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For the Love of God: Get Rid of the SI Pop Culture Grid

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on July 18, 2008

Athletes are interesting, multi-faceted people, with unique interests and compelling opinions. This is a conceit that Sports Illustrated, as well as other sports magazines, expects you to buy into on a regular basis, none moreso than with their Pop Culture Grid, published every issue. The PCG takes a cross-section of athletes from different sports, and asks them to fill in the blanks to a series of easily answered first-person statements relating at least vaguely to pop culture, publishing their answers in grid format. Statements may include “Best show I watched last week,” “Please make ___ stop talking” and “If I were Kimbo Slice, I’d….,” as well as countless other potentially illuminating points meant to further the connection and relatablity of your favorite athletes.

Needless to say, this is generally not a good idea. There are some athletes with likely an interesting thing or two to say (though I think they all play basketball for some reason), but for the great majority, sports stars are a boring, predictable bunch, especially when it comes to pop culture. You’re not going to find out that Jarome Iginla is a huge Werner Herzog fan, or that Matt Leinart takes Yoko’s side in the Beatles’ break-up, or that Vlad Guerrero never misses an episode of Squidbillies. Even though I’d probably bring in Phillies reliever Brad Lidge to close out my own honeymoon, I have to make peace with the fact that he’s a big enough Drowning Pool fan to use “Bodies” as his entrance music. Nine times out of ten, you’d want to hear an athlete talk about his non-athletic interests and pursuits about as much as you’d want to have deep, meaningful conversation if you were on a date with a supermodel–just shut up and perform, plz.

For instance, here are some of the illuminating things we have learned about some of our most beloved sports stars in recent SI Pop Culture Grids:

  • Nothing is on White Sox LF Carlos Quentin‘s wall right now.
  • Pole Vaulter Jenn Stuczynski never leaves home without her wallet.
  • Giants Pitcher Tim Lincecum has never been to a concert.
  • Stars Guard Mike Smith believes Dierks Bentley should be named Entertainer of the Year.
  • Stars Guard Mike Smith says people say he looks like Dierks Bentley.
  • A phrase Tampa Bay LF Carl Crawford uses too often is “Man.”
  • Steelers WR Santonio Holmes can’t think of any chick flicks to name as his favorite.
  • Pirates CF Nate McLouth thinks a superdelegate is “Something in government.”
  • Packers DE Aaron Kampman‘s favorite pickup line is “Want to carry my books?”
  • D-Backs Pitcher Bill Murphy most recently read The DaVinci Code.
  • IRL Driver Tony Kanaan thinks he is allergic to “Fake people.”
  • When no one’s looking, Dodgers 1B James Loney likes to “sleep,” as opposed to Canadiens G Carey Price, who just likes to “take naps.”

Oooh, tell me more!

Not that I blame the athletes for this, necessarily. For one thing, athletes are forced to spend so much of their time and mental energy on their work–working out, studying playbooks, reviewing film, practicing, doing PR stuff–that I certainly can’t fault them for not taking the time to make their way through all five seasons of Six Feet Under. Plus, most athletes are trained so dilligently to give the most vanilla answers as humanly possibly when interviewed about their teams and performances and such that it’d be no surprise if they ultimately forgot how to be interesting human beings altogether. And finally, if you flipped it–grabbed, say, David Caruso, Amy Adams, Corey Taylor and Chris Crocker for a pop-culture cross-section–and asked them “PacMan Jones should be _____,” “The one game I always watch the replay of on ESPNClassic is ____” or “I think next year Greg Oden will _____,” something tells me they wouldn’t do too much better.

One day, perhaps the worlds of sports and the rest of pop culture can exist in mutually-knowledgeable harmony. But for the time being, there’s no reason to get a weekly reminder of just how far off this goal is.

2 Responses to “For the Love of God: Get Rid of the SI Pop Culture Grid”

  1. Jack said

    I once read somewhere that Brad Lidge was a history major at Notre Dame and his favorite book is Herodotus’ “Histories.” It might have been SI. But I dunno.

  2. Collin said

    i think the reason i enjoy that section of SI so much is that i can reassure myself that despite not being a professional athlete, i’m about 1000 times more interesting/educated/ in tune to pop culture as them… and that’s what keeps me going in life.

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