Roger Marolt: Roger This
December 25, 2008
There is a sign that the apocalypse is upon us. No, I am not talking about crumbling credit markets, crashing real estate values, or even curdled eggnog at the back of the refrigerator. I’m talking about Sports Illustrated.
Yes, it’s ironic that this popular weekly sports periodical has a short blurb towards the front of each issue titled Sign of the Apocalypse to alert readers about all kinds of crazy things that are happening in the wide world of sports that prove that whatever the hell it is we’re doing here is coming to a swift and riotous end as we read, and here I am ready to tell you that they are the cause of it.
Imagine the headline on the cover of one recent issue proclaiming “Oklahoma Stomps Texas Tech. BCS Madness Ensues.” Wow! That’s the stuff that gets the adrenaline pumping and makes the all-American boy in this old man rush to the post office just to pick up his copy of the magazine. Well, that and the annual Swimsuit Issue.
At any rate, I couldn’t wait to tear into the copy described above one recent, cold winter’s eve, snug in my favorite recliner, warming myself in front of the flat screen with the dog at me feet and a cold Budweiser at my side.
Ah yes! Inside the front cover the image of a gigantic, muddy ’09 Ford F-150, tugging a horse trailer through a rutted field was the perfect advertisement to get me in the mood to catch up on all the smash-mouth action that is occurring in this exciting time for college and NFL football. The bruising hockey season has started, too. There were bound to be some exciting basketball action shots and maybe even an enticing story about some fringe sport that they cover from time to time like bobsledding, water polo, or even downhill skiing! I couldn’t wait!
Alas, I regret that I hadn’t. Before the next turn, I wish I would have chucked the whole magazine in the recycle bin and contented myself with watching Southern Miss. pummel Troy on the tube, for on the very next page after that wonderful two-page spread for Ford trucks, something shocked me senseless.
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It was an advertisement for Lacoste perfume … for men. It was a picture of a thin, barefoot “man” in tight khakis, shedding his chiffon white button-down shirt into the breeze while skipping through a film of water on the seashore, chest arched forward, arms extended behind like an angel, in a staged “action” shot so silly that Tinker Bell wouldn’t pose for it for cash. There wasn’t a woman in sight, no surfers, not even a speedboat off in the distance. Never mind about what a young lad might be doing sauntering about the beach in a dress shirt and pressed slacks in the middle of the day, what was an advertisement like this doing in Sports Illustrated?
I know that Sports Illustrated is published by a big conglomerate. As such, I reasoned that maybe during this busy season for big games they had to move some of their overflow to the Marie Claire offices next door. Perhaps some of those prissy print ads got mixed up in the publishing process and this goofy perfume-for-men layout got bound into my magazine inadvertently. There could be no other explanation, so I forgave them.
Thus, unfortunately deluded, I kept turning the pages. There was a story about portly pitcher C.C. Sabathia, intended to make us slightly overweight, middle-age armchair quarterbacks feel okay about our expanding girths, and it worked. There were side-by-side action shots of Joe Montana, in his prime, and his son, now in high school, cocking to throw passes. Very cool. But, amidst my perusing towards doomsday, I persistently caught whiffs of cologne. At first it was so slight that I thought my mind was playing tricks on me. Then it got stronger, as if a man wearing a fur coat had just sat down next to me.
I turned the next page and screamed. Sickly sweet fumes gushed from the page. Pass the smelling salts! It was another perfume ad! Only this time it was a picture of another thin man in a black tie sporting a pirate’s goatee, and to the page was attached a flap. It was soaked in the eau du toilette that Emporio Armani is trying to peddle at Macy’s.
Say what you like about simply ignoring such out of place advertisements, but practically speaking that is impossible. These odiferous ads saturate the pages and, when turned, fill the room with a scent more associated with taking in a ballet than a ballgame.
In my life there was once the three-month free trial of Men’s Journal, “won” at a local sporting event, in which were explored by its writers such exciting topics as men’s thongs and how to locate “his” G-spot (you don’t want to know.). It is in a publication like that where a scratch and sniff see-how-he-smells ad might fit. But in Sports Illustrated? No wonder Rick Reilly quit.
Maybe it’s the new Old Spice, but I don’t have the sense for it. When I stink, I’ll splash on something that makes me more tolerable. When I want to catch up on sports, I’ll pick a sports magazine. Cologne ads between pigskin picks blur the connection between “fantasy” and “football.” Shouldn’t a periodical supposedly devoted to sports give me a picture of a catamaran crashing through waves or cowboys dragging bulls to the ground by their horns? Let it capture the essence of diving catches and head-first slides. Allow it tell me the story about a boxer who made it from rags to ragged-faced riches. Leave the spreading of sweet fumes to pretty girls working at department stores.
When it comes to personal hygiene, give me what I need, not what is supposed to make me feel like a carefree twit. When it comes to sports periodicals, give me something I’m not embarrassed to open up on the bus.