes.
The set-up: Washington linebacker LaVar Arrington did a clearly premeditated flying leap onto a tackle pile after the play was blown dead, drawing an unnecessary roughness call.
The quip: "Reminds me of one of the Mexican cliff divers on 'Wide World of Sports' -- they always did the swan dive."
The read: Originating, some say, in the Hawaiian islands in the 1700s, cliff diving has become a legitimate sport, thanks in part to "Wide World of Sports" coverage. Jumping from up to 100 feet, divers hit the water at over 75 mph.
In Mexico in the '30s, young men from suburban Acapulco began daring each other to dive off the 100-foot La Quebrada cliffs into a 12-foot deep, 21-foot wide canal. Today the diving is a full-blown tourist attraction, complete with performance times and viewing fees. But even so, the practice is dangerous, sometimes resulting in broken limbs and spinal injuries, cuts from the sharp rocks, and perforated eardrums from the impact.
Other lovable tourist attractions include the Shark-Ticklers of Punta Guitarron, and That Guy on Hornos Beach Who Will Put a Jellyfish on His Head for 100 Pesos.
The set-up: On the sidelines, Melissa Stark discussed international affairs with former Dallas defensive tackle Chad Hennings, who was an Air Force fighter pilot in the Gulf War.
The quip: "How were they shoehorning Hennings into an F-16 cockpit?"
The read: Hennings was actually an A-10 Thunderbolt pilot. The F-16 Hornet is the Air Force's "sexy" fighter jet, the one you see in all the commercials and the Thunderbirds' air show routines. The A-10 (pictured right) is a low-speed, low-altitude ground support plane, which, due to its stocky body, stubby wings, and lumpy dual-engine mounts is better known as the "Warthog." The Air Force requires that prospective pilots be between 5'4" and 6'4". Which means that Dennis was right and that Chad Hennings, at 6'6", probably slouched his way through flight school and bumped his head a lot.
|"I'm a little Warthog, short and stout..."|
The set-up: Al Michaels plugged next week's MNF match-up, the Eagles at the Giants.
The quip: "I guess the big question there, Al, is Don Henley going to be able to block Michael Strahan? Strahan looked wild yesterday -- they may have to double him with Glenn Frey."
The read: The '70s California band the Eagles originally formed in 1971 as a backing group for Linda Ronstadt, but soon singer-guitarist Randy Meisner, guitarist Bernie Leadon, drummer Don Henley, and guitarist Glenn Frey were recording on their own, financed by then-neophyte manager David Geffen. With hits like "Take it Easy" and "Best of My Love," the Eagles (named after the sacred bird of Hopi mythology and because Frey thought it sounded like a gang name) quickly rose to the forefront of the '70s California laid-back outlaw country-rock movement, carrying to commercial extremes the musical ideas pioneered by Gram Parsons and the Byrds. Eventually guitarist Don Felder joined up and James Gang madman Joe Walsh replaced Leadon.
The Eagles' rustic wanderings through the New West soon gave way to nocturnal journeys through decadent Hollywood parties. Naturally there followed the requisite drug-fueled masterpiece (1976's "Hotel California"), followed by the requisite drug-fueled "creative differences" between the two lead singers, Henley and Frey. The end of the Eagles came with 1979's "The Long Run" but the '80s saw the requisite drug-fueled solo albums and the requisite drug-fueled appearances on "Miami Vice," while the '90s brought the requisite "new sobriety" and the inevitable reunion tour. Meanwhile, Henley went off and saved Walden Pond from real-estate developers and Frey appeared as a pro football coach in "Jerry Maguire." And "The Eagles Greatest Hits, Volume II" became the best-selling album of all time.
The set-up: Miller narrated a comical, animated look at the hapless Redskins' and Cowboys' offenses, complete with wacky slide whistles and cymbal crashes.
The quip: "Who did the sound effects there? It's like Spike Jones."
The read: Gen-Y neo-skatepunks might think Miller was referring to the impish Adam Spiegel, heir to the Spiegel catalog fortune, husband of Sofia Coppola, and director, under the name Spike Jonze, of wacky music videos and "Being John Malkovich." But he was talking about the original Spike Jones, the young drummer who, in the early '40s, went from session musician to genius comedy performer when he covered "Der Fuehrer's Face."
The novelty song, a literal Bronx cheer to the German chancellor which appeared in the 1943 Walt Disney short cartoon "Donald Duck in Nutziland," launched Jones' career. After that Lindley Jones, nicknamed "Spike" because his father worked on the railroad, led his City Slickers orchestra through numerous parodies of popular and classical standards, laying on a precision-tooled cacophony of cowbells, slide whistles, and sneezes. In the process Jones paved the way for "Weird Al" Yankovic. If Weird Al can step up to the plate and produce something along the lines of "Osama, I've bin Laden You Too Long," we'll call it even.
The set-up: Throughout the evening, the MNF broadcast showed clips from previous, more dramatic, Redskins-Cowboys matchups, pretending they were clips from the current game. This led the commentators to joke about the odd changes in uniforms, playing surface, and players between the clips and game on the field.
The quip: "Wow, I gotta watch closer.… It's a surrealistic pillow."
The read: In 1967 the San Francisco psychedelic rock group Jefferson Airplane recovered from the loss of seminal members Signe Anderson and Skip Spence by swiping the female singer from rival local band The Great Society. Grace Slick not only brought a swaggering sexuality to the band, she also gave them two works originally written for The Great Society: "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love." Both songs became top ten hits and Slick's first album with the Airplane, "Surrealistic Pillow," kick-started San Francisco's Summer of Love, jamming the psychedelic rock underground into the mainstream. It was Airplane's guitarist-singer Paul Kantner who went on to note that "if you remembered the '60s, you weren't really there."
Jefferson Airplane never really topped "Surrealistic Pillow," but at least they were considerate enough to neatly mark each stage of their roster changes and subsequent musical decline with new names. (Could Van Halen please report to the white courtesy phone?) The band became Jefferson Starship in 1974 (in order to reflect the much more cosmic disco era), and eventually ended up as Starship in 1984 when it occurred to the few remaining original members that there had never been anyone named "Jefferson" in the band in the first place. This very-'80s incarnation of the band (we're sure we recall Grace Slick wearing a neon headband at some point) was responsible for the mega hits "We Built This City on Rock and Roll" and "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now." Fortunately, something did stop them -- complete and utter apathy.
|The real mile-high club.|
The set-up: The broadcast featured taped bumpers starring Richard Simmons. On one occasion the Simmons clip was followed by a crowd shot of a Dallas fan in full KISS "Demon" regalia.
The quip: "From Richard to Gene."
The read: Chaim Witz, born in Israel in 1949, moved to the U.S. at the age of five. His mother, a concentration camp survivor, would later change her son's name to Gene Klein to help him "fit in." But by the early '70s "fitting in" pretty much went out the window. Gene, now going by "Simmons" and teaching high school English during the day, was playing bass in a band called Wicked Lester that he formed with guitarist Paul Stanley. Despite the can't-miss name, Wicked Lester wasn't hitting. So in 1973, after recruiting a couple more members, the boys took to a NYC club stage wearing black and white kabuki makeup and 6-inch platform boots. They had, it seemed, finally hit on something.
Four years later Kiss was the most popular band in America and Simmons' fire-breathing, blood-spitting "Demon" character was the living nightmare of parents everywhere. (Including our own, who forbid us from even looking at our cousin's Kiss magazine.) Eventually there were Kiss comic books, Kiss pinball games, and of course, the 1978 TV-movie "Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park." But once you've defeated your evil robotic doppelgangers on the small screen, what's left? The makeup came off in 1983 and went back on in 1996 for the requisite reunion tour, and in the meantime, Gene Simmons appeared on "Miami Vice" (of course), managed Liza Minnelli for a few years, and maintained a relationship with Cinemax soft-core Queen Shannon Tweed for over a decade.
None of which comes anywhere close to matching the general creepiness of Richard Simmons. Hello Dallas! You wanted the best, you got a frizzy-haired spazz jumping around in pastel shorts, cheering on the Cowboys.
The set-up: Al Michaels recollects the "dreadful" 1987 Redskins-Cowboy MNF match-up, which was a replacement players' game.
The quip: "And Keanu Reeves had a nice game that night, if I'm not mistaken."
The read: "The Replacements" was not, alas, a debauched biopic about the seminal '80s Minneapolis alt-rock band, but rather a plucky (and darn near unwatchable) tale of sports underdoggery starring Keanu Reeves as "Washington Sentinels" replacement quarterback, Shane Falco. (As good as that name is, it's not Keanu's best film moniker, which is, of course, "Johnny Utah" in the classic Patrick Swayze surfing-crime flick "Point Break.")
Keanu Reeves, whose real-life name means "cool breeze over the mountains" in Hawaiian and "mouth-breathing pretty-boy" in all other languages, was born in Beirut. Nicknamed "The Wall" (he was a hockey goalie in high school), Reeves took the nickname and ran with it; he made his way to superduperstardom by moving his face as little as possible in such hits as "Speed" and "The Matrix." Though Reeves actually acted a bit in "River's Edge" and "The Gift, he's taking the Michael Caine approach to choosing projects. In the past seven years, for every "Speed" and "Matrix" there are a half dozen VCR-cloggers like "Johnny Mnemonic," "Chain Reaction," and "The Watcher."
The set-up: Head official Ed Hochuli stepped up to give what Miller called his "six millionth penalty."
The quip: "You know Eddie Hochuli reminds me of a young Chris Pelekoudas."
The read: Major league baseball umpire Chris Pelekoudas is best remembered for having ruled a Hank Aaron home run illegal in an August, 1965, game between the Braves and the Cardinals, because he said Aaron's left foot was slightly outside the batter's box. The call meant that 11 years later Aaron's career home run record would be set at 755 instead of 756. And that 36 years later we'd have to spend hours trying to figure out how to spell both Pelekoudas and Hochuli.
The set-up: For the second week in a row, the promo for next week's MNF game featured two bobbing, battery-operated football dolls, this time gyrating on a seat on a rotating carousel at the Texas State Fair.
The quip: "Who's shooting our bumpers, Luis Buñuel?"
The read: Spanish surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel first grabbed the public's attention in 1928 when he and his pal Salvador Dali created the short film "Un Chien Andalou." Although only 17 minutes long, the non-narrative film is to this day clearly recalled by film students as "Dude, That Really Messed Up One Where the Chick's Eye Gets Sliced Open!" In fact it was really a cow eye that was slit open on camera, and it was only one of several equally weird images, but the overall effect is still disturbing enough to guarantee that "Un Chien Andalou" will never be remade starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. Buñuel went to create feature-length films with more linear, but still savagely satirical plots, such as "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" and "That Obscure Object of Desire."
Locke Peterseim is a senior editor at Britannica.com.
Research assistant: Dave Ihlenfeld
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