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The Good, the Bad, and the Billy Joe Tolliver
January 9, 2012 6:30 AM   Subscribe

Carles of Hipster Runoff discusses the relationship between mediocre quarterbacks and office jobs:
The most intense forms of competition, stress, conflict, and insecurity that most of us will ever feel take place at work. We embrace mediocrity as a safety net to alleviate our minds from these uncomfortable thoughts, and hide from the idea of heightened accountability and expectations. Instead, we choose to live vicariously through other people we don't know who are actually 'special.' Athletes, technological entrepreneurs, and other people who are recognized for being legitimately 'gifted and talented' serve as our daily inspirations and escapes. While society tends to praise greatness and unique achievement, the public ceremony of 'exposing' mediocrity provides us with the opportunity for humor and hyperbole that inspires a dark breed of empathy and fan interest.
posted by Copronymus (47 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I follow Carles on twitter and when he tweets about sports I feel sort of sad but also sort of pleased at the idea that he's turning more into a middle aged mainstream guy those are my feelings on the subject thanks for asking.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:47 AM on January 9, 2012


I'm getting a strong, "My life used to suck like yours did, mediocre office drone, before I quit my job and started ~working for myself~!" vibe from this piece.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:48 AM on January 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


He's working for ESPN now I doubt his life is that hot.
posted by bukvich at 6:50 AM on January 9, 2012


My theory is that nobody really "gets" Carles or anything he writes because it's all a muddle. He continues to succeed because everyone thinks that everyone else gets it.
posted by weinbot at 7:00 AM on January 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's pretty normal, I need to trim down the people who only use Twitter on Sundays.

"Getting" Carles isn't that hard. He's a competent meta-criticizer of culture. And to some of us, that equals hilarity.
posted by thylacine at 7:06 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does Tebow have a 'bangin bikini bod?'
Is sports writing the next authentic bloggable mainstream art?
Has Carles 'sold out?'
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:14 AM on January 9, 2012 [11 favorites]


I wonder if individual quarterbacks even know how to accept their mediocrity in order to maximize their ceiling after years of being the constant alpha dog.

I can't imagine that people who get paid handsomely to play a game for a living get all that hung up about what some couch potato thinks about their performance.

While you might never experience the mid-level fame and riches associated with being a marginal NFL quarterback, at least your name will never inspire a chuckle quite like Bubby Brister, Steve Bono, Elvis Grbac, Danny Wuerffel, and Joey Harrington.

True. Your name will only be a joke locally, to your company and colleagues. And maybe your family.
posted by device55 at 7:24 AM on January 9, 2012


As a Giants fan, I know nothing of these 'mediocre quarterbacks' of which you speak. Hiyo!
posted by jonmc at 7:28 AM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


still waiting 2 b told which buzzteams to cheer fr
posted by pts at 7:32 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Really, jonmc? Kerry Collins would like to have a word with you, but he's pretty busy selling cars and was hoping you could drop by the lot to make things easier.
posted by kyleg at 7:36 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, you're in Chicago, say hi to your reciever when he gets out of jail.
posted by jonmc at 7:38 AM on January 9, 2012


still waiting 2 b told which buzzteams to cheer fr

lol uh if u dont know which buzzteam has the biggest 'alt favorite' oAT rite now u must b uber 'lamestream' or banned from twittr 'no offense' (<--hint)
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:50 AM on January 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I strongly disagree with the premise of this article - you don't need to be "the best" at something in order for doing it to be rewarding, valuable work; that's an insane benchmark that only a despondent, aging jock would set for themselves as a metric for happiness. Most of us work in fields where "the best" is a meaningless concept at best, and a noxious, demoralizing idea in the general case.

If your metric for happiness is all the things you could have done better or weren't the best in the world at, all of our lives are a relentless torrent of unending failure. There's a huge, wide-open field between being the best in the world at something and phoning-it-in-every-day mediocrity.

I mean, Christ, do you have any idea how incredibly good you have to be to be the worst Quarterback in the NFL? Does knowing that suck all the joy out of playing an hour of touch football with your friends in the park?
posted by mhoye at 7:54 AM on January 9, 2012 [11 favorites]


Right, I don't know much about football but even the kicker guys are among the best in the world at something. There may be a handful of people better than them. Not many people can say something like "I am the 15th best in the world at powerpoint"
posted by Ad hominem at 8:00 AM on January 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


I can't imagine that people who get paid handsomely to play a game for a living get all that hung up about what some couch potato thinks about their performance.

They do. They really, really do. They'll pretend not to care (or not to even listen to sports pundits and radio call-ins), but they do.

Professional athletes are very different people.
posted by downing street memo at 8:01 AM on January 9, 2012


I just read that whole article and I have no idea what his point was. I am admittedly under-caffeinated and distracted at the moment, so perhaps it's my own fault. Or perhaps this guy is the Trent Dilfer of sportswriting.

Trent Dilfer: living proof of the maxim "the sun shines on every dog's ass once in a while".
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:02 AM on January 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I strongly disagree with the premise of this article - you don't need to be "the best" at something in order for doing it to be rewarding, valuable work; that's an insane benchmark that only a despondent, aging jock would set for themselves as a metric for happiness. Most of us work in fields where "the best" is a meaningless concept at best, and a noxious, demoralizing idea in the general case.

Actually, I thought that was sort of his point. Sports fans bag on guys who are the 17th best person in the world at something because they're not as good as the 3rd best person in the world at that thing, all the while being the 752,340th best person in the world at whatever it is they do, and it creates a weird, poisonous relationship between the fans and poor saps like Kyle Orton. Mediocre quarterbacks are a joy to be embraced, not an unwelcome guest to be tolerated with hostility until the shining prince comes along.

I may be channeling late 00s Bears fandom pretty hard there, though, since between Kyle and Rex Grossman and Jay Cutler, they've consistently had one of the highest ratios of personality/successful passes in the league.
posted by Copronymus at 8:05 AM on January 9, 2012


Avis...we're 752,340th. We tried harder for a while, but, meh...fuck it.
posted by spicynuts at 8:20 AM on January 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, now that I read the peice rather than skimming it while listening to people yammer about software deployments and cache settings I sort of get his point.

We have no real way to relate to someone who is the 17th best in the world at something. We project our own daily struggles and inadequacy onto people who are world class at what they do.

Imagine being the 12th best in the world at powerpoint though, with some sort of stats to back it up. You could make an enitire career of parachuting in and fixing decks for crucial meetings and presentations. Imagine if your 15 minutes of work saved a billion dollar deal a week, traveling the world just being the awesome powerpoint guy. People chanting your name as you work your office app magic. It would be glorious.

It really is an argument for hyperspecialization. As he says, most careers don't even offer a way to be world class, there are no metrics for coffee getter guy. If you pick something narrow enough, with a measureable impact, you just may achieve greatness.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:23 AM on January 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Not many people can say something like "I am the 15th best in the world at powerpoint"

Imagine being the 12th best in the world at powerpoint though, with some sort of stats to back it up.

Fight! Fight! Fight!
posted by wcfields at 8:36 AM on January 9, 2012


You may actually be the 17th best powerpointer in the world but nobody would know if you were because nobody cares about powerpoint. I am at least in the top 5 of all time at customer service emails and have yet to see that pay off in any demonstrable way (aside from continuing to be employed which I guess is fine actually!).
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:36 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


You guys don't do the throat slash gesture after a successful deployment?
posted by xmutex at 8:39 AM on January 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


I do a victory lap around the office and then drink champagne from a silver chalice. I am pretty sure I am am 23rd best in the world at software deployments.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:42 AM on January 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm 9th best at saying 'are you sure the configurations are set properly for all instances' during a failed software deployment. I used to be 12th best but then I had 2 months of straight deployments in Russia.
posted by spicynuts at 8:46 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm 2nd or 3rd at emptying boxes and telling people that the Sci-Fi section is that way. I'm #1 and getting drunk and grousing about it to my bartender.
posted by jonmc at 8:49 AM on January 9, 2012


Ctrl-F "Terry Tate"

Phrase not found.



DON'T BRING THAT WEAK-ASS STUFF IN THIS HUMPY-BUMPY
posted by entropicamericana at 8:51 AM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm like 75th at checking conflicts for law firms but I've got a lot of potential and I could be coached up to top-10, easy. Look forward to even more insights, including Is the New Temp a Sleeper or a Bust??? and Procedure Change Watch: New Software Could Mean Big Value Drops! in my Fantasy Draft Guide 2012, available on newsstands this March.
posted by Copronymus at 8:59 AM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm #1 and getting drunk and grousing about it to my bartender.

Let's hope your bartender is number 1 at listening to you grouse.
posted by spicynuts at 9:00 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


He is. He is, indeed.

*raises beer Danny-ward*
posted by jonmc at 9:03 AM on January 9, 2012


Let's hope your bartender is number 1 at listening to you grouse.

Mine certainly is.
posted by grouse at 9:17 AM on January 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think the problem I have with Carles is that his similies never work for me. He's always writing things like "watching the NHL is like the feeling you get when skinning the first beaver of the season, smooth but gooey" and I'm like, okay, I guess I can see the smooth but gooey thing, they have those weird tails, but how is that like the NHL again, which is icy and fighty and fast? His referents are just slightly to the left of comprehensibility for me. (for instance, in this article: how is watching someone's career path vulnerable? the watcher feel vulnerable, watching? Or the career-path haver feels vulnerable, doing? Both? And is that actually the case, that watching someone else career feels vulnerable? There are people I admire, people I'm jealous of and people I pity, but I can't think of anyone off hand for whom the act of witnessing their career development makes me feel the anxiety of being more susceptible to harm. I guess, I can kind of see it, but again. Just to the left of what makes sense to me).
posted by Diablevert at 9:20 AM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


BitterOldPunk: I just read that whole article and I have no idea what his point was. I am admittedly under-caffeinated and distracted at the moment, so perhaps it's my own fault. Or perhaps this guy is the Trent Dilfer of sportswriting.

Trent Dilfer: living proof of the maxim "the sun shines on every dog's ass once in a while".
Yeah, I had the same reaction. The article is over too quick; it seems he's just building towards some clear thesis and set of supporting evidence... when it ends.

And if his core premise is "We hate on the mediocre quarterbacks to gain an acceptance of our mediocrity" (this impromptu gathering of the 'Metafilter League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' excepted, of course- I had no idea I was surrounded by greatness!), he didn't really sway me or build any evidence that this is what's really going on under the hood.

I thought people hated mediocre quarterbacks because they were (allegedly) rich without merit, but mostly because they disappoint us in something we care about, just as people also hate on banjo-hitting utility infielders who get $8-10m/year.

But then again, people also hate Bob in Infrastructure Services, who clearly got a merit-based raise this year and that fucking dipshit asshole couldn't deploy a performant Tier 1 SAN if his goddamn life depended on it.
posted by hincandenza at 9:21 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Quarterback Lammity Hathbro says "When in doubt, punt."
posted by jfuller at 9:33 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am the best Bluebooker west of the Mississippi, possibly the entire United States. Even I don't think this is an accomplishment.
posted by orrnyereg at 10:00 AM on January 9, 2012


I strongly disagree with the premise of this article - you don't need to be "the best" at something in order for doing it to be rewarding, valuable work; that's an insane benchmark that only a despondent, aging jock would set for themselves as a metric for happiness.

Yes, but that's how these guys are. One percent of high school football players play in college. One percent of those players play in the NFL. Virtually everyone in the NFL was the best player at his high school, the best player in his county, the best player at his college... These guys have always been at the top of their pile, and they get used to it. Suddenly slamming up against the NFL, where even the guys on the practice squad are just as good, can freak anyone the hell out.
posted by Etrigan at 10:41 AM on January 9, 2012


I am the 15th best in the world at powerpoint
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 10:42 AM on January 9, 2012


I am the laziest motherfucker on the planet.
posted by maxwelton at 10:46 AM on January 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I am the laziest motherfucker on the planet.

I'd challenge you for that title, but...well, that sounds like work. Guess it's yours.
posted by never used baby shoes at 11:06 AM on January 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


What I got out of this is: Just like American economic rules are gradually being stacked in favor of the ultra-successful and ultra-wealthy, American football rules and fan expectations are gradually being stacked in favor of the Top 5 quarterbacks. If you're not one of those guys, you probably have no chance.
posted by sharkitect at 11:18 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even if you're the worst QB in the NFL, you're still going to be lionized by local news, feted at soirees, called a hero at public appearances all over town, and get your name up in lights and lots of articles about your potential and your drama and your PERSONAL STRUGGLE.

Such is not the case when you are a cubicle rat. Thus, the metaphor is less than mediocre.
posted by blucevalo at 11:42 AM on January 9, 2012


Even if you're the worst QB in the NFL, you're still going to be lionized by local news, feted at soirees, called a hero at public appearances all over town, and get your name up in lights and lots of articles about your potential and your drama and your PERSONAL STRUGGLE.

Such is not the case when you are a cubicle rat. Thus, the metaphor is less than mediocre.


I don't think this is really true. I mean, I don't know if you mean the worst quarterback in the NFL, who is probably someone whose name barely anyone knows, languishing at 3rd on the depth chart of a terrible team, or the worst starter who is probably someone like Caleb Hanie, who was briefly lionized by the local news, until it turned out he sucked and everyone turned on him and he's more likely to be literally run out of town on a rail than called a hero by anyone.

I mean, sure, Caleb Hanie got plenty of articles written about him, but I doubt he really enjoyed them.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:54 AM on January 9, 2012


Worst thing about being Caleb Hanie is he what thought to have potential, he wasn't some third stringer who had reached the limit of his potential was was just glad to be on the payroll. They gave him a shot and he blew it.

Reminds me of the time I blew that deployment.... There was no silver chalice that day my friends.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:17 PM on January 9, 2012


I like to think of myself as the Jon Kitna of Google Docs.
posted by drezdn at 4:31 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Honestly, I think I used to be the Michael Jordan of Minesweeper, back in the Windows 3.1 days; I'm pretty sure I had world-record times (we're talking something like 2, 8, and 48 seconds or so, if memory roughly serves).

But since any jackhole could fake a score using MSPaint, I couldn't even capitalize on it and get the groupies and accolades I so richly deserved. Fuck.
posted by hincandenza at 4:45 PM on January 9, 2012


I'd challenge you for that title

You replied using more words than I did. I concede.
posted by maxwelton at 4:59 PM on January 9, 2012


Honest question: What was his point?
posted by bardic at 7:05 PM on January 9, 2012


Even if you're the worst QB in the NFL, you're still going to be lionized by local news, feted at soirees, called a hero at public appearances all over town, and get your name up in lights and lots of articles about your potential and your drama and your PERSONAL STRUGGLE.

I'm guessing you don't follow football at all because no.
posted by xmutex at 8:23 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


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