Jim Rome Smack-Off 2012: The Party's Over
In entertainment, everything has a logical arc. Whether we're talking about a television series, a radio show or a particular personality, they all have a shelf life as to how long they can remain compelling, a shelf life with a beginning, a middle and an end.
Because I used to love him, but it's all over now.
The end is rarely pretty, and perhaps the most difficult aspect of the arc is knowing when to eject, identifying the point at which you leave the audience wanting more forever. From a creative standpoint, that's really the trick.
Along those lines, this past Friday afternoon, the shelf life of Jim Rome's Smack-Off, the annual contest which Rome uses to name his then current "best caller" and "King of Smack," finally expired.
I've often said that we all "dork out" over something, meaning we all have at least one thing that we follow a little too closely, spend a little too much time obsessing over, and truth be told, your loyalty to whatever that thing may be is probably a source of some closet embarrassment for you.
I'm not ashamed to admit that The Jim Rome Show, for years, had been one of my objects of "dorkism." (Other have included Star Wars, professional wrestling and the "Similar Hitter" statistical category for players on baseball-reference.com. Go ahead and insert "joke about me NOT dorking out over getting laid" here.)
I bring this up solely because there's a good chance that by the time you are done reading this, you will probably be saying, "Dude, it's just a radio show. Why are you so emotional about this? Turn the page." And that's fine, I would just politely request that you ask yourself, "Self, what is the one thing that I dork out over, that my friends just don't understand why I like it so much?"
Thus endet the Smack-Off
Then pretend that whoever is in charge of the creative well-being of that one thing decided to take such a huge metaphorical dump on it that you were looking at your watch the second the metaphorical shit landed on said thing because you knew that the arc on "your thing" had reached its logical conclusion, that it was over and you needed the exact time of day so you could pronounce its death to yourself in your head.
Friday, May 18, 1:54 p.m. Central Standard Time.
That's what time the Smack-Off on The Jim Rome Show died, because that's about the time that Rome was announcing last-second Smack-Off entrant and UFC loudmouth Chael Sonnen as the winner of what has forever been the caller-driven event to end all caller-driven events in talk radio.
Yes, an MMA fighter who had never called Rome's show except a couple times to do interviews promoting his fights in the last couple years won what for 17 years had been a "callers only" contest that Rome himself called "the most important day of the year in the Jungle."
(Quick point: Some may submit comedian Jay Mohr as evidence that at least one celebrity has been able to get an exemption into the Smack-Off, as Mohr has been a perennial top 10 finisher over the last decade, but at least Mohr calls the show on occasion and frequently guest-hosts when Rome is on vacation. Mohr and Sonnen, apples and oranges. Mohr winning would have offended far fewer people, and not offended me at all.)
If you're not a longtime fan of the Rome show, Rome's allowing Sonnen to participate (much less win) won't sound like a big deal to you. If you are a longtime fan of the Rome show, you probably feel like they just took your favorite hole-in-the-wall pub and turned it into an Applebee's.
For years, in the warped little corner of the universe where sports talk radio matters to everyone, a mere invite to the Smack-Off was enough to get you the respect of the constituents of that figurative locality. In mob lexicon, a Smack-Off invite made you a "made guy" of sorts. If you actually won the thing, you became a de facto boss. (And if you won it five times, you wound up with your own radio show and the title of "King of the Dipshits," I guess.)
Nobody who's been invited to Rome's Smack-Off would ever admit it, but back in the day, if you put a television camera on a Smack-Off invitee the second they heard their name as being one of those asked to participate, people would probably see him (or her, on occasion) jumping around and fist-pumping like one of those bubble teams hearing they just got a 12 seed into the NCAA basketball tournament.