"It's good to be in something from the ground floor, but I came in too late for that. But lately I get the feeling that I came in at the end, that the best is over." -- Tony Soprano
In the first three minutes of the greatest television show of all time, Sopranos creator David Chase establishes that the character whose eyes we watch the world through is slowly realizing "Damn, this thing of ours was a whole lot better a year ago, five years ago, 20 years ago."
And while listeners to the Jim Rome Show are probably not suffering panic attacks because of it, if you are new to his show (and by "new" I mean started really listening the last couple years), just know that the 2011 Smack-Off was yet another reminder that maybe, just maybe the best is over.
For those who may not know, I was a participant in the Smack-Off from 1998 through 2007 and won it five times. I understandably no longer have an annual invitation to participate because I work for a station that competes with the Rome affiliate in Houston, and my show almost directly overlaps with Jim's show. Therefore, I write this recap for the second year knowing full well that people reading it who love Rome will construe my running diary as "sour grapes" (not true, but an understandable snap reaction), and those who hate Rome will be figuratively standing next to me asking me to hit him again.
The ironic part of that previous paragraph is that comparatively the number of people who love or hate Rome is dwarfed in comparison to the number of people who actually listen to him, but just don't really care one way or the other about him. For better or worse, (better if you're Jim's accountant, spouse, or kids; worse if you miss the edgy, "can't miss" show from a decade ago) Jim Rome's "Jungle" now blends in with a lot of the other national talk shows.
The plucky little "people's host" who scrapped with Jim Everett, called Martina Navratilova "Martin" and deemed horse racing "a bet, not a sport," well, he now owns several racehorses.
Indeed, the best is probably over.
So with the preface that you may construe some personal bias (there really isn't much, if any), let's roll. Smack-Off, 2011. Let's see how it goes....cue "Lust for Life" by Iggy Pop....
SEGMENT 1 0:08 into the segment -- "What is up...a TREMENDOUS Smack Off Friday to you!" Before the day is done, this thing will be "tremendous" wrapped up in "phenomenal" with a drizzle of "epic" times infinity. In fact, I'm starting to feel like this may shape up to be the "best Smack-Off ever!"
Point of procedure -- every year, Jim touts whatever Smack-Off is then currently occurring on his show to be "the best one ever." I'll admit that pretty much every time I won it, I was buying in, saying to myself, "Holy cow! I'm on the verge of winning the 'Best Smack-Off Ever'...again!" But then you back away from the event for a few years like I have been forced to, you listen to a Smack-Off like last year's (the latest in a then-16 year line of "Best Smack-Off Evers"), and you realize "Hey, he keeps saying that every year!" When I heard him call the 2009 Smack-Off the best one ever, I walked into the bathroom and stared at the mirror for a good five minutes with the Paulie Walnuts "Holy shit, Carmine has no idea who I am, Johnny Sack has been playing me for a fool this whole time" look on my face. (Not really, but it's funny to think about. And any chance to embed this video in a post...
...well, that's not such a bad thing.)
0:11 into the segment -- Rome asks "Stash," who I'm guessing is his engineer Alvin, to "hit [him] right now with it." And "it" is a string of soundbites of various people screaming "YEAH!" which I guess has become a staple on the show, something called a "Quad Yeah" or "Deca Yeah." To be clear, if Rome wants to play campy bites like this, it's obviously his show and he can do what he wants. It's just funny that these are the exact elements he used to openly mock on his show not that long ago. Of course, he used to openly mock UFC and this year (see photo) they sponsored his booth on Radio Row at the Super Bowl. Honestly, as long as he doesn't beat us over the head with the "Deca Yeah" it's really pretty harmless, I guess.
0:31 -- ...um, another "Deca Yeah"
0:40 -- ...and he "needs" another "Deca Yeah"...oh well. Head beaten.
1:01 -- The Smack-Off now has a sponsor, and it's BRUT, the aftershave, which I didn't even know still existed. I thought Joe Namath took that product to the grave with him. And if it does still exist, should it not always be referred to as "BRUT by Faberge?" Has BRUT really earned "first name only" status like Michael, Larry, Magic, or Snooki? Anyway, business is apparently still good enough at BRUT for them either to send the winner of this shindig to Las Vegas for an MMA event or to provide a tailgate party out the back of an RV at a sporting event of the winner's choosing.
So while the Smack-Off product has gotten steadily worse, the payoff has gotten exponentially better for the players -- are we sure that David Stern isn't secretly running Premiere Radio Networks? For the record, my total winnings for five Smack-Off titles was a pair of tickets to a boxing match in Las Vegas in 2007 that was taking place around 24 hours after I won the title, which means I would have had to find a flight, a hotel, feed myself and probably lose at least a grand playing blackjack. So basically, the prize was an invoice for about three grand disguised as boxing tickets. Hopefully, when the new blood in the Jungle goes to collectively bargain with Jim in, say, 2013, they remember the veterans like me who paved the way.
1:37 -- Here comes the part where Jim lays out the origin of the event, and the thought process behind it by saying, "Our thinking has long been, if we could eliminate the caller, etc. etc."...so for yet another year, no mention of Rome's former producer, Travis Rodgers, to whom Rome himself gave credit for inventing the event for as long as Travis was in his employ. Now it is an event that mysteriously just sort of materialized with no real knowledge of a specific origin point. Honestly, other than either insecurity or ego (or both), I have no idea why Jim would have a problem mentioning that it was Travis's idea. It's like one of your kids asking how baseball was invented and instead of starting with Abner Doubleday, you answer by saying that "some guys got together with some bats and some gloves and some bases and decided to start playing baseball."
3:06 -- Time for the rules! And they go like this:
-- It is invite only. Qualifications for invite: A phone, some wit and some spare time. Like a SHITLOAD of spare time.
-- Previous winners are guaranteed a lifetime exemption. Which technically means nobody arranged a funeral, sent flowers, nor eulogized me when my "life" apparently ended back in 2007. So you can all go fuck yourselves.
-- Just because you're invited does not guarantee you'll get on the air. But you will receive a copy of the home edition of the Smack-Off to play with your friends and neighbors, and you'll get a "PENTA YEAH!" ribbon in the mail!
-- There is no time limit on your call. There needs to be. Way too many people going five or six minutes.
-- The decisions will be made by the XR4TI crew. That's Rome-speak for the workers on his show, four in all. The scoring system is clandestine, subjective and haphazard, but it's woven into the fabric and tradition of the event...which, at the rate the show is going, means we're maybe two years removed from Jim throwing it over to Ryan Seacrest after each call to remind us to text "VOTE" to 37171 if we liked "Brad in Corona's" phone call.
5:25 -- Rome: "Did you tailgate? Did you take the day off?" The funny thing is that the local Rome affiliate here used to have a Smack-Off party that packed local sports bars. And now...they...don't.
5:35 -- Another "HEXA YEAH." Sigh.
6:00 -- Rome begins an introduction of the first caller (cue Rome saying "attempting to go wire to wire"), and it's a former champion! Jeff in Richmond, who won it in 2002. Since then, he has taken the phrase "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" to a whole new level by repeating practically verbatim the same call each year. It actually makes me wonder -- how has he only won it once? Anyway, new gimmick this year -- Rome is playing 15-second vignettes from years past for each participant. Nothing like taking up even more actual Smack-Off time with something that adds nothing to the bottom line ("DOUBLE DECA YEAH!").
7:03 -- Jeff starts in on his call, and the streak is still alive -- Jeff is using the same script this year. By now, that thing must look like an old treasure map, all discolored with burnt edges, coffee stains and WWE catchphrases. The only way to endure the redundancy is to actually start counting the number of said catchphrases (and, if you enjoy alcohol poisoning, drinking for each catchphrase). Here's what I came up with during Jeff's call. He channeled:
-- The Rock (two actually -- "the millions, and MILLIONS" and "FINALLY...") -- Ric Flair (two for him, too -- "dirtiest player in the game" and "learn to love it") -- Jim Ross ("business is about to pick up") -- Booker T ("two time, two time") -- Chris Jericho ("Never...EVER") -- Bret Hart ("best there is, best there was, best there ever will be") -- Hulk Hogan ("Whatcha gonna do?")
He also mixes a Bible Belt-style tongue lashing for Viagra commercials and athletes knocking up their unmarried girlfriends, concubines and skanks. Although he makes the egregious error of shortchanging Antonio Cromartie with seven kids by five women. Everyone knows it's nine kids by eight women, Jeff! Recognize the back of Cro's "fertilization baseball card," fool! In the sport of procreation, saying Cromartie has seven by five is like saying that no one will ever break Joe DiMaggio's THIRTY-NINE game hitting streak.
I'd have run him for that alone.
Babbles on and on about a whole lot of nothing, yadda yadda, WWE catchphrase..."Jim, thank you for your TIME, Aloha means goodbye, GOOD NIGHT NOW!!" I mean literally, practically the same call as he's made every year. As recently as five years ago, Rome would have lambasted him after the call and told him to freshen up his act. Ten years ago, Jeff never would have gotten out of the starting gate.
In fact, he didn't get out of the gate. In 2000, he got run because I predicted exactly what he would do, and in the next call...well listen, it's worth it. In fact, listen to the 2000 call before you listen to Jim's 2011 reaction. The contrast is depressing for those who loved the show a decade ago.
Okay, ready? Now Jim's 2011 reaction to the same call Jeff has made for eleven years now....
12:19 -- "Jeff is back!"..."The 2000 champ! (sic)"...."That's how you do it!"...."Love that!"...."Bar is set HIGH!"..."Goes without saying, that's a racked telephone call!"...."Will that be enough to win it?"..."We're off an running"...
Yes. With a club foot and a shredded knee, but we are indeed off and running. SEGMENT 2 0:02 -- Here come the e-mails. And predictably, according to Rome, everyone thinks Jeff in Richmond killed it. Of course, Rome could just as easily be reading e-mails from 2002.
2:00 -- Next caller up is Dan in DC, who is one of a handful of former Smack-Off participants to parlay his participation into a career in radio, his being a brief stint with Rome as part of his writing staff in the early 2000's (back then, the radio equivalent of a "ten-day contract with a decent NBA team"). I've always been a fan of Dan in DC, let's see what he has...
-- A crack right out of the shoot on Gloria James, LeBron's valet-beating mother, comparing her to Mel Gibson. That's good.
-- Dan then starts in on what the theme of the day will be (and typically is on Smack-Off day) -- caller-on-caller violence. Nothing real creative here, though. Vic in NoCal is annoying, Jay Mohr is fat, Joe in the OC has a high voice, Terrance needs an oxygen tank, Trapper is boring.
-- He gets in a shot on Ben Roethlisberger and women's hoops, ending a call that won't win, but also won't finish lower than seventh. If the Smack-Off were third-and-four, Dan just threw a quick slant for six yards. He lives to fight another day, but unless you have a heavyweight Smack-Off rep, you need a flea flicker bomb to win the thing. Rome shouldn't be blown away by this call.
6:38 -- Rome: "STRONG PHONE CALL, REALLY STRONG PHONE CALL"..."that was about as good a Smack-Off call as he's made (not true, by the way)"...."are you scoring at home?"
Jim also reminds us here that you "get more room" (JR-speak for "You'll get more time") if you call early. If you call later, you won't get as much time. Remember that.
SEGMENT 3 0:05 -- As if it weren't over after Jeff in Richmond's call, now it's REALLY OVER! Dan in DC just knocked the earth off of its axis, according to three random e-mailers!
2:06 -- Next up is Trapper in Dana Point, who went from literally being homeless a few years ago to being a district attorney in Orange County somewhere. Great redemption story. His call typically is a mix of politics, reminders that he's Trapper and you're not, and some Springsteen quotes. It's harmless enough, and a necessary part of the Smack-Off card, kind of like the European Title match on an old school WWE card.
6:25 -- Of course once Trapper finished, Rome sold it like Trapper might win the thing -- "Three for three! Three strong calls!" Rome's shilling for how awesome the first hour of his show is will become even funnier when the final Top Ten is announced at the end of the show and two of these three calls are two of the only three calls to not make the top ten. Fact.
7:15 -- Jim teases Jay Mohr coming up in the next segment, which is smart since the average radio listener actually knows who he is. Countdown to this being touted as the "best Smack-Off ever" -- 45 minutes and counting down.....
SEGMENT 4 0:30 -- Rome goes through Jay Mohr's resume -- "Professional comedian, movie star, TV star, Jungle guest host, has worked alongside Tom Cruise, Jennifer Aniston, Matt Damon..." -- which only serves to shed light on how silly it is that he finishes sixth or seventh every year. His call is always the best one, in my opinion.
1:00 -- Jay Mohr goes into his call with the tried and true approach -- pointing out that he's a star and none of us are. He tells Dan in DC that he's "never heard of [him]." Then Jay proceeds to lay a beatdown on Vic in NoCal that should have sent Vic's loved ones scrambling for dental records to identify his remains. I could list all of the various gut shots that Jay landed on Vic, but this one sums it up best -- "Vic, I am a ticket seller, you are a ticket buyer." Pretty much.
SEGMENT 5 0:24 -- Rome: "One of the most compelling first hours of a Smack-Off we've ever had." Not sure what exactly makes for a "compelling" hour of a Smack-Off. Movies are compelling, documentaries are compelling, people are compelling. Sports talk radio callers finding 23 different ways to call someone fat? "Compelling" is not the word I'd use.
2:17 -- A tweeter laments having to miss the show because he has to "go take a shower" (literally). Apparently, he is listening to the show on a five-piece stereo and the receiver is wedged in between the tape deck and equalizer. (Also, this gives Rome an opening to pimp his "Jungle Insider" service, where you can
borrow someone else's password pay a few bucks a month for podcasts of every show.)
3:10 -- Jim lets us know that nobody from the "Triangle of Hate" has called. Since I have no idea who comprises the "Triangle of Hate," I'll just have to take his word for it. I guess they're lying in wait, whoever they are. Yay.
4:21 -- Next caller, Oren in Denver, who is also in the radio business, most recently hosting a show on the Rome affiliate in Denver. I like Oren, but I'll admit he kind of lost me in the first two minutes of his call meandering about the budget cuts and taxes and unemployment. Two minutes in, he even says, "I don't wanna bring everyone down with the 'important things going on in the world' take." Too late. Damn, Oren. I was counting on you, man.
9:33 -- Of course, Rome said there was a "lot to like about that phone call." (So much to like it didn't finish in the top ten in a 13-call Smack-Off.)
11:30 -- Up now, a guy named Mike in San Diego. New caller, and this call was basically six minutes of the love child of longtime callers Irie Craig and Terrence in Sierra Madre reading jokes off of a page one by one with the voice inflection of Kenny Bania reading Ovaltine jokes written by Jerry Seinfeld. Not a good call, not fun to listen to, painful. So of course....
17:55 -- Rome: "I had NO idea Mike had that in him? He had me on the ground a couple of times." (Insert Kyle Brandt joke here.)
\strong>18:30 -- Okay, this is about the time of the show where Jim begins to ask after each call, "Where you gonna slot that one?" (Which as Smack-Off fixture phrases go is "Best Smack-Off ever"'s little brother.)
SEGMENT 6 0:58 -- Requisite slew of "It's over! It's over! Give the crown to [CALLER WHO JUST CALLED LAST SEGMENT]!!"
1:50 -- Next up is someone named Israel in LA. Rome asks him how he's doing and Israel's answer? "PISSED OFF." There we go! Damn, for the first time all afternoon, aside from Jay Mohr's call, I'm actually intrigued by what's about to happen. Let's see what you got, Israel:
-- Israel starts by dedicating his Smack-Off win to his brother-in-law, Jeff. Nothing says "true love" quite like dedicating to someone the results of a trash-talking contest subjectively judged by four people you've never met before. (Jeff may or may not have responded two hours later by telling Israel to stick his ninth-place finish up his ass.)
-- Israel reminds us that suicide is nothing to joke about and meth addicts are nothing to joke about. Suicide, I'll agree with you, but beg to differ on the meth head take. Meth IS funny, especially the damage it does to teeth. Agree to disagree, Israel.
-- Brad and Vic are "identical twins fighting over which one's ugliest." Not bad.
-- I'm starting to understand Israel's gimmick. It's kind of angry preacher meets...well, meth. He starts screaming at everyone in sight -- Brad in Corona, Jay Mohr, Ray Ray -- and he punctuates the rant by telling Mike in San Diego that he will LITERALLY kill him. Like, an actual death threat. He even names the weapon and the number of rounds he's gonna fire into Mike, officially putting this call in the "May Possibly Be Used As Evidence" Hall of Fame (right alongside Jim in Fall River's 2001 call where it sounded like he was molesting a donkey).
-- So to be clear, according to Israel, suicide, not funny. Death threats on live radio, acceptable. Got it?
-- Israel then tells Dave in St. Louis that he will be at a church revival this summer in St. Louis and he can come by and find him there if he has a problem. Israel is a self-glossed "Bible thumper." I'm sure the folks organizing the revival are thrilled that Israel is inviting clones from the "Jim Rome Show" to the event so that he can kick their teeth in. Hopefully, Israel will still be able to do his presentation on the book of Matthew, the part where they talk about pumping a hundred bullets into other sports talk show callers. 7:50 -- Rome has to jump in and, like every other call, this one was incredible and amazing and strong enough to win. Which begs the question, clones...
8:01 -- "Where do you slot that one?"
SEGMENT 7 0:01 -- Rome reminds us that he told us last year that the 2010 Smack-Off was the best one ever, but...wait for it...wait for it....this one may be EVEN BETTER!! Because, according to Rome, there have been so many "different things, incredible things," like each call is somehow a piece of abstract art. So far, it is what it is -- a bunch of us yelling into our phones.
1:00 -- Rome: "Israel is not a guy you want to mess with." You mean the guy who threatened to fire off six rounds into another caller's skull? Don't mess with him? Cool. Got it.
1:56 -- Iafrate. Thank God. Save us:
-- Iafrate cracks Israel right out of the shoot, a sign of a true pro -- unscripted crackbacks on the caller right before you. Bonus points.
-- Iafrate makes the NCAA Tournament comparison to the Smack-Off, which has been done before but let's see where he goes with it. I have a good feeling.
-- Brad in Corona is George Mason because he eventually melted down like GMU. Last year, those of you who had Brad in your Smack-Off pools will remember that Doc Mike DiTolla came in and whaled away on the then-defending champ only to have Brad come in shortly thereafter and not say a word about Mike. NEGATIVE MILLION BONUS POINTS. Iafrate never forgets.
-- Vic in NoCal has the "Jeff in Richmond exemption," which means he won a title because it's good for business to have a champion so hated that it actually pumps some life into a once-vibrant program. Iafrate then throws a haymaker at Vic by calling his photo montage on Jim Rome Is Burning (the winner gets a mention on Jim's television show, complete with picture)...."loser after one beer, loser after five beers, loser after cake..."
8:05 -- Rome: "IA-FREAKING-FRATE!!" (I agree.) Oh and clones, Jim is wondering...
8:55 -- "How you gonna score this thing?"
SEGMENT 8 Rome didn't take any calls this segment because there is a hard stop at the top of the hour, so Jim reads a few "It's over!" e-mails and takes a chance to ask us, "How do you have it slotted?" Also, know that this is the most important Smack-Off hour in history coming up. Buckle up, clones.
SEGMENT 9 1:30 -- Next up is Joe in the OC, a longtime caller who's come close to winning the whole thing (runner up in 2007) and has gotten run (JR-speak for "booted off the show mid-call") from the program. He's like the Kerry Collins of the Smack-Off. He could win the NFC Championship or he could wind up backing up Billy Joe Tolliver. The range is that wide.
As an aside, it's not helping Joe that Rome is waiting on the "Triangle of Hate." He's barely listening to any of Joe's call, guaranteed. Joe is like the Divas match right before the main event at Wrestlemania. Popcorn call. (Honestly, if Vince McMahon ever heard the Smack-Off he'd hire Rome in a second to promote his pay per views. "This is the greatest Wrestlemania of aaallll tiiimmmeee!!!")
Joe hits Brad, Vic, Israel, Terrence, Mike in Indy, and Trapper.....
7:06 -- .....and just as I guessed, Jim didn't hear any of it. No reaction. (Well, "right in the hunt" was the reaction. Translation: tenth place.)
7:56 -- Steve Carbone next in, you may know him as reality television "expert" Reality Steve, which miraculously nobody has brought up today. Steve and I have had an ongoing on-air feud that dates back to 2002. We've since buried the hatchet, and actually converse on a somewhat frequent basis. Let's see what Carbone has for us:
-- Hey! Steve gets in a crack on me and how much I remind people on Twitter that I'm a five-time Smack-Off champion! What the fuck, Steve! I thought we were friends, I feel like I just got thrown over the top rope by my tag team partner in the Royal Rumble! (Picture me standing incredulously outside the ring practically in tears.)
-- Steve outlines correctly the fundamentals of success in the Smack-Off come down to two things -- talking incessantly about yourself (blocking) and berating as many other callers as you can (tackling). Personally, I would argue that if people focused on that more, they could achieve FIVE TIMES the success they've been achieving in the Smack-Off.
-- Steve's turn to do the DeNiro shuffle on Vic in NoCal, and it's pretty damn good. "I know when you're with a woman, or...whoever you're holding down at knifepoint, you probably scream your own name"..."You've won it once, you're Jeffrey DiTolla with a red bandana tied to your head."...."You are, well, ME with 20,000 less Twitter followers." Boom.
-- Steve then uses the lameness that is ESPN Sports Science to throw down on Brad in Corona's hair not moving when he drives his convertible Volkswagen Cabriolet, and to remind Doc Mike DiTolla that he's not actually a doctor, he's a dentist. (To be fair, dentist is at least two notches ahead of chiropractor or podiatrist, and five notches above faith healer. For sake of perspective, though, it is 132 notches behind neurosurgeon. If that makes my dentist dig a little harder into my gums with the sharp mini-claw thingie on my next cleaning, then so be it.)
-- Carbone finishes up out of left field with his own rendition of Rebecca Black's "Friday," and honestly if I had to put a prop bet up for "clone most likely to sing during his call," Carbone would have been +3000. But it worked, mostly because he punctuated it with a Gus Johnson "Rise and Fire!" (probably in tribute, but if I pretend it was in mocking -- I'm not a Gus guy -- then it's more palatable).
14:00 -- Rome says that Stevie almost went over the line a few times. Honestly, I didn't hear anything that I hadn't heard 20 times every other Smack-Off, but I don't know enough about Brad or Vic personally to know if any of what he said was personal. Nor do I care to.
SEGMENT 10 0:06 -- A few of Rome's "thoroughbred racing buddies" are chiming in on the e-mail. The fact that Rome has "thoroughbred racing buddies" is a good-enough metaphor for where the show is now to where it probably just saved me another 3,000 words. Rome openly discussing his "thoroughbred racing buddies" on the air saved me another 5,000 words, and Rome referring to them as his "thoroughbred racing buddies" saved me about a gig of drive space on my laptop. Jim Rome, Smack man of the people back in 1999, now wants to share the views of his "thoroughbred racing buddies" with all of you. Discuss.
0:13 -- "Power Series makes his debut today." Yay. Oh and Billy Koch ("BK...Little Red Feather...love that guy...") is listening and wants to know, "Who are these people?" Having been one of "these people" for ten years, it's a fair question, actually.
0:21 -- And Rome just gave out his RSVP to "BK" for the races tomorrow. On air. Because he has horses, everybody!
0:48 -- Before going to Brad in Corona, Jim makes the unprecedented move of announcing that two guys want to close the show, Vic in NoCal and (he thinks) Doc Mike DiTolla. Rome, in classic heel Vince McMahon "make up the rules mid-match" fashion, goes to a never before outlined Smack-Off rule that the defending champ has the right to close the show if he so chooses. Weird that I never knew that rule...five times. So this is basically a warning to DiTolla that he better find a way to get in or it's not happening. Fans of good radio are nervous right now.
1:13 -- Going to Brad in Corona, trying to win back his title. If he's learned anything from last year, it's that he better address everyone cracking on his hair, his voice, his general douchiness and the fact that, well, he didn't address Doc Mike last year. Let's see what he has:
-- "It's hard to crack back on all of you when EVERYONE is cracking on me! I don't have time for all you lames." Well, other than the peculiar use of the word "lame" as a noun, I have to say it was efficient and egocentric, leaving room for the rest of his call while reminding everyone that he's his own biggest fan. As someone who rode that tactic to five titles, I kind of respect it.
-- He gets in a Joe in the OC "jockeying Rome's horses" crack (solid), an "Iafrate at the old folks home" crack (inaccurate), and he talks about Mike in Indy, who I don't really know anything about.
-- Brad brings up the fact that it's stupid to go with sports takes in the Smack-Off (true), mostly because nobody cares about our sports takes (also true). He says that the only takes we care about are Jim's (true, until Travis Rodgers stopped writing them around 2008).
-- Brad taking runs at Jay Mohr now, saying he wrote a screenplay for him where he would play the main role (Brad: "I know, I know that's way outside your comfort zone." Not bad.). He says that Jay is going to play the role of some guy named Sean "The Cablinasian" Pendergast. Hey wait, THAT'S ME! This is going to be cool...can't wait to hear what the role is! Brad: "The role is a washed-up, stretch-marked, albino walrus and wannabe sports radio broadcaster." HEY! That wasn't nice, Brad. I do NOT have stretch marks!
(The funny thing about this is when Brad called in to Rome it happened during my show on 1560, so I saw a bunch of tweets from people about how Brad "went after me" and "it got ugly," blah blah blah. People made it sound like he bagged on me for his entire call. Honestly, for a Smack-Off crackback, that was fairly tame. People have been calling me pasty for years on that show.)
-- Brad takes a run at the Mandt Brothers' poor track record of properties produced, and in the process calls Rome the Mandt Brothers' "one Zenyatta" (which I guess is a complimentary horse-racing term), which made his Jeopardy bit (very creative, by the way) mere icing on the cake. If I may steal from the Smack-Off e-mailers, the horse-racing reference truly does mean...IT"S OVER. IT'S OVER. Kidding aside, a really, really good Smack-Off call. Not pantheon level, but good enough to win today. Unless I had A+ material, if I were a caller I wouldn't want to go next without the buffer of a commercial break.
6:34 -- Rome: "I don't have time to stop and reflect, gotta keep movin'..." (Good thing he got his "thoroughbred horse racing buddies'"e-mails in earlier, though. Phew.)
7:05 -- So who gets to follow, Brad? It's Mike in Indy, who sounds so robotic after a free-flowing, energetic call like Brad, I half expect him to say that he's "Mike in Indy, human cyborg relations" and then brag about being fluent in over six million forms of communication. Instead, he says, "Let's. Get. Started." and then presumably soils himself throughout the call as he methodically goes from paragraph to paragraph on the page in front of him. He even articulates as he transitions from one paragraph to the next with connectors like "Now. I. Would. Like. To. Put. Brad. In. Corona. On. Blast. Jim..." Okay. Mike. Go. Ahead.
The only part of the call that was anything but a bunch of innocuous beeps and whistles to me was this:
"Now. I. Would. Like. To. Put. The. Cablinasian. On. Blast....Seanie. You. Put. What. You. Want. In. That. Little. Blog. Of. Yours. But. You're. An. Old. School. Hack. And. When. You. Try. To. Step. Up. In. The. Lane. To. Take. A. Charge. I. Go. Airborne. And. Leave. You. Wearing. My. Jewels. Of. The. Necklace. And. When. I. Do. Land. Back. In. Your. Stratosphere. I. Tell. You. Man's. Game... You. Wouldn't. Last. Five. Minutes. In. This. Jungle. Ho."
Indeed, I wouldn't last five minutes against you, Mike. I'm fluent in 5,999,999 fewer forms of communication than you. May the force be with you. Enjoy seventh place. I've been there. Twice. Which I'm sure a droid like you can quickly figure out that that's three fewer times than I won this thing.
11:46 -- Rome: "Straight up, this is the toughest call in the history of the Jungle." Rome actually acknowledges that he says that every year, which means he's gotten a slew of e-mails making fun of him about it.
11:51 -- Rome mentions that Doc Mike and Silk are both on hold. Keep it in mind.
12:10 -- Rome points out "great job by everybody" today, and admires how "nobody has gotten run today!" Starting in 2012? Smack-Off participation ribbons. Book it. SEGMENT 11 0:02 -- "It's never been deeper, and never been more competitive." Except the other 16 times that it's never been deeper and more competitive.
0:25 -- Time for the defending champion, Vic in NoCal, who comes in and decides to make Jay Mohr the sole focus of his call, which for the sake of symmetry is appropriate since Jay went after him. Vic starts by making fun of Jay's DiGiorno pizza endorsement, a sponsorship deal Vic would probably take for about a hundredth of what Jay is getting. Vic then decides to make fun of Jay's panic attacks and failed marriages, and at that point I tuned out. Not really feelin' it. See you next year, Vic.
4:25 -- Rome: "That was cold blooded." Whatever.
SEGMENT 12 0:44 -- Rome: "One of the best efforts ever. I gotta say last year was one of the best Smack-Off's we've ever had. I gotta say that this year's was even better." I'm going to predict right now that next year's will be even better!
0:51 -- Counting backwards, the top ten...
(Keep in mind that in years past, especially when the show was four hours long, Rome would recap the top ten with brief summaries of each call, which was cool. Now, well, he doesn't. Rome's comments for each caller in quotes below.)
#10. Joe in the OC -- "Good effort, strong effort. Got off some great lines, but he had some moments to be sure."
#9. Israel in LA -- "He was good, he was strong. He was sermonizing."
#8. Mike in San Diego -- "Good showing, good finish."
#7. Mike in Indy -- "Good phone call, good moments."
#6. Jay Mohr -- "Jay came to get Vic, Jay didn't want to win. It was real."
#5. Dan in DC -- "Great call."
#4. Vic in NoCal -- "Vic came in to get Jay. Vic's call was chilling. It was vicious."
#3. Iafrate -- "Great phone call, excellent phone call."
#2. Steve Carbone -- .... (literally nothing)
#1. Brad in Corona -- "Top to bottom the most entertaining."
For the record, only three calls missed the top ten; they were (post call hyperbole from the host at the time they called are in quotes after each name):
-- Jeff in Richmond ("That call is racked! That set the bar high! Love that call!") -- Trapper ("Wow, another strong call!") -- Oren in Denver ("He brought the heavy lumber!")
So literally every call this afternoon was "good," "great," "strong," or "excellent." Congratulations, Jim, you now host the New York Marathon once a year. "YOU'RE ALL WINNERS!!!"
Normally, this is where Rome would replay the winning call, but between letting every caller go for five or six minutes, the prepackaged sound for callers in the first two hours, and Rome reading the same e-mail from two hundred anonymous callers, there is no time left. Instead, Rome goes straight to the interview with the winner, Brad in Corona, which went like this --
Rome: "Brad, you did it again, congrats!"
Brad: "Ha ha! Jim Rome! Burn on me, Jim. Burn on me. (That was gay.) The bloody Mary's are flowing like wine, I called my shot, I knocked it out of the proverbial park, and...seriously buddy, thank you."
Rome: "Congrats, great job!"
Best one-question interview ever.
For the record, my general feeling on who should win the Smack-Off each year is that you shouldn't even be eligible to win unless multiple callers take a run at you at some point during the event (or unless you've won before). Ridicule equals importance on this "the most important day of the year in the Jungle." So if the title were in a bar somewhere, and the winner had to come grab it, then "other callers highlighting your personal and physical deficiencies" is the cover charge.
So this eliminates Dan in DC, Israel in LA, Mike in San Diego and Oren in Denver.
You also need a really good call, which eliminates everyone else not named Mohr, Iafrate, Carbone, or Brad.
I think they got the top three right, I might have flip-flopped Carbone and Brad, but I have no problem with Brad winning it, and would have been fine with Iafrate winning it, too.
SUMMARY I'm going to say right off the top that this post was a freaking grind to write, and it has nothing to do with the fact that it wound up being thousands and thousands of words. I've written long posts before that flew by, where I was typing and typing and all of a sudden you look up and realize, "Damn, that's a shit ton of words!" But it was fun constructing a beginning, a middle, an end.
Honestly, last year's piece on the 2010 Smack-Off was like that. It was fun laying out the history of the show in the Houston market, my history with the show and how the Rome show on the whole has evolved (and devolved) over the last few years. (Kareem Jackson's rookie press conference interrupting the show here in Houston was an added bonus.)
The problem with lampooning an overly repetitive show that is a quasi-shell of what it used to be is that your lampoon starts to feel a bit like that show. There's only so many ways that you can make fun of callers who say the same things every year, and poke fun at a host who says the same things every year. Honestly, Jim could take the day off and if you had the right 15 or 20 MP3 files from last year's Smack-Off, his engineer could host the show via a "Jim Rome Soundboard."
Most people know about the comedian Gallagher, whose comedy by and large consists of him pulverizing food with a huge wooden mallet. His act is repetitive and not all that fresh anymore. It pains me to say it, but the Smack-Off has that feel to me now. The repeated references to "Best Smack-Off ever!" and e-mails about "It's over! It's over!" are smashed watermelons and jars of mayonnaise dousing the audience.
Truly, the event is so carbon-copy year-to-year that joking about it starts to feel repetitive. The laziness that I feel after my fifteenth snarky remark about "Best Smack-Off ever" is how Rome should feel after he actually says it.
The Smack-Off itself has become so predictable that we at 1560 produced an hour-long satire of it that ran the afternoon of the actual Smack-Off called the "Smack-Off On A Mobile" ("on a mobile" being 1560-speak for "really good impersonation of the real thing".). Our version included actual Smack-Off style calls from legendary callers Greg in Vegas, Willie in KC and myself (Yes, I just called myself "legendary." Dig me.).
The star of the nearly hour-long bit is Channel 2's Adam Clanton, whose Rome impersonation steals the show. (Co-MVP award to my producer Brandon Strange, who pieced the whole thing together and executed the technical blocking and tackling flawlessly.) I know a lot of you have listened to this already, but for those who haven't, here is the embedded audio:
Understand that we recorded the "Smack-Off on a Mobile" the night before the actual Smack-Off. If you listen to our phone calls and Adam's Rome colloquialisms, you'd think we were scrawling notes throughout Rome's show on Friday and then cracking specific jokes about the show starting at 2 p.m. CST Friday.
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In short, when we say we knew Thursday night what was coming on Rome's Smack-Off on Friday, we knew exactly what was coming on Rome's Smack-Off on Friday. Anyone with half a brain did. It's kind of sad.
When four guys with some recording software, a phone and an iPod can cobble together a satirical version of your show the night before your show is going to air and people literally can't tell the difference at times (which I was told by dozens of folks), isn't that the height of satire?
Proudly, though, I can state as mathematical fact and with no hyperbole that it was truly the BEST "Smack-Off on a Mobile" ever!
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.