Victoria: The Original Sports Catfish
Before “Catfishing” was a well-known term, before Manti Teo and his fake girlfriend, there was “Victoria”, likely the best student section prank in college basketball history. Cal student Steven Kenyon loved Cal basketball, and especially loved trying to get into opponents’ heads during games. Late in the 2006 season, with Cal needing to sweep UCLA and USC to close the season, Kenyon took things a step further. The week before the games, Kenyon created an AIM account – “SexyBruinBabe” – and instant messaged USC guard Gabe Pruitt (Kenyon had previously messaged UCLA guard Jordan Farmar, but was rebuffed). SexyBruinBabe, going by the name “Victoria” flirted with Pruitt, sending him pictures of a female Cal athlete, and asked if they could meet up when Pruitt and his teammates returned from their Bay Area road trip. Pruitt was quite eager, agreeing to meet with “Victoria” and giving her his cell phone number.
Kenyon distributed transcripts of the AIM conversation to the entire student section. The trap was set. Before the games, as the teams lined up for the National Anthem, students held up signs spelling C-A-L-L G-A-B-E, and listing his phone number. The students chanted “VICTORIA”. Immediately, Pruitt knew what had happened. Pruitt was rattled, went on to have a terrible game, and Cal emerged victorious. The “Victoria” prank is legendary among Cal fans. Now over ten years later, the main characters finally speak out – and it is a great read. -TOB
Source: “The Inside Story of Cal’s Catfishing Prank, Ten Years Later”, Jeff Eisenberg, Yahoo! Sports (03/03/2016)
PAL: Mr. Kenyon was a visionary – no doubt about it. What a perfectly executed prank. Let’s be honest and give Pruitt some leeway – there are more than a few among us who would’ve fallen for the same trap in 2006. Fun story that’s worth the read.
Bryce Harper and the Case Against Baseball’s Unwritten Rules
Man, Tim Keown always brings it. This time he tackles Bryce Harper, and it’s a great read. As Keown notes, many think Harper is a “douche”. Keown’s take? Nope. Harper is just really good, and he’s honest. There’s a lot of great stuff here (about Harper as a kid, coming up through the minors, and some great trash talk with a Giants fan during Game 4 of the 2014 NLDS, a game Phil and I attended).
But the most interesting part, especially in light of MLB Hall of Famer Goose Gossage railing against Jose Bautista this week for his bat toss in last year’s playoffs, is Harper’s vocal attempts to bring baseball into the 21st Century. Harper rails against the “unwritten rules”, and I could not agree more.
“Baseball’s tired,” he says. “It’s a tired sport, because you can’t express yourself. You can’t do what people in other sports do. I’m not saying baseball is, you know, boring or anything like that, but it’s the excitement of the young guys who are coming into the game now who have flair. If that’s Matt Harvey or Jacob deGrom or Manny Machado or Joc Pederson or Andrew McCutchen or Yasiel Puig — there’s so many guys in the game now who are so much fun. Jose Fernandez is a great example. Jose Fernandez will strike you out and stare you down into the dugout and pump his fist. And if you hit a homer and pimp it? He doesn’t care. Because you got him. That’s part of the game. It’s not the old feeling — hoorah … if you pimp a homer, I’m going to hit you right in the teeth. No. If a guy pimps a homer for a game-winning shot … I mean — sorry.” He stops, looks around. The hell with it, he’s all in. “If a guy pumps his fist at me on the mound, I’m going to go, ‘Yeah, you got me. Good for you. Hopefully I get you next time.’ That’s what makes the game fun.”
Preach, Bryce. -TOB
Source: “Sorry, Not Sorry”, Tim Keown, ESPN the Magazine (03/10/2016)
PAL: “Is false modesty any less distasteful than outward self-assurance?” Really interesting read that essentially comes down to that question. I find myself coming back to this internal tug-of-war when it comes to polarizing athletes. Why do I care if Harper is a d-bag? Why do I want this completely misguided assurance that I would like the guy when all I really want is to see great talents do their thing? For all I know, Hunter Pence could be a jerk to family and friends, but he’s the consummate team player, and that would be more than enough for me. The likable illusion still matters to me in most cases, and applying any logic to it falls apart in about five seconds. I think is has to do less with self-assurance and more to do with self-awareness. Russell Wilson is self-aware; Tim Lincecum (in his glory days) was self-assured.
A Mullet for All Seasons
We have two sports hair videos this week, and one sports hair story. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I’m borderline fascinated with athlete flair, and there’s no flair quite like sports hair. The MN high school BMOC’s – hockey players – lead off for us. Make sure to check out the video below.
“In all honesty, I was just looking for honorable mention and I got number two.” Humble words from a high school athlete participating in the legendary Minnesota State Hockey Tournament. Was he talking about his team’s finish? Nope – he’s talking about the ultimate honor – a place on All Minnesota Hockey Hair team. This now annual tradition (5 years running) has become legit viral now – so much so that there are stories being written about the players who find themselves featured in the video below. There are so many great nuggets written by my college buddy Louie Opatz, but my favorite detail of them all is this: “Jones had received a pregame haircut from Roxie at Wal-Mart’s SmartStyle Hair Salon that the senior described as, ‘a Vanilla Ice/Kenny Powers look — something crazy.'”
Let’s get Minnesota with it.
Source: “Jones just goes with the flow“, Louie Opatz, Litchfield Independent Review (3/9/16)
Now let’s move to another sport that attracts odd-balls: College Wrassling (not wrestling). There is nothing I can write that is better than what Big 10 Champ, Sammy Brooks (god, what a perfect name) says, so let’s just get to it:
“I think these fans just respond really well to a good haircut, so that’s what I was working on coming in here, making sure I had it fluffed and feathered the right way. I think the fans saw my hard work.
“I gain trust every time my hair grows a little more, and a little more I trust in myself and my mullet, so it’s a process, you know. You can’t grow a great mullet in a day. You can’t win a Big Ten title in a day.”
For cryin’ out loud, check out his video below, too, would ya? – PAL
Source: “Iowa Wrestler Only Talks About His Mullet After Winning A Match“, Samer Kalef, Deadspin (3/7/16)
It’s Back: Hockey Hair 2016.
Yessssssss. You know it, you love it. Enjoy the 2016 edition of the Minnesota State High School All-Hockey Hair Team. Though it’s a video, it deserves its own post. -TOB
Video of the Week
PAL Song of the Week: Little Barrie – “Better Call Saul Main Title Theme”
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You’re trying to kidnap what I’ve rightfully stolen.