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Monday, November 6, 2006
The YouTube Hall of Fame

By Bill Simmons
Page 2

My virgin foray onto the Internet happened at 2:30 in the morning. This was back in the spring of '96 -- I was returning home from a night out drinking during which a college friend had casually mentioned exchanging e-mails with another of our friends at work. Wait, e-mails? What the hell are those? You guys can communicate through text instantaneously? Hearing the whole thing explained, I almost felt like the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer.

I remember stumbling back to my house, stopping at the Store 24 for some pretzels, grabbing one of those stupid "Free AOL trial!" disks on the counter, paying Joe the Alcoholic Counter Guy, heading back home and installing everything onto my laptop, creating my first screen name, using a tangled cord to plug into my kitchen phone jack ... and somehow getting myself online. My life would never be the same. And if there was a video clip of the entire sequence, I would love to stick it on YouTube and show you.
Rowdy Roddy Piper
There's crazy. There's insane. Then there's every moment Roddy Piper was on TV.
After a decade of watching the Internet change everyone's lives (including mine), it never ceases to amaze me. The Internet gave me a job and a career. I pay my bills online, follow stocks, buy DVDs and books, argue about the Celtics with complete strangers on a message board, send streaming video of my kid back home to my parents, get almost all my sports information, keep in touch with dozens and dozens of family members, friends, acquaintances and co-workers every week. There's always some new way to kill time. But YouTube ranks among the greatest Internet developments ever, right up there with iTunes, Napster, free porn and e-mails with "Vegas?" in the subject heading. For instance, last week I was watching a YouTube clip of Rowdy Roddy Piper smashing a coconut against Superfly Snuka's skull on YouTube and marveling at the magnitude of the moment: Not that it was a defining TV moment of my adolescence, but that I only needed to type in the words "Piper's Pit" on YouTube's search engine and the clip popped right up on my laptop. Unbelievable.

YouTube brings past memories to life and gives you new ones. I never thought I would see Michael Jackson's initial moonwalk during "Motown 25" again (hard to believe it was such a huge deal at the time); the watershed Stan Jonathan-Pierre Bouchard fight; the ridiculous Michael Jackson-Lisa Marie Presley kiss; a Boston fan being brave enough to walk through the Yankee Stadium bleachers dressed in Sox gear (too many obscenities involved for me to provide the link); an ancient and somewhat deranged Iron Sheik threatening to sodomize various wrestlers (can't link to that either); Fonzie jumping the shark (literally); or even David Letterman's heartfelt monologue right after the 9/11 attacks. But I watched all of those clips in the span of two hours last week.

You name it, it's probably on YouTube. (Well, except for SNL sketches -- NBC has blocked those for now. Party poopers.) I found myself getting sucked in last winter, thanks to recommendations from readers, some of my intern's links and some great finds on various sites/blogs like Fark, Deadspin, Basketball Jones and SportsByBrooks. So screw it ... how 'bout a YouTube column? Here are 33 of my favorite YouTube clips (in no particular order):

1. Band Aid -- "Do They Know It's Christmas?"
My all-time favorite Christmas song. For some reason, I hadn't seen the video in ages and forgot the lineup of singers other than Bono (who has the headscratching, "Well, tonight thank God it's them, instead of you!" line that I've never been able to figure out). In the video, that line works even better because it follows the duet with Simon LeBon and Sting, and suddenly there's a young Bono standing behind them and wearing Uncle Jessie's haircut from "Full House" ... and the three of them share one mike as Bono belts his weird line out. Even stranger, Sting never gets his own line -- he's just singing background for everyone else, which was insane because he was the biggest star there.

Here's what kills me about this video (other than George Michael's haircut): Not only does Paul Young bat leadoff, they go back to him for another solo in the middle! Paul Young! They had the lead singer of the hottest band at the time (Duran Duran's LeBon), the best singer of the entire decade (Sting) and a budding superstar (Bono) ... and they kicked things off with Paul Young? Who was in charge of Band Aid, Bob Geldof or Jimy Williams? I was trying to think of a sports equivalent of this -- like John Starks getting named to the '92 Dream Team, then starting over MJ and Drexler -- but it's impossible. It's too ludicrous. You can't come up with the sports equivalent of Paul Young getting the nod over Bono, Sting and Simon LeBon. I watched this clip 10 times in two weeks and still couldn't figure it out. And you wonder what I do all day.

(And while we're here, the "We Are The World" video is equally fantastic, although every joke has been made at this point. Just know that Dan Aykroyd cracking the chorus group gets 3 percent funnier each year.)

2. Boom Goes the Dynamite
I know, I know ... we've all seen him at this point. When they create the YouTube Hall of Fame, this probably makes the first ballot along with "The Shining" parody, the RBI Baseball/Game 6 do-over and the hypnotically bizarre clip of the Chinese guy berating the other Chinese guy on a bus. But we can't leave him off -- that would be like counting down the greatest announcing calls of all time and leaving off "do you believe in miracles?" Couldn't we make him the 2-6 a.m. ESPNews anchor with Cindy Brunson?

3. Lex Luger vs. a NWA Cyberspace T-shirt
The charisma-less Luger had a promising wrestling future, somehow exceeded his ceiling and became the WWE champ, then fans decided that he wasn't good enough to deserve everything that happened and turned on him. So he ended up falling out of the mainstream loop. Yes, it happens all the time in wrestling ... and fortunately for us, because this cruel turn of events led to Luger doing a crazy interview for a low-level promotion that became the "Boom Goes the Dynamite" of wrestling clips. You need to watch this one a few times to fully appreciate it. I'm convinced that half of the 25,000 funniest things that ever happened were somehow related to pro wrestling.

4. The Tonight Show
David Lee Roth sings a bluegrass version of "Jump" ... or as I like to call it, "the official death of the '80s." Unfortunately this clip was pulled from YouTube right before we posted this column. Maybe that was for the best. Until it goes back up, we'll have to replace it with Van Halen's original "Jump" video that has aged so nicely -- most notably, Eddie's uncomfortable, possibly chemically altered grin and the over-the-top antics of bass player Michael Anthony, who rates right ahead of Jack Haley and right behind the guy who plays Turtle in "Entourage" on the I'm-Just-Happy-To-Be-Here-Getting-A-Paycheck Scale. Can't you picture him sitting in a trailer right now and trying to convince some 16-year-old girl that he used to be in Van Halen?
Bo Jackson
Who didn't have a 562-yard rushing game with Bo in Tecmo Bowl?
5. The Best of Bo Jackson
Here's why you have to love YouTube: It's the only place where forgotten superstars like Shawn Kemp and Bo Jackson live on. Isn't it weird that the Reign Man's legacy became the drug problem and the "seven kids by six women" thing while Bo's legacy became Tecmo Bowl? Was there anyone even remotely like either of these guys?

6. Bill Shatner & Rocket Man
After I linked to this one in a column two weeks ago, a few readers tried to claim that the clip shouldn't qualify for the Unintentional Comedy Scale because Shatner was TRYING to be funny, that he couldn't have possibly been serious. No. No way. You're wrong. He's dead-serious. Just look at the I'm-so-pleased-with-myself smile at the end, or the fact that the crowd wasn't laughing at any point. My favorite part happens when the third Shatner comes in -- Wacky Shatner -- because that's the one part with "intentional comedy," only there's unintentional comedy in the intentional comedy. It's like he took the whole concept to another level. I just don't think this will ever be topped. Even with "Trapped in the Closet," I still feel like R. Kelly is super-secretly in on the joke somehow.

(By the way, the cartoon "Family Guy" did a takeoff on the Shatner performance a few years ago -- apparently, some of the show's fans had no idea why it happened until they saw the Shatner clip on YouTube. Thought that was interesting. Everyone keeps telling me that I would love "Family Guy." All right, I'm babbling.)

7. ESPN Top 10 Baseball Fights
First of all, this should expand to a top 50 for its own hour-long show. I don't know anyone who wouldn't watch a steady stream of basebrawls for 60 solid minutes. Would wild horses be able to pull you from the TV? I didn't think so. Second, as much as I loved the Ryan-Ventura fight, I can't believe Roseboro-Marichal didn't get the top spot because that's the only recorded instance of a batter repeatedly creaming a catcher over the head with a baseball bat during a game. That will never be topped, at least until Tampa Bay finally calls up Elijah Dukes. Third, Izzy Alcantara's kick of the catcher gets better every time; he shouldn't have been suspended, he should have been canonized. Fourth, Harold Lederman would have scored the Mike Sweeney-Jeff Weaver fight a 10-7 round for Sweeney -- I forgot how enjoyable that one was. Same for Bert Campaneris winging his bat at Tigers pitcher Lerrin LaGrow (which happened in the 1972 playoffs).

And fifth, I can remember 20 fights from the past 35 years that were better than half of the ones in this top 10: Ray Knight-Eric Davis; Pete Rose-Bud Harrelson; George Brett fighting Graig Nettles in Game 5 of the '77 ALCS and both guys being allowed to stay in the game; Carlton Fisk fighting Thurman Munson and Gene Michael at the same time (and winning); Al Nipper decking Phil Bradley with his non-pitching hand; George Bell karate-kicking Bruce Kison; and so on ... which brings me back to my original point: We really, really, REALLY need to run that "Top 50 Basebrawls" show.

8. "Whatzupwitu"
There was a time when Eddie Murphy was bigger than Will Smith, Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock combined. And then this happened.

9. Len Bias Highlights
Heartfelt segment on the Lenny Bias Era, including highlights of the famous UNC game when he made the jumper, stole the inbounds pass and reverse-dunked in one felt swoop. And yes, the 20-year anniversary is coming up.

Wait, hold on.

(Slamming my forehead against my desk over and over again.)

More Great Clips!
Deadspin.com's Will Leitch was one of the first sports bloggers to embrace the power of YouTube. Here are his five favorite findings from the past few months:

5. It's Hard Out There For A Mascot
So there's just some guys, driving around, looking for something to eat, when out of nowhere, the Atlanta Hawks mascot drives by on a miniature motorcycle. And -- wouldn't you know it? -- the bike breaks down.

4. "It's All About The Cats"
Made in the mid-'80s, this is a promotional "rap" video from the Arizona Wildcats. Star performers include Steve Kerr, Sean Elliott and Tom Tolbert. If you look quick, you'll even see Kenny Lofton.

3. The Baseball Flop
An Arkansas college baseball player, desperately trying to get on base, reels as if hit by an inside pitch, even though it missed him by about two feet. His Brando-esque performance convinces no one, but he still pleads his case to the point that the ump, mercifully, ejects him.

2. A Fly Manny Would Have Tried To Catch
At an Alaska Goldpanners summer-league game, right as the pitcher's in his windup, a small plane crashes just beyond the left-field fence. The best part is the announcer, still using his normal broadcasting voice.

1. Game 6, 1986, set to RBI Baseball
It's that simple; the great Nintendo RBI Baseball simulating the grueling last moments of Bill Buckner's happiness, all set to the dulcet tones of Vin Scully. The amount of work that went into this is just another example of why the Internet is so terrifying.

10. "Fuji Vice"
Before 1990, when Letterman, Spy Magazine and SNL shaped the country's sense of humor so everyone started mocking these things, stuff like "Fuji Vice" and Shatner's "Rocket Man" kept happening with no real repercussions, even though a smaller number of people were devouring this stuff, realizing the comedic potential and praying for more and more. Now our culture has become sophisticated enough that you rarely see anyone walk into a comedy bear trap anymore, although there are always delightful exceptions (like R. Kelly or Tom Cruise, to name two).

For wrestling purposes, everything peaked with "Fuji Vice," in which the Magnificent Muraco (playing up his Hawaiian heritage) and Mr. Fuji (his evil manager) filmed a short TV show modeled after "Miami Vice," with Muraco and Fuji as the Crockett/Tubbs characters. The beauty of "Fuji Vice," and the reason why it brought so much joy to the wrestling community for the next two decades, was that Fuji and Muraco were dead serious in this thing. They're trying to act. Muraco even looks like someone promised him, "Hey, if this idea takes off, we might be able to turn it into a real show." I remember watching this in 1986, touting its virtues for the next two years, never meeting anyone else who had seen it ... and then my future roommate Birdman (living in the room next to me as a freshman in college) dropped a "Fuji Vice" joke one night and I almost had a heart attack. That led to two decades of friendship and us re-enacting the handshakes between Macho Man Savage and Hulk Hogan every time we see one another. I wish I was kidding. Which reminds me ...

11. Miami Vice Pilot
Here's the famous scene described in my recent Nomar/Pedro column (the one with Phil Collins' "In The Air Tonight"). Two great things about this one: First, it still holds up -- even now -- and "Vice" is about as dated as it gets. Second, up until that point, there had never been anything on TV even remotely resembling that scene. Remember, this was the same era when A) they were still freezing people's faces mid-laugh during the opening credits of any sitcom; and B) nobody realized that you could use music to accentuate dramatic TV scenes. So this was like watching Bill Russell block someone's running hook shot in the mid-'50s for the first time.

(Speaking of chill scenes on YouTube, does it get any better than Pacino's speech near the end of "Any Given Sunday?" Has there ever been a greater scene in a worse movie? That was the last great Pacino moment -- his version of MJ swishing the shot over Bryon Russell. And just like MJ, he keeps coming back.)

12. Carl Lewis "Break It Up"
Yes, Carl Lewis made a music video. Yes, you need to watch it. Yes, your life will never be the same. Sadly, his National Anthem performance isn't on YouTube -- at least not yet. But this will suffice. It's almost as horrifying as ...

13. Van Damme on the Dance Floor
You've seen him defeat Chong Li when he was blind. You've seen him play goalie in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Now ... see Jean-Claude Van Damme dance! Too bad this couldn't have happened as Steven Seagal was running on a treadmill in the background.

14. Beverly Hills 90210
Every few days, someone will put up the opening credit sequence from one of the seasons, which always kills me because I love that somebody took the time to transfer them to YouTube. Then it gets pulled down, a few days passes, and someone will post another season. Remember, "90210" had the funniest opening credits of any show other than maybe "Night Court": the half-turnarounds; the disparity of smiles (that ranged from "I'm very serious about my work on this show" to "I can't believe I get paid every week!); Tori Spelling trying to look sexy (and failing); Jason Priestley taking himself too seriously; Ian Ziering being Ian Ziering; Joe E. Tata being ecstatic just that he made the opening credits; Tiffani-Amber Thiessen's weight fluctuations (she was the Shaq of night-time soap operas); James Eckhouse's "That's right, I'm Mr. Effing Walsh" turnaround; and the spliced "highlights" of each character that was supposed to represent what they were really about (like Dylan riding his motorcycle, or a shirtless Steve Sanders lunging for a volleyball). And the song was fantastic. Did you ever create fake words for the song to spice it up? Umm, me neither.

Anyway, let's replace the original No. 14 with ...

14. The Birdman
Some, umm, doctored highlights from the 2005 Dunk Contest. In my book, it's always time for the Birdman to fly.

15. Pearl Jam & Bruce Springsteen "Better Man"
Forget about the surreal experience of seeing Eddie Vedder and Bruce Springsteen sing together. Let's be honest: The Boss MANGLES the song. He kills it. It's like a bad karaoke performance. The only way it could have been worse is if he stopped the song midway through and told one of those interminably long Bruce stories about "when I was growing up, my dad always thought he was a better man than me ..."

(For a much better duet involving Bruce, check out him and Sting singing "The River." Am I crazy or could they have released this?)

16. Mike Tyson Post-Fight Interview
The one with Jim Gray where Tyson vows to eat Lennox Lewis' kids. Somebody needs to release all of Iron Mike's post-fight interviews on DVD -- especially the ones from the mid-'80s, when he would get so excited to answer the questions that he would interrupt the interviewer because he couldn't wait to speak again. He was the best. I wish they had the Unintentional Comedy Awards every year so we could give him the first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award, followed by him winning the award for Unintentional Comedy Speech of the night right after he finished his speech. Am I the only one who deeply misses Mike Tyson on a weekly basis? Can't we give him a talk show or something?
Saved By The Bell
Everyone watched "Saved By The Bell," but few would ever admit it.

17. Saved By The Bell
Uh-oh ... Jesse's addicted to caffeine pills again. This show has aged spectacularly -- it happened 12-15 years ago, but it feels like 50.

18. Vanilla Ice Goes Postal on MTV
This was a brilliant show in itself -- MTV gathering Jon Stewart, Denis Leary, Chris Kattan and Janeane Garofalo (right before she lost her mind) to count down 25 videos that needed to be destroyed. (Basically, this was the forerunner to those "I Love The '80s"/"Best Week Ever" shows -- and much funnier, too, since these were legitimately funny people making jokes over the videos. Well, except for Janeane Garofalo.) So they get to Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby" video and bring a deranged Ice into the studio to watch it with them -- big mistake, since everyone's afraid to make fun of the video with him sitting right there -- then compound the mistake by asking him to destroy his video's cassette with a baseball bat. Instead, Ice destroys the set as everyone cowers in abject fear, highlighted by Kattan shrieking in a terrified voice, "NO VANILLA!" Tour de force all the way around. This might be the best six minutes on YouTube.

19. NY Jets Draft Blunders
This made the rounds two months ago. The best part is when Rozelle announces one of the picks and says, "Fullback ..." followed by one lone voice screaming, "Nooooooooooooo!" Not only does ESPN need to re-edit this and make it about five minutes longer, if they don't do a similar idea with the Knicks for the upcoming NBA draft, that will be devastating. We can't get 90 more seconds out of the MSG reactions for the likes of Jerrod Mustaf, Fred Weis and Kenny Walker? Or what about a Clippers montage? Come on. Don't make me beg.

20. Steve and Dirk
From a few years ago: Actual video of the future two-time MVP and a future All-NBA first-teamer singing a cheesy song together in the locker room. This is what happens when two white guys take control of the NBA. It never ends well.

21. Frank Stallone -- "Far From Over"
Sly's brother sings the theme song for the impossibly bad "Staying Alive." And normally, that sentence would be funny enough in itself ... but you have to pay special attention to the way he plays his guitar. By the way, you're not a kid from the '80s if the instrumental part of this song doesn't make you think of Harry Shearer and Martin Short doing their synchronized swimming routine..

22. Boston 80's sports
A four-minute clip from Bob Lobel's outstanding end-of-the-decade sports special about 1980s Boston sports (one of my prized possessions from the VCR era). I love this clip because of the sheer volume of highlights (it's almost overwhelming) and the '80s gimmick (since extinct) of having a lame local singer tailor the words to a hit song (in this case, Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start The Fire") for a sports video (in this case, a retrospective of Boston sports in the '80s). Delightfully ridiculous. You even get a young Lobie at the end standing on the Charles River. Also, if you're not a Boston guy, you can find Warner Wolf's "Plays of the Decade" (fantastic '80s special) and ESPN's "Plays of the Century" on YouTube as well. I'm not doing all the work for you.

23. "Grand Theft Submarine"
Somebody took one of Adam Carolla's "here's an idea for a movie" rants on "Loveline," then made an elaborate (and outstanding) cartoon out of it. And you know what? This COULD have been a movie in the early '90s. Does anyone know if Seagal is busy? Actually, don't answer that.

(On a personal note, when we were working together at "Jimmy Kimmel Live," Carolla would pitch these crazy action movie ideas to the writers as we were trying to write jokes, with this being the best one ... and since he has no long-term memory, he would accidentally regurgitate the same 7-8 movie ideas every few months. So we had all heard this particular one 5-6 times, only each version was always a little different because he would forget the precise details. It was almost like seeing the Dead or Phish in concert, when you know the song but never know what direction they might go with it. Seeing this particular idea spring to life in an Internet cartoon was weirdly phenomenal.)

24. Pistons Pacers Fight (Detroit feed)
Just when you thought you had run out of ways to enjoy the Artest Melee, there's clips of the Detroit local-TV feed AND the ESPN feed out there. If this were World War 2, Ben Wallace was really the Japan of this whole thing.

25. Battle of the Network Stars
The prelude to the famous Gabe Kaplan-Robert Conrad 200-yard race (not available on YouTube for some reason) when Conrad (NBC's captain) is complaining about an illegal baton exchange or something and legitimately ends up flying off the handle -- with Telly Savalas, Bruce Jenner and Pat Schneider egging him on, no less -- culminating in Conrad crossing just about every line with a tasteless joke about Jews, Greeks and Germans. Once Robert Conrad got going, nobody was safe, folks. Every time I watch this clip, I feel like I just smoked hash that was laced with peyote acid.

(And just for the record, there aren't nearly enough "Battle of the Network Stars" clips on there. We need to see Randi Oakes and Charlene Tilton in the dunk tank; we need to see Scott Baio pulling a Gale Sayers in touch football; we need Billy Crystal tripping over the tires of the obstacle course; we need Dan Haggerty wreaking havoc ... I will not be happy until 50-60 clips are up there. Seriously. Let's get going, strange Internet people who take the time to put up YouTube clips.)

26. Beavis, Butthead and Hogan
Reason No. 534 why I love YouTube: Tons of Beavis and Butthead clips, including the Great Cornholio, Nose Bleed, Sperm Bank and other episodes. But this one features them watching Hulk Hogan's "Real American" video ... I mean, have you SEEN Hulk Hogan's "Real American" video? We need to see him and Frank Stallone battle in the Fake Guitar Playing Finals.

27. Karate Kid III
The trailer. I love how the narrator tries to sell this like it's a realistic plot. "The time has come when a student must question ... when the teacher must let go ... when a conspiracy is planned ... when a trap is set ..."

28. New England @ Denver Broncos
Everyone in Seattle is still complaining about the Super Bowl? Really? Watch the unedited feed of the Asante Samuel interference call again. Go ahead. Pay special attention to Samuel GETTING mugged (not doing the mugging) and the lateness of the flag from the back of the end zone, as well as Phil Simms' incredulous commentary. And after you're done with that, watch Champ Bailey fumble the football forward on the half-yard line and somehow not have it be called a touchback. Did we spend the whole winter and spring whining about this stuff? No. I'm just saying.

Steve Perry
Steve Perry's hair is currently on display at the Smithsonian Institute.
29. Journey -- "Separate Ways"
A recipe for bliss: Take one of the cheesiest-yet-enjoyable bands of that era (Journey), bring them to an empty shipyard, have them play invisible instruments and lip-synch the hell out of their best song, throw in some ridiculous slow-motion closeups and multi-picture edits, and have a hot girl with a bad haircut walking around for no reason whatsoever. And if that's not enough, lead singer Steve Perry gives one of the greatest performances of the last 35 years -- he throws himself into this thing like DeNiro or Pacino. It's incredible. Everything about this slays me. If somebody gave me five minutes to sum up the '80s, I would just show them this video and be done with it.

(By the way, I mailed this to my buddy Geoff a few weeks ago because his high school prom date looked a little like Steve Perry. He called me a few days later just to say that he'd watched the video 12 times and was about to go back for thirteenths. It's that good.)

30. ESPN Top 10 NBA Fights
Maybe it's for the best that Kermit Washington-Rudy Tomjanovich didn't make the cut. But this should be an hour-long ESPN show as well -- you could cram 60-70 fights in there. My personal favorite was the one where Ken "The Animal" Bannister fought someone at MSG (I think it was Michael Cage) at midcourt for like 7-8 seconds before they tumbled over the scorer's table -- that thing was like Hagler-Hearns. And by the way, pay special attention to Doctor J peppering Larry Legend with cheap shots even though Moses and Barkley were holding Bird in a revese bear hug -- Doc was like the preppy loser in "Beautiful Girls" who beats up Matt Dillon as his buddies are holding Dillon's arms. What an outrage. I never liked Doc as much after that.

31. Namath-Kolber I
I'm calling this "Namath-Kolber I" just to leave the door open for the remote chance of a "Namath-Kolber II." You never know. Anyway, I keep waiting to get bored of watching this thing ... hasn't happened. My new favorite part is when Suzy throws it back to the booth and the ESPN guys do the good-natured, "Oh, that's just Joe being Joe!" routine. It's just too bad this didn't happen with Lisa Guerrero instead of Suzy.

32. The Second Greatest YouTube Clip of All-Time
Well, unless you're a Yankee fan.

33. The Greatest YouTube Clip of All-Time
The only piece of video that comes even remotely close to explaining what it felt like to be sitting in Fenway after midnight on October 19, 2004. This clip gives me chills every time. Every time. God bless YouTube. God bless the Internet.

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His new book "Now I Can Die In Peace is available on Amazon.com and in bookstores everywhere.