Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The H is O

As if the latest chapter in the historic New York Knicks - Milwaukee Bucks rivalry wasn't enough to drive New York basketball fans into a frenzy, if you haven't heard, tonight is also the debut of newly acquired star Carmelo Anthony. After months upon endless months of speculation and negotiation, the "Melo-drama" (it'll be many a years before sports writers will have a situation with such a perfectly tailor-made phrase) finally came to an end after a funky 13 player trade threesome between the Knicks, the Nuggets, and the Timberwolves.

The reaction to the blockbuster trade among fans and writers is wide and varied. Some consider it to be a bold move by the Knicks to obtain the additional superstar they need to compete with the likes of Boston and Miami in the east, some say the Knicks gave up way too much in a situation where they had most of the leverage, some fear the creeping influence of smiling, franchise-killing, former GM/Coach Isiah Thomas all over the deal, and some say most of those things through an insanely esoteric analogy to the decade plus old SNL short film "The H is O".

Honestly, until I recently read this article, I never expected anyone in my entire lifetime to independently reference that short; it's probably one of the weirdest five minutes of SNL ever (everyone should watch it at least once, it really is as crazy as the description in the article), it's more bizarrely interesting than funny, it's from a fairly forgotten era of the show (late 90s-early 00s) that only people who saw the original airings or watched an inordinate amount of reruns on E! would even have a chance of remembering (I fall into the former, I cannot vouch for Mr. Dwyer). The only reason I even remember the sketch is that it put in me in the habit of using the phrase "The H is O" when referring to "The Heat is On" (which comes up at least a dozen times in my everyday conversations).

I guess the analogy to the sketch sort of makes sense, but did the writer really have no better example to use of doing something regrettable just for the sake of proving you can. It's a pretty relatable feeling; perhaps a personal anecdote. Maybe some higher brow reference to a pyrrhic victory? Even a slightly less obscure SNL sketch probably could have been used (oh like almost anything from the past 36 years). In the end though I'm not condemning the "The H is O" reference, just trying to wrap my head around the fact I'm writing a blog post right now about someone referencing the "The H is O" (in a story about a basketball trade no less!). The internet is a strange and scary place.

Perhaps we can expect a future article from Mr. Dwyer on NBA collective bargaining negotiations that references the other SNL short film where Steve Buscemi runs a food pawn shop in Brooklyn.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

But, Ironhead....

For such an imposing figure with a tough guy reputation and one of the all time greatest NFL nicknames, the late Craig "Ironhead" Heyward had one of the most mediocre 11 year careers a running back could have had in the NFL (4,301 rushing yards, 4.2 ypc, 30 TDs, 1 Pro Bowl). He was basically Jerome Bettis with the numbers of Tyrone Wheatley (his most similar player according to Pro-Football Reference). Try as I might he has never come up as the answer on a single NFL related Sporcle quiz (maybe one day when someone makes a Falcons running backs of the mid 90s quiz). His fan made Youtube "highlight" reel runs barely past a minute and although there are plenty of NES Tecmo Super Bowl clips of contemporary RBs like Bo Jackson and Christian Okoye dominating defenses, the only such clip I could find of Ironhead was him dutifully eating clock for nearly 2 quarters.

While it is quite obvious that Ironhead Heyward was more reputation than actual performance, it is that same tough guy reputation that is actually responsible for, what I think is, his greatest legacy. Perhaps some of the younger folks haven't been around long enough to recall (I even I was pretty young then) but there was a time up to the late 90s in the pre-Axe Body Wash, Queer Eye, metrosexual world where the concept of a man using a body wash was a foreign and strange notion. Nowadays, bath sponges hanging freely and body wash containers lie throughout male inhabited showers all across America but this humbling of the mighty bar that once dominated the showers didn't happen overnight, it took the concentrated efforts of marketers and manufacturers.

At the forefront of this shower room sea change was Zest Body Wash who in an effort to dispel the image of body washes being dainty and unmanly went to a pitchman whose public image was the complete antithesis, enter Ironhead. Anyone who watched a decent amount of TV in the mid to late 90s remembers the ubiquitous series of spots (I remember they were on all the time during wrestling) where an angry, towel draped, pre-shower, Ironhead challenged the viewer to put aside all their preconceptions and try a round with Zest, aggressively attacking any reservations in the viewers' minds ("What's with this thingy?") of bathing with a body wash. The message was clear, if Zest Body Wash provided a better clean and was macho enough for surly NFL power backs when it was good enough for the average guy. This approach, along with Axe's well documented "this body wash will literally make women insane for you" advertising contributions essentially created the men's body wash market we know today. Interestingly Old Spice Body Wash's current campaign follows the exact blueprint of the old Zest ads (former/current NFL players in the shower aggressively asserting the manly effectiveness of their product) with a slightly surrealist bent.

So while it's highly unlikely that Ironhead Heyward will get that bust in Canton, if they ever make some sort of crazy pitchman Hall of Fame, his contributions in the field of personal hygiene product marketing would guarantee him a place right next to the Hathaway Shirt Man and Dos Equis Guy.