April 29, 2008
So did you really think I was going to get through an entire day of blogging without mentioning the 25th anniversary of Lee Elia's tantrum?
C'mon people. You should know me better than that.
As expected, there have been a lot of words devoted to Elia's famous rant in today's papers and across the Internet and I agree with almost all of them. A quarter of a century later, Elia's rant is still being described as "legendary" (Y! Sports), "hilarious and entertaining" (Desipio) and, my favorite, the "Joe DiMaggio hit streak of screamery" (Eamon at Fanhouse).
I'l add another movie-type blurb — "Never gets old." In preparation for this post, I just listened to the clip again (obligatory language warning) and still laughed out loud when he used "multifold" to describe the organizational changes. When he used "nickel-dime" to describe the people in the stands, I laughed again. As he is wont to do, Jay Mariotti made the silly suggestion that it's time to forgive Elia for this rant, but that's just totally unnecessary.
I didn't know we were mad at him in the first place.
Over the past week, I've been doing a lot of thinking as to why Elia's rant remains the king of them all. Sure, there's the profanity aspect. Elia drops a plane load f-bombs, where Denny Green, Mike Gundy, Hal McRae and Jim Mora tried to abstain entirely while going off the deep end.
But I think there's a bigger reason than that and it lies in the mystery of it all.
As discussed in this article, video of the rant originally existed, but was lost somewhere along the way.
For a lot of us, the only tie we have to that clip is through its audio and that means having to fill in the blanks with our imaginations. What did the room look like? How did the reporters react? Did Elia ever break character? Or was he red-faced the whole time? Being able to listen to the pure extract enhances the experience and keeps it fresh almost every time you come back to it.
Compare that, then, to the YouTube sensations that have lorded the land over the past few years. They've been dissected, parodied and top-10 listed to death on shows like SportsCenter. Mike "I'm a man! I'm 40!" Gundy went on his famous tirade less than a year ago and conducted it with about as much reckless abandon as Elia did. It was funny as heck then and it's funny as heck now.
Yet it's still nowhere as good as Elia. With Elia's masterpiece of swearing, our minds are allowed to run wild. You can't say the same for the other things I mentioned. It's the difference between watching a game on television from your coach or listening to the game from the radio on your back deck.
Admittedly, Elia has been all over the place the past few days, looking to hawk his $89.99 talking baseball. In a way, the tour is similar to the kind of Coors Light-driven oversaturation I assign to Denny "The Bears Are Who We Thought They Were!" Green.
But by the weekend, Elia will go back to living his life and we'll be back to where were before: An easily entertained public armed with an audio file and plenty of time to put ourselves in that tiny room with the profanity bouncing off the walls.
At least I picture the room to be tiny.