Sometimes in life you're only as good (or bad) as those with whom you surround yourself. The classic example is a college football coach being only as good as the assistant coaches he hires (Lane Kiffin will test this theory like it's never been tested before). In radio, sometimes your show has stretches where if you don't have a good producer, the show won't work, on-air talent be damned.
I think back to the first year we were on the air, and John Harris and I wanted to end the show one day (a day that happened to be the birthday of James Gandolfini's, a/k/a the actor who played Tony Soprano) by playing Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" just like the final scene of The Sopranos, complete with the impromptu cutoff about three minutes in during the refrain. We had it all timed out with the exact moment that our producer, Kyle Manthey, needed to press the PAUSE button to end the song and the show; it was gonna be totally sweet!
One problem -- at the exact moment that the PAUSE putton needed to be pushed on the song to end the show, Kyle's hands suddenly became possessed by evil spirits, or he forgot how to work a computer, something happened and basically our big finish paying homage to the best television show of all-time went KAPUT.
I stared at Kyle through the glass into the control room, and he had the same look on his face that Cameron had after his dad's Ferrari went out the back window of the garage in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. He knew he'd messed up, and all I could do was stare at him and say..."Dude, all you had to do was push one button....that's it....one button...."
It was one of those "make him feel about three inches tall for messing up something my four-year-old niece could have properly executed" moments. To be fair, we now have a Kyle-proof version of the Journey classic that automatically cuts off at the right moment in time, and since then Kyle has executed flawlessly. Kudos, Taskmaster!!
I bring this up because, again being fair to Kyle, we've all had those moments where one small "fail" ripples into something bigger than it should be. With that in mind, say hello to Dutch speed skating coach Gerard Kemkers. He is the coach for world-class Dutch speed skater Sven Kramer. He had his "all you had to do was press one button" moment yesterday.
The story goes like this -- as Kramer sped around the track on his way to shattering the world record in the 10,000 meter speed skating event earlier this week, on the 17th lap Kemkers hollered at him to change lanes. I guess in speed skating there are certain times you're supposed to change lanes during a race or something. Whatever. Well, it just so happened that that was NOT one of the times Kramer was supposed to change lanes or something ilke that, and by following his coach's "advice" Kramer got himself disqualified from what would have been a record-setting performance and a four-second runaway gold medal winning race.
Kramer described the snafu, "Usually, I don't want to blame anyone else, but this time I can't do anything else. I wanted to go on the outer lane then just before the cone Gerard shouted 'inner lane,' I thought he's probably right and went to the inner lane."
Bad idea, Kramer. In fact, a REALLY bad idea. The worst decision by someone named "Kramer" since Cosmo Kramer decided to cook for 185 Jewish singles in Seinfeld.
In a way, this was even worse than Kyle Manthey's producer fail of "all you had to do was push one button," because Kramer actually would have been better served by Kemkers doing absolutely nothing. Imagine that -- if your coach were duct-taped and tied to the bench, you'd have had a better chance at breaking the world record in your sport. You suck, Kemkers.
Oh but don't worry....it's not like the Olympics only comes around every four years or anything. Oh wait....
The real losers in this whole thing, the true tragedy of it all, are the gamblers who threw down on what was apparently the lock of the century in Kramer. Admittedly, I've only cared about speed skating three times in my life -- Eric Heiden's gold medal motherload in 1980, Dan Jansen's story of redemption in 1994, and now the Kemkers Fiasco of 2010 -- so I have no idea if Kramer is all that, but apparently he was a monster favorite. So don't cry for Kramer....cry for the guy who thought he could pick up an easy $100 to feed his kids by risking $2,000 on Kramer. That guy just got Kemker'ed out of food money. That guy's the real loser in all of this.
After the race was over and the DQ finish confirmed, the winner by default, Lee Seung-hoon of South Korea, was seen kissing the ice and acted like he'd actually won the thing. Lee, you didn't win a damn thing; you were handed the gold medal on a silver platter by the single most shameful instance of coaching incompetence in the history of Olympic sports. Take your medal, that's fine, but save the over the top celebration.
The question now is "Where does Kemkers go from here?" I'd love to see him show up as a celebrity third base coach for one of those independent league teams and watch runners get thrown out by 50 feet at home plate. Let's just hope no one hires him as a crossing guard for an elementary school. I'd hate to see dozens of little kids get run over by oncoming traffic.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on the Sean & John Show, and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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