Video Digest: September 14, 2007

The humor and horror in sports: Rosecrans Baldwin investigates what's so great about tennis impersonations, why everyone loves Beckham, what happens when you humiliate your best friend's girlfriend in front of millions, and whether football or rugby are for him.

No U.S. Open coverage was complete without pointing fans toward YouTube, where up-and-coming Federer replacement Novak Djokovic was caught impersonating his peers in the locker room. With good reason: There was nothing else to talk about. Sports with levity, now there’s a story.

Djokovic’s good, but only because people expect tennis players to be thick and haughty, not wry. That’s why Robin Williams is invited to celebrity tournaments. But Roddick’s been doing this for years and deserves his due.

I think I prefer my funny people funny, and my people who deserve their chains yanked grinning and bearing it and wondering whether “all press is good press” is really true. Witness this old footage of innocent Beckham and pixie Spice in the hot seat with Ali G. Insults that would normally deserve a crack in the face get squirms.

Some insults sportif do get cracked back, deservedly. When I watched this video the other morning of one College Humor employee pranking another, it ruined my day until lunch. If you haven’t heard it yet, the story goes that Friend A embarrasses Friend B by humiliating him and—even moreso—his girlfriend on Yankee Stadium’s JumboTron and later in front of millions of internet boobs like you and me. Friend A deadpanned in an interview elsewhere that he now feels “kinda bad about that.” Generous of him.

My office in Paris is on the Champs-Elysées. Recently the streets were full of Scots in kilts wearing wraparound sunglasses, taking in the sights. Turns out the lads were in town to wipe France in football, which everyone knew about except me. Go figure. I’m still learning about football, at least about its culture of zealots. Three weeks ago my wife and I caught a French national league game in the same stadium where Scotland took its win, and it was exactly like this:

Half the time it’s a Nazi youth rally, the rest of the time you grimace and grind your teeth and smoke. And alcohol’s banned, because otherwise people would kill each other. No joke. Turns out, though, soccer has its lighter moments too.

Finally, there’s rugby, the other big sport in France, a game of complex rules and points but with the simple idea that it’s OK to thumb another guy’s fanny. The New Zealand team is well known for intimidating its opponents at the beginning of a match with a Maori dance. I’ve been thinking of starting this around the office. Before we pitch a client, we all stand in front of the conference table and chant arcane, mysterious phrases like “interface synergy” and “user-generated content,” and then we boil the project managers and eat them.


Rosecrans Baldwin co-founded TMN with publisher Andrew Womack in 1999. His latest book is Everything Now: Lessons From the City-State of Los Angeles. More information can be found at More by Rosecrans Baldwin

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