If you're a college basketball fan, you know Jack Blankenship. If not by name, then certainly by face. Oh, that face.
Blankenship, a student at the University of Alabama, can contort his face into a nightmare-inducing bug-eyed visage. It's disturbing enough at normal human size, but in February, Blankenship took his face to the next level. He brought an enormous cutout of his head to a game against Ole Miss. Cameras caught him mugging with his own face, and in these Twitter-fueled days, that was all it took to make Blankenship a college basketball celebrity.
"I went to games earlier in the season, and people would have cutouts of Zack Galifianakis, Betty White, Will Ferrell," he explained to Yahoo! Sports recently. "So I thought I'd do one of me doing this facial gesture, get a little publicity."
He did just that, and showed up on ESPN2. A few days later, The Face again made an appearance in a game against Florida, and that's when things really got rolling.
"The next day, I was at the library, and my phone started exploding with texts and calls," he says. "I was on the front page of Yahoo!, and everybody saw it." (You're welcome, Jack.)
"The Face" is a move Blankenship and friends have done for years. He even managed to get The Face in the background of "The Today Show" back in 2010. And now a goofy inside joke has become a national fad. Ain't the Internet great?
His appearance on Yahoo! led to a trip to New York for an actual spot on the Today Show, which led to one of the more surreal moments of his life.
"I was at the Knicks-Nets game the day before the Today Show appearance," he recalls. "This was during Linsanity. So during the game, I see Beyoncé and Jay-Z down by the court. I think it would be funny to show them The Face. So Beyoncé sees me, she nudges Jay-Z, and they both laugh."
Blankenship pauses like he still doesn't believe what happened next. "Then Beyoncé did The Face and got Jay to do it. My heart just leaped out of my chest. I was so starstruck."
Blankenship wasn't the first one to bring an oversized head to a college game to distract opponents and draw the attention of TV cameras. According to the website KnowYourMeme, the practice dates back a decade, and began at San Diego State in 2002. There, students waved giant Michael Jackson heads.
Flash forward to this past season, when fans were waving giant heads of everyone from Conan O'Brien to Saddam Hussein. Blankenship's move was simply the next logical step, a visual metaphor for our everyone-is-their-own-brand culture.
So what's next for Blankenship and The Face? Now a sophomore majoring in engineering, he'd like to work his way into a gig writing for or hosting a late-night talk show. In the meantime, he's got important work to do on campus.
"I'm still going to basketball games, still trying to distract the opposition," he says. "We've got a lot of new distractions planned for this year. It's going to be a lot of fun."
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