Who says Michael Irvin's a raving crackpot?
Well, plenty of people, actually—but that doesn't mean ESPN's favorite lightning rod doesn't know what he's talking about. When Irvin went on the Dan Patrick Show to discuss the dark side of Tony Romo's lineage last month—something about a stud and a barn, and a great-great-great grandma with a wicked case of jungle fever—he wasn't just offending listeners all over the country; he was speaking an incontrovertible truth, one borne out by even the most cursory inspection of the national sporting landscape:
White men can't jump.
Or maybe: They can jump, but they can't look cool doing it.
That's the essence of on-field whiteness, isn't it?: not so much the utter absence of talent as a disjunction between talent and elegance—an inability, you might say, to succeed in anything that could ever be called style. With that in mind, this week's Spot celebrates the five whitest white guys in the history of professional sports, a group of ivory idols who wouldn't know smooth if it slapped them upside their heads. They're not unathletic, mind you—just unaesthetic...which in some circles, it's fair to say, is really frankly just as bad. It's like this, when you get down to it: Half the fun of playing is looking good while you've got the spotlight, and if you're too white to show up for a court appearance relating to felony cocaine charges in a full-length mink coat—
Honestly Meat, you just don't know what you're missing...
Number Five: John Stockton
The shorts, and—the shorts. Actually, there's more white in Stockton than a ten-pound bag of rice—the side-part, the mid-length socks, that whole Bob-Cousy-reincarnte vibe—but the nut-huggers more or less say it all: It's hard to be slick with half an inch of polyester riding up your tailpipe. And yes, yes: We're well aware that skimpy skivvies haven't always been the unique mark of white hoopsters, and that Michael Jordan Himself flashed a whole heap of thigh when he first came into the league...but times change, Meat, and yesterday's broad-based trend often becomes today's badge of racial identity. Don't believe us? Just ask all those black folks who used to go around dressed as pointy-headed ghosts on Halloween.
Number Four: Peyton Manning
If Peyton Manning were any whiter, he'd be...pretty gosh darned white. Between the drawl and the waddle and that goofy you-sure-you-got-all-your-chromosomes? grin, the Colts signal caller is nothing short of a true-blue good-old-boy, the sort of cat you'd expect to find in a William Faulkner novel before an NFL huddle. Still, though, there's no denying that he gets the job done, and it's worth noting that Manning's outsized Opie quotient hasn't been lost on American advertisers—who very obviously know a non-threatening heartland spokeshero when they see one. Come on, right?: It's not like the dude ends up in all those commercials on the strength of his camera presence...
Number Three: Rod Beck
An underappreciated gem here. Those who had the pleasure of watching Beck in his thirteen-year big league career will remember plenty of things about him: his 286 saves, his 3.30 ERA, his uncanny ability to transform the trailer trash look into a rock-solid raison dantre. Beck in his prime was what you'd have to call aggressively white; he was a poor redneck's version of Goose Gossage, really, only with a nastier Fu Manchu and a more prodigious beer gut. Plus, the stubby stopper spent the 2003 season living in an RV outside the ballpark while pitching for the AAA Iowa Cubs. If that doesn't scream White Man's Burden, we don't know what does.
Number Two: Kurt Rambis
The mullett, the mustache, the Buddy Holly glasses—Rambis was an avatar of the unchic in the 1980s, playing off the Showtime Lakers in the same way Ringo Starr played off the rest of the Beatles. En route to amassing 5,322 career points and 5,725 career rebounds (thanks kurtrambis.com!), Number Thirty-One hustled his way into the hearts of the LA faithful, so much so that he achieved a sort of cult antihero status in a city otherwise enamored of cool and nothing else. The whiter-than-white forward, for his part, never let the attention go to his head—and there's no denying that his unfailing unselfishness made the players around him better. After all: Someone had to stick around the hotel and play pinochle with A.C. Green on all those groupie-groping road trips...and if T-cell counts are any indication, Magic Johnson certainly wasn't the guy to do it.
Number One: Mark Madsen
Even before the Lakers won the 2001 NBA Championship, Madsen's Caucasian credentials were beyond reproach: He can't shoot; he can't dribble; he can't do much of anything at all, actually, except dive on the floor and wave a towel on the bench. But then, Meat—then there was the parade, and the dance, and with a few spastic shuffle steps the Stormin' Mormon established himself as the standard bearer of whiteness in modern sports. We'll let YouTube do most of the talking on this one, but suffice it to say that the Madsen shimmy was a sight to behold, a bastard sort of polka waltz that was, in the end, a little bit Elaine Benes and a little Michael J. Fox making his stem cell pitch. (You're still the man, McFly.) Interestingly, the dance also qualifies Madsen as the blackest missionary in the illustrious history of the Latter Day Saints, which, well—
We don't know what Joseph Smith would've had to say about Michael Irvin, but we're guessing the polygamous Prophet probably could've taught the Playmaker a thing or two (or three) about how to have a good time...