Viral moments in social media have become calculated, work-shopped and focus-grouped. The truly organic, truly odd moments of simultaneous discovery and zeitgeist tapping are few and far between, which is why they have to be savored and celebrated.
And with that, the cult of celebrity around Anthony Holmes, a.k.a. “Tony X,” must be celebrated.
As he tells it, Tony was flipping around the channels on Monday night looking for the St. Louis Cardinals game. He landed on Fox Sports Midwest where the St. Louis Blues were playing the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 7 of their opening round series. Tony tweeted:
“Yo deadass this the first time I've ever watched hockey and this [crap] has been LIT for these first 45 seconds.”
What followed were a collection of hilarious observations from a sports fan slowly letting the light of hockey into his heart, including the immortal:
“White people been hiding hockey from us for years bruh. This [crap] lit.”
That last line was favorited 52,000 times and counting. And a star was born.
The (PG-13-rated) observations continued during the rest of the hockey week, including such classics as:
wait goalies fight? that must be setup pregame..... how can u have beef with dude who allllll the way on the other side?
— Tony X. (@soIoucity) April 28, 2016
i am lowkey right now and hockey got basically 2 halftimes to get snacks nba and nfl losing lowkey https://t.co/5WsuDWLCUY
— Tony X. (@soIoucity) April 28, 2016
And when it came to get him geared up as a Blues fan, star winger Vladimir Tarasenko lobbied to have him wear his sweater:
— Vladimir Tarasenko (@tara9191) April 28, 2016
Benjamin Hochman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch caught up with Holmes on Wednesday about all of it:
“I’m actually doing a Skype session tomorrow morning with Michael Strahan on ‘Good Morning America,’” said Holmes, who grew up in University City and works at a local cable company.
“Hockey got pretty exciting real quick. It was just nonstop action – it was like I was almost having a panic attack every time somebody shot at the goal. Football is exciting, but after every play they take a break. Hockey never stops. It just never stops.”
When the Blues tweeted at Holmes on Wednesday, inviting him to Game 3 against Dallas, he responded: “I’m there. should i bring a jacket? I’m so serious. It is a room full of ice?”
The athletic company Reebok promptly tweeted to him, offering Blues gear to wear. And hundreds of people tweeted back with advice on what to wear to games, as well as words of wisdom
Here’s that GMA segment:
— Good Morning America (@GMA) April 28, 2016
Yep, the GMA crew invited Blues Hall of Famer Brett Hull on to reaffirm that Tony will be in attendance for his first hockey game during Game 3 of their semifinal series against the Dallas Stars.
“I’m going to do a little bit of [live tweeting.] I want to experience it. A lot of people tell me it gets crazy when it’s live," said Tony.
A lot of the coverage of Tony, like this radio interview, either refreshingly or mysteriously overlooks the fact that much of the comedy and the novelty of his celebrity is as a black man watching professional hockey. Because, in case you haven’t noticed, black players and black fans have had a complicated relationship with the NHL, even as their numbers are growing.
All of this viral fun is actually reminiscent of something that happened after the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup last season. Please recall when a WGN reporter interviewed a local African-American man, asked him about the Hawks’ win, and heard in response, “You know how awesome the Hawks are? It sounds messed up but it’s true: They got black people lovin’ hockey. Ain’t that something?”
I feel the same way about “Tony X” as I did about that guy: It’s inspiring to see how a winning season can knock down demographic dividers and bring everyone together, even if for a moment; and how, in that moment, die-hard hockey fans that are usually the first to check your card and ask you to define “icing” before letting you on the bandwagon can be the ones reaching out to help you climb aboard.
“If I’d have known how intense it was, I would have watched it years ago,” said Tony recently.
And hopefully, for years to come.
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