Sometimes you need to believe the hype

Tue, Mar 2

Having endured enjoyed the one-two couch-potato weekend punch of the Winter Olympics and NFL draft combine -- question: If Tim Tebow bruises his shin at the same moment Lindsey Vonn holds a football above her shoulder, will the universe collapse and implode in a reverse Big Bang? -- I can now conclude that both pro football prospects and potential Wheaties box models have it better than you and I do. Mostly because they possess a performance-enhancing edge the rest of us lack, an unfair leg up in sports and life that has nothing to do with good genes, better work ethics or copious amounts of banned pharmaceuticals.

I'm speaking, of course, of hype men.

You know that big, burly, mustachioed dude who was yelling and growling at Bode Miller and his teammates just before they left the top-of-the-course start house? His name is Pete Lavin. And making noise -- guttural, animal-like, borderline-apocalyptic noise -- is his job. He's the U.S. ski team's hype man, an NBA pregame introduction incarnate. Lavin speaks loudly and convincingly. C'monnnnnn, Bode Miller! Skiers get pumped. Medals follow.

Likewise, NFL wannabes have a baritone ally during the combine's bench-press test: Arizona Cardinals strength and conditioning coach John Lott, a minor celebrity to anyone who's watched the combine's bench-press test on television. (Our sympathies in advance.) Lott's M.O. works something like this: Prospect lies down on bench. Grips barbell. Lott makes note of prospect's school and/or physical characteristics. Let's go, Texas! C'mon, big man! Prospect lowers weight, pushes toward sky, repeats. All the while, Lott implores him with a battle cry fit for "Braveheart," a sound that would send a hellhound running:


Muhammad Ali had a hype man (Bundini Brown). So do the Baltimore Ravens (Ray Lewis). Indeed, hype men are the great secret weapons of the sports world -- a counterintuitive proposition, given that they're hardly a secret to anyone within shouting an Atlantic Ocean's distance of their go-for-broke exhortations. Some hype men even transcend athletics: think Flavor Flav or the dudes who threw the cape over James Brown (a man whose inimitable sound was largely based in being his own hype man). No matter the arena, hype men are the straws that stir the drink, the spinach in Popeye's punch. And they're sorely lacking in everyday life. Imagine Lott at your home gym. Think you wouldn't knock the dust off the ol' Bowflex? Imagine Lavin at your office: Finish that repoorrrrrrrrrt! Ooooown that spreadsheet!

At the combine, Toby Gerhart reportedly popped 22 bench-press reps. He can keep them. And Miller can keep his medals. But as for the opportunity to have Lavin or Lott screaming in their ears, imploring them to go above and beyond? I'm totally jealous. Believe the hype.