I remember when I was first out of college, and I had my first desk job. Everyone had dial-up connections, and it would take two or three hours to download such classic videos as "Monkey Smells Own Butt-Finger and Falls Out of Tree" or "Elephant Butt Engulfs Custodian's Head." There was something about seeing a paper clip in the corner of an e-mail, clicking it, and waiting, waiting, waiting for whatever digital magic you were about to enjoy.
Part of me wants to turn this into a things-were-better-in-my-day rant, but that'd be just silly. Now every video in the history of videos is on YouTube, and you can watch them on your phone like Dick Tracy. Or at least, a Dick Tracy who's more interested in watching skateboarding accidents instead of solving crime.
Baseball's tricky on YouTube, though, because Major League Baseball employs over 492 different people whose sole job is to scour the internet and make sure that no one puts up a ten-second video of Ellis Valentine making a catch. Baseball wants you to go to the official site and watch the video that they don't have. Makes sense.
Here's an attempt to scour the YouTube archives for baseball-related nuggets in the offseason: the first installment of Six Degrees of YouTube Roulette. Start with a baseball video on YouTube, and then follow the links on the right to other videos suggested by YouTube. My theory is that you'll eventually land on a skateboarding accident every time, but that's not the point. The point is to see where it will take you.
Pretty innocuous stuff. But while Brian Wilson ruined the super-old-cell-phone gag, it's still amusing to see Derek Jeter talk on this thing:
snake that isn't on this phone because
you can't play games on a phone yet lol
Bam. With antenna, the phone is almost one jeterhead long. I suppose if you're a metric system wonk, it's one beckhambonce. The rest of the video isn't worth watching. Sorry. Probably should have led with that useful information. But it did lead us to "Derek Jeter on MTV Rock and Jocks (part 1)"
That video is so '90s, Mike Piazza's pencil-thin goatee actually makes sense. This video has everything: Kevin Sorbo, A-Rod throwing out Method Man from deep in the hole, Andrew Shue making the worst outfield throw in Rock 'n' Jock history, and Kevin Sorbo. The whole thing starts with Jeter and A-Rod playing rock-paper-scissors to decide who hits first. That's a metaphor for something, but I'm too stupid to figure it out. Thanks, universe. Now I'll be up all night.
The problem now, though, is that I'm in the Jeter Zone. Every suggested video is Jeter-related ("1999 Derek Jeter on the Rosie O'donnell show!"), with one exception: "NSYNC Rock N Jock 1998 part 2." That would start a slippery slope, though. One minute you're watching N'SYNC on Rock 'n' Jock because it's ironic, and the next you're watching The Crow on VHS for the third straight day. So I'll take "Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher in a fight?" because it has over 300,000 views. Has to be good, right?
Horrible. The uploader first drops a "i dont actually think they are fighting. i was joking just like they were." in the description, and then he disables comments. YouTube comments are what make America so great. They make me think of that famous Evelyn Beatrice Hall quote: "I may not agree with what the string of characters that this retarded mallard managed to type out with his bill while hunting for small insects, but I'll defend to the death his right to type them."
But at least this video provides an avenue away from Jeterville. Too many, actually. I mean, how does one honestly choose between these?
My god. Awesome chick fight is out, as I'm pretty sure that would just lead to 100 more suggestions of similar, unfortunate content. TAKIN A DUMP! is … interesting, but the most interesting is the reporter getting oogled. I sort of have to find out what that is before Christmas because I'll be with all my 20-something nephews and nieces, and if oogling is a thing, then I have to know what it is if I don't want to seem like the old, creepy uncle. More so, even.
But this is a family program, so I'm going with little kids fighting at an Astros game.
Nature vs. nurture: Are the kids acting aggressively because their brains are wired to do so, or are they acting aggressively because they're being forced to watch an Astros game? The best part is the whack by the mom at the end, even though the older brother was clearly more of a punishing jerk. Also of note: James Shields is good.
And now I'm in the kid-fight zone. How charming. There are other delightful choices, like "6 Drunk Thugs vs 1 Guy with baseball bat" and "WILD NASCAR CRASH," but, like a palm tree in the desert, I see, "Reds Vs Astros Fight September 5th 1995." Beautiful.
Yeah, that song really adds to the video, guy. Nice work. As far as baseball brawls go, this one is pretty sweet. Full swings and manic, wild Drabeks being restrained, lest they unleash their mulleted and mustached fury on the world like a well-coiffed hydrogen bomb. If you're watching that video and thinking, "I remember that!", congratulations! Kyle Drabek was six when that fight happened. You are now really old, and this is probably a good time to schedule that prostate exam. No, seriously.
There's also a Tony Eusebio sighting, which is usually something that leads to thinking about Tony Eusebio. And now for the final degree of YouTube roulette. We'll just look at the suggested videos and see what's oh my god
Here it is, the choice that defines you. You start with Derek Jeter and A-Rod chumming it up, and six steps later you're shaping your mortal soul. What sort of person are you? What is your raison d'être? Are you a worldly type who appreciates how amazing it is that your phone can play pudding-wrestling videos that sit above erudite comments from the finest minds of your generation? Or is baseball so calcified into your being that you're more excited about Kyle Farnsworth possibly karate-chopping Paul Wilson?
Nah. Just kidding. There's no choice to be made. When you get a chance to watch Kyle Farnsworth potentially kick someone, you take that chance. And it lives up to expectations, with a nice takedown and a clean punch from Farnsworth. The Robin Ventura charge gets all the publicity, but charging Kyle Farnsworth is more impressive in its stupidity. He's 7'8", 419 pounds, an avowed practitioner of martial arts, and he's equal parts crazy and unthinking.
Even if the video had no audio, it would be a gem. But at the very end, Cubs announcer Steve Stone gives a gift to the world:
As he gets racky-tacked right around home plate.
A Google search brings back about 181 results for "racky tacked", with most of the results having to do with that video. It would appear that Steve Stone made it up on the spot, which is beautiful. And Bill Conlin, to his credit, tried to keep the term alive in both 2007 and 2008. But America was too busy watching pudding-wrestling and Jeter/A-Rod-bromance documentaries to notice and enter racky-tacking into the lexicon. But I, for one, just added it to my spell-check.
If you have ideas for future ways of starting installments of Six Degrees of YouTube Roulette, do let me know. This stuff is important.