November 21, 2013
My Column: The Jokes the Internet Killed in 2013
I made a dumb Shelby Miller joke in the comments to my last article about MVP voting biases. It wasn't my first. It was probably my last, but either way, I feel worse about it because it piggybacked off another dumb tired joke.
I'm a SABR member and never considered that baseball was played on a spreadsheet, but it might explain how Shelby Miller could have been hiding in Column CX, Row 9378 during the World Series.
To which a helpful commenter named "buckgunn" replied:
Didn't think the Shelby Miller MIA meme would persist into November, but there were several quite legit reasons he wasn't given innings in the postseason (a few articles have spelled out the logic behind the Cardinals' thinking). It's all very harmless and of course not a big deal, but I'm not sure why this has been the go-to joke among seamhead types for so long.
I'm not sure either, though my guess is that we just ran out of other jokes. They were all dead.
And I was glad I got called out. That joke is dead too. We killed it, just like we kill every other joke that starts out funny, and even some that don't start out funny.
It’s nobody’s singular fault; rather it’s the product of the redundant network of writers whom we all read and whose Twitter accounts that we all follow. There just isn’t an original thought anymore, even if it’s the first time you’ve said it. And if you’ll allow me to double down on generalizations, not only do we all follow the same people, but those people often have the same views of what’s right in baseball and what’s poke-able.
And that’s how you end up with the rest of the jokes that the baseball internet has beaten to death in 2013, which afterward might just teach us a little bit about ourselves.
Those gritty Diamondbacks
Origin: “We kind of like that gritty, hard-nosed player. I'm not saying Justin isn't that type.” – Kevin Towers to Danny Knobler, January 24. It became a thing whenever Justin Upton did anything good and whenever the Diamondbacks did something silly.
Beaten to death in: Three months, with Justin Upton’s great April.
Was I complicit: Absolutely. Wrote this the day it happened.
Brian McCann as the fun police
Origin: The theme of McCann hating fun has its roots in his dustup with Jose Fernandez but found a new level when he stood in front of home plate and didn’t allow Carlos Gomez to score.
Beaten to death in: A shorter amount of time than it took Gomez to (almost) round the bases.
Was I complicit: No, the only joke here was that McCann wasn’t suspended.
Example: When the internet gives us both this and this, it’s as if the joke was beaten to death, dug up with a shovel and murdered again. (Though I sort of enjoyed both of them.)
Joey Votto aggressiveness jokes
Origin: The bizarre threesome among the passive Votto, the aggressive and RBI-inflated Brandon Phillips, and the confused Dusty Baker. Also the brilliant trolling of columns like these.
Beaten to death in: The course of an entire season
Was I complicit: Probably, but not as much as Ben Lindbergh was. To quote the editor-in-chief: “Man, errrybody on my timeline just made almost-identical Votto jokes. Ashamed about mine.”
Origin: April 25, when White Sox announcer/homer/blowhard Hawk Harrelson cited “the will to win” as the most important statistic in an argument with known instigator Brian Kenny on MLB Network.
Beaten to death in: A matter of hours. If it continues next year, it will be a testament to how ridiculous the statement was, because this joke has been long dead.
Was I complicit: Yes, historically so.
Robot umps now
Origin: It actually dated back before this year, but it’s really gotten out of control lately.
Beaten to death in: 2013, but the problem is that it wasn’t tied to a news story, so this one has the potential to just go on and on and on even with replay.
Was I complicit: Don’t remember doing so? I didn’t find it funny in the first place.
The James Shields-Wil Myers switches
Origin: The most snarked-about trade in a long time made it so that at least this year, one couldn’t watch one player who changed teams without playing instant word association to the other.
Beaten to death in: A slow progression, building up to when James Shields obviously would have caught that ball in right field at Fenway Park.
Was I complicit: Not in any extreme sense, but this one from yours truly after Myers’ debut doubleheader losses was arguably worse.
Robinson Cano’s 99 problems
Origin: The moment that Cano signed Jay Z to be his sort-of-but-not-really agent.
Beaten to death in: A matter of minutes, but mostly because of the lack of creativity. This was so avoidable. He’s one of the most prolific artists of the last two decades. Why did everybody go here? Jay Z has charted more than 50 songs in the U.S., and this is hardly the first one that comes to mind. I mean, even if you wanted an easy baseball play, “Hard Knock Life” works 100 times better. And this one is threatening to rise from the dead every time somebody speaks in this contract negotiation.
Was I complicit: No, I would have tried to come up with something from “Big Pimpin’” and then decided it was probably a bad idea.
Example: There are so many to choose from, so here’s one from six weeks after this was already dead.
The montage of other jokes that suffered their deaths in 2013:
The Dodgers signing all of the players for all of the money
MUPs being lit
Yasiel Puig overthrowing the cutoff man
Jumping in the Diamondbacks’ pool
Michael Young’s leadership (arguably dead before 2013)
“What’s his ERA against lefties?”
None of these jokes, may they rest in peace, died in vain if they were able to improve the lives of those still among the living. Their legacy is in what they teach us about ourselves, the joke tellers.
For one thing—and I think this will always be true every year from now on—we think we’re smarter than those in charge, so they’re easy targets. That’s the theme of #TWTW, robot umps now, and to some extent, laughing at the Shields/Myers trade (where the “we” that’s sort of been understood here is pretty much aligned with Team Myers).
But there was a bigger theme specific to this list. One major theme of humor is its use as casual rebellion against real or perceived authority. It’s why “gallows humor” isn’t the only reason that some of the best of Jewish humor came out of the ghettos of 1930s Europe.
On a much less grim note that probably needed several more paragraph breaks for an appropriate transition, the overall theme of the jokes this year was rebellion against perceived authority.
We mocked Brian McCann for trying to get in on that. We mocked Michael Young just for being declared part of that through no fault of his own. We cheered Puig’s disregard for that. We mocked the Diamondbacks early in the year and then again late in the year during swimming time, when they tried to flaunt that authority.
In general, we propped up the young and mocked the veterans, both the veterans themselves and their defenders. With the exception of the Cincinnati case, we largely this year stood up for the minority and mocked the white, and something tells me there’s a sociological volume to be written on our comfort in doing this given baseball writers’ being mostly a white group.
Maybe we were reacting to what we saw as an abundance of media members and players going the other direction who needed to be stopped. Or maybe those were just the voices we’ve unfortunately trained ourselves to hear, even though most of the noise was really just us joking at one another and over one another in the supposedly enlightened baseball person echo chamber.
No matter which theme you choose to take away, there’s one thing we can all agree on one thing as we try to heed the lessons of the jokes we’ve beaten to death: that baseball writers’ knowledge of Jay Z’s full body of work is horrific.
Zachary Levine is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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