A bit of a special treat for us, in theory, this week on Pros Vs. Joes. Some borderline celebrities are participating. This has one obvious drawback, in that these guys see professional athletes up close and personal, and not one of them actually thinks they are going to beat the pros. They talk a good game, but come on, some of them are in their early 40's; most sportscasters are failed athletes. They know they can't beat these guys. But, it was still fun.
Let's meet our "Joes" (who are, umm, kinda famous. I had heard of 2 of them!)
Joe #1: Derrin Horton, who works for the NFL Network. So not only is he a sportscaster, he is working for possibly the most evil idea the NFL has ever come up with, including when the NFL colluded with Nazi scientists to develop in a lab a simulcrum of a human, that unsightly mockery of God's creation, Al Davis. I can not state loudly enough how much I hate the very idea of the NFL network, and here creeps one of their denizens, on to "normal cable". I'm rooting against him, but in build and age, he looks like the likely victor.
Joe #2: Sal Masekela, or as I know him, "That black guy from the X-Games". According to wikipedia, Sal has been forced, due to some crime committed in a past life, to co-host a show on E! with Debbie Mantahugginkiss, formerly of the View. He's also the son of a famous South African musician, and the brother of a guy from Survivor. This family is fucking talented, ya'll. I think I'll root for Sal, despite the long odds on the Extreme Sport Guy with a the pearish physique.
Joe #3: Van Earl Wright, of Fox Sports. Van Earl may be the oldest competitor on PvJ. I like Van Earl Wright, for reasons I'm uncertain about. He was one of those guys, back in the days when ESPN seemed like the hippest thing ever, to try to be the hip guy for other sports/news channels. He's been around forever. He doesn't have a prayer.
So, anyway, those are our Joes. Presumably, with "famous" participants, we won't have a very physical episode on our hands. That assumption proves true.
Pro #1: Rob Dibble. Shockingly to me, Dibble is now 43. Though we only get tastes of it, it seems that Dibble has been busy in retirement, getting both arms inked. He, like almost every baseball player that has been featured on PvJ has been enjoying his retirement. He looks more like a First Base Coach than a former player, if you get my meaning.
Pro #2: Brick Mitts! Apparently people in Indiana call Rik Smits "The Dunkin' Dutchman" but everyone I knew called him Brick Mitts. I've always disliked Smits, disliked being reminded that basketball always has a place for the genetic freaks. If Rik had been born 120 years earlier, he would have earned his meager paycheck in Traveling Sideshows. Which is where he belonged. Oh well.
Pro #3: Robby Ginepri! Wait? Who? Robby Ginepri? Did he have a bit part in Goodfellas? No. Apparently Robby Ginepri is a American tennis player who had a pretty good 2005, and a very mediocre 2006. If Andy Roddick is the Frank Sinatra of American Tennis, then Robby is probably Joey Bishop.
Pro #4: Andre Rison. I refuse to call him "Bad Moon" because that was a Chris Berman invention, and I refuse to have any part in encouraging that annoying fat piece of shit. Rison was a Wide Receiver on 7 NFL teams, and 1 CFL Team. He was also married to formerly crazy, now dead, member of TLC, Lisa "Left-Eye" Lopes. His appearance on this show basically amounts to a cameo.
Challenge 1: Shatter Glass: The concept is simple enough, if somewhat odd. In front of homeplate there is a box, that has 10 panes of glass, with a target box behind them. Shatter all the glass, and get a ball through the target. Pro Rob Dibble will set the pace.
"Control" is not a watchword for Dibble. Presumably, he could take some gas off the 86 mph heaters he's throwing into the ground, but he refuses to. He's going for maximum breakage, minimal aiming. It takes him 3 pitches to hit glass at all, but when he does, he breaks 6 panes. In all, it takes him 14 pitches to break all 10 panes, and to get a ball through the target.
Sal is the first Joe, and our friends at PvJ decide it will be funny to clock the Joe's speed of pitches, too. It is funny. Sal clocks at about 38 mph. But he does actually beat Dibble, needing only 12 pitches. Eat it, you fat-ass, overly tatted, crazy fucking Pro!
Van Earl is next, and he proceeds to put on the worst baseball throwing exhibition I have ever seen. And I'm including the charity event I saw that had 8 year old girls with inner ear disorders throwing off the mound. Seriously, there must be something wrong with Van Earl, because these balls are landing 20 feet in front of the mound, yards off to the side. It is hideous. Host Petro Snuffalupagus actually says, "Someone please shoot me." I can only imagine how long this display took in real life. Van Earl isn't overthrowing--he's hitting 19 mph on the gun, and yet in 12 throws, he breaks 3 panes. Have a seat, Van Earl. He keeps throwing, even after he loses. He doesn't break any more panes. Sit the fuck down, Van Earl.
Last up, NFL Networker Derrin Horton--he's clocking about 34 mph. But, oh, Tragedy! He pulls his hammie. Warrior for Evil that he is, he struggles on, and does a lot better than Van Earl. But no one can beat Sal! (we will see later that Sal probably has some baseball playing in his life, despite his Hip, X-Game 'tude, Dude)
Second Challenge: Return 9 shots from Robby Ginepri (who?)--Each pro will face 3 of Ginepri's serves, 3 of his forehands, and 3 of his overhand smashes. Pro who successfully returns the most wins. Shots into the net on Ginepri's part count as points for the Joes, instead of do-overs. Presumably, that will keep Ginepri (who?) from going fullstream on these guys.
Sal is up first, and the first serve he faces is clocked at 127 mph. Robby is not dicking around. Sal returns 0 serves, but does get his racket on 2 each of the forehand and overhead smashes. They are ugly duck returns, but they suffice. Sal scores 4 points.
Horton is next. He nils out on the serves. He goes 2-2 on forehand. On the third, Ginepri, with lightning in his eyes, tells Horton to drop back. Horton actually does so. What comes next is obvious enough. Ginepri drops a wicked backspinning dropshot on the guy with the gimpy hamstring. Nice, Robby! Horton faces 2 overhand smashes that he doesn't handle. He can't win. Eat it, evil denizen of NFL Network!
Van Earl scores two points on shots that Ginepri hits into the net. That's all he does. Suck it, Van Earl, you old man.
Sal is going to Overtime. To paraphrase Barack "You Like a Hurricane" Obama, "No one thought that this pudgy X-gamer, son of a South African musician, could win the first round of Pros Vs. Joes! But we pray to a mighty God on the slopes of Telluride, and we catch baseballs at the Virtual Studios at E! Entertainment!" Congrats, Sal. We were wrong to doubt you.
So our tiebreaker round is for Van Earl and Derrin. They are going to catch Inbound passes and shoot over Brick Mitts. They will be shooting from 5 places on the floor; they have 10 to choose from. Mitts will be Lurching out of the circle under the basket for each shot.
Derrin goes first; hits an incredible bank shot, and then pump fakes successfully on his last shot to go 2-5. Van Earl needs three sunk baskets to win. He hits his first, from the right corner. He doesn't come close again. Van Earl is eliminated! Perhaps the fact that he is at least 10 years older than his next competitor had something to do with it! Perhaps the fact that the man has apparently never held a baseball in his hand had something to do with it. It doesn't matter. Van Earl, Hit The Fucking Bricks, pal.
On to Overtime--4 events, no longer than 1 minute each.
First event: Play one on one with Brick Mitts & Score a basket--This was predictable. Both guys max out. For some reason, at no point, does either use what is presumably their fast foot speed. If I Had been in their shoes, I would not have played any defense on Smits, and I would launched for anywhere on the floor. They both dribble drive on occasion. Guys, that dude is 7' 4". Don't do that!
Both Joes tied at 1:00!
Second Event: Catch 2 heaters from Dibble--just to make it interesting, there's a large backstop behind the Joes. If Dibble misses the backstop, it counts as a catch for the Joe. Dibble does in fact miss the backstop against Derrin. Derrin does make a stabbing catch to end his session at 25 seconds. Sal is up next, and he seats himself, as host Petros Pumpernickelos notes, "Like a real catcher." Sal has definitely played some catcher in his life, because he looks almost bored as he snags two Dibble fastballs in 10 seconds. Oh, Snap, Dibbly! Homeboy kicked your tatted-up ass!
Sal is now up by 15 seconds.
Third Event: Stand at the Net, and Volley a return from Robby Ginepri (who?). This is by far the most physical event the sportscasters deal with, in terms of pain. Derrin takes a tennis ball pretty solid in the kackers. The face he makes is priceless. Maybe Robby is as pissed about the concept of the NFL Network as I am. During most of Derrin's performance, it looks less like "return a ball" than "dodge the tennis ball". And even if that were the premise, Derrin doesn't do well. His balls aren't the only place that Ginepri hits pretty solidly. Robby hit that ass! (Not in that way, Timmy Hardaway!) Derrin maxes out.
Sal maxes out, too, but he looks good doing it, damn it!
Sal still up 15 seconds.
Fourth Event: Tipped pass drill with Andre Rison--Hey, that's right. Andre Rison is on this show. An automated football chucker is rigged up to hit a wooden ramp, to simulate a tipped ball. Host Petros Pickapickilitis informs the contestants that just like in the NFL, anything goes after a tipped ball.
Sal goes first, but doesn't take that lesson to heart, and reacts with what seems genuine anger/frustration/confusion about why this Rison fellow keeps pushing him over, grabbing his jersey, etc. Sal maxes out, and has to run to the finish line. Oh no, his lead is basically gone. If Derrin can finish this event in 56 seconds, he will win. Derrin drops a couple of balls that would have won him the game quite easily. He manages to catch one ball, at about the 50 second mark. Can he run 5 second 60 yard dash? The answer is no!
Your winner, super-hip X-Gamer, Punk Kid, son of an African Immigrant Sal Masekela! You see, the US is a Meritocracy after all! USA! USA! USA!
Congrats, Sal! (Wanna give us an interview?)
photo courtesy of our friends and lovers at ESPN.