Monday, September 23, 2013

All His Fingers Look Like Thumbs

The most butthurt defense of a mediocre performance I've ever heard comes not from sports talk, shockingly enough, but from Ken Keeler on the DVD commentary of the notorious Simpsons episode "The Principal and the Pauper." Keeler tried to shut up know-it-alls who thought the episode was a sucky parody of the Martin Guerre story by claiming that the story of Armin Tamzarian was actually based on the Tichborne Claimant case. For those unfamiliar with the story, Martin Guerre was a peasant who disappeared when he was off to war. While he was gone, an impostor from a nearby town showed up in his village and claimed to be him. Eventually Martin Guerre appeared and extreme awkwardness and executions ensued. You may remember this as the basic plot of "The Principal and the Pauper." Or of Sommersby.

The Tichborne case is somehow both sadder and funnier. To set it in modern times, imagine if Jeremy Gallon had gone missing in Connecticut, and Al Borges, distraught with grief, advertised all throughout New England that a huge reward was in store for anyone who could safely bring Gallon back to Michigan. Now suppose that Ondre Pipkins squished himself into the #21 jersey, walked into Schembechler Hall, then said "Hey, it's me, Jeremy!" And that Al Borges believed him and started him at WR against Minnesota. If that unlikely sequence of events transpired, you'd imagine that Joe Reynolds in particular would be pretty upset.

The real story took place around 1860, well before the days of DNA testing. Roger Tichborne, the scrawny heir to a baronetcy, went missing off the coast of South America and his mother sent notices all over the South Pacific trying to find him. In Wagga Wagga, Australia, a really fat dude going by Tom Castro starting claiming he was Tichborne and, for some reason still unclear to history, people actually believed him. The resulting court cases were the most expensive in British history up to that time. Mark Twain thought the whole thing was hilarious and he was a man who knew his funny.

The tale was also well-known in Argentina, where one Jorge Luis Borges included his version, "The Improbable Impostor Tom Castro," in his 1935 collection A Universal History of Iniquity. Watching Saturday's game, I saw that the Michigan offense was not one-dimensional as horrific interior line play and careless ball-handling are at least two distinct dimensions of play. However, I couldn't justify knocking the Borges-O-Meter all the way down to Level 1 when they actually won the game. So I changed Level 2 from "The Disk" (one-dimensional) to "Tom Castro" (clown fraud).

Now let us follow the orders of Judge Snyder at the end of "The Principal and the Pauper," and never mention the last two games again...under penalty of torture. Wow - that wasn't funny in 1997 and it's even less funny now. That was a terrible episode.

(YouTube didn't have the song with the post title in the lyrics, so this one will have to do.)

1 comment:

Craig Barker said...

I could not enjoy this post more if I tried. The fact that it's our 666th post makes it all the better.