Finally...the 2011 Jim Rome Smack-Off Recap
"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
Glory days, well they pass you by....
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....
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.
Jim Rome no longer mocks UFC, for some reason.
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.