(Writer’s note: Before I started working on this, I searched to see if anyone had published a tribute to George Carlin. No one had. After working on it, I’ve seen that Tim Parent beat me to the punch. This column in no way is meant to plagiarize Tim’s work.)
I remember growing up in the '80s and listening to my dad’s comedy albums that George Carlin did in the '60s and '70s with WINO radio and Al Sleet. In the '80s and '90s his HBO specials were a staple in the stand up comedy world as you watched him evolve from emerging comedian to the prime of his game to the ever cynical even jaded Carlin of the 2000s.
He seemed angry at times in his comedy. And then in his last HBO special George seemed to lighten up a bit almost bringing it old school. I thought it was a great note on which to end.
Carlin never minced words. Instead always saying what he thought and offering us all a unique way of looking at things. I have several of his bits memorized almost verbatim. I can spend several pages talking about the loss of George Carlin from a personal perspective but I think I’d rather just let you be reminded of his brilliance.
Below is an excerpt from his bit on sports:
(The language gets dicey, I’ve censored some of it ironically. If you are easily offended, you might want to stop reading.)
“To my way of thinking there are really only three sports: baseball, basketball, and football. Everything else is either a game or an activity.
Hockey comes to mind. People think hockey is a sport. It's not. Hockey is three activities taking place at the same time: ice skating, fooling around with a puck, and beating the s*** out of somebody. If these guys had more brains then teeth, they'd do these things one at a time. First go ice-skating, then fool around with a puck, then you go to the bar and beat the s*** out of somebody. The day would last longer, and these guys would have a lot more fun. Another reason why hockey isn't a sport is that it's not played with a ball. Anything not played with a ball can't be a sport. These are my rules, I make 'em up.
Soccer. Soccer is not a sport because you can't use your arms. Anything where you can't use your arms can't be a sport. Tap dancing isn't a sport. I rest my case.
Running. People think running is a sport. Running isn't a sport because anybody can do it. I can run, you can run. For Christ sakes, my grandmother can run! You don't see her on the cover of Sports Illustrated, do you?
Swimming. Swimming isn't a sport. Swimming is a way to keep from drowning. That's just common sense. Sailing isn't a sport. Sailing is a way to get somewhere. Riding the bus isn't a sport, why the f*** should sailing be a sport?
Boxing is not a sport either. Boxing is a way to beat the s*** out of somebody. In that respect, boxing is actually a more sophisticated way of hockey. In spite of what the police tell you, beating the s*** out of somebody is not a sport. When police brutality becomes an Olympic event, fine, then boxing can be a sport.
Bowling. Bowling isn't a sport because you have to rent shoes. Don't forget, these are my rules. I make 'em up.
Billiards. Some people think billiards is a sport, but it can't be, because there's no chance of serious injury. Unless, of course, you welch on a bet in a tough neighborhood. Then, if you wind up with a pool cue stickin' out of you’re a**, you know you might be the victim of a sports-related injury. But that ain't billiards, that's pool, and that starts with a P, and that rhymes with D, and that brings me to darts.
Darts could have been a sport, because at least there's a chance to put someone's eye out. But, alas, darts will never be a sport, because the whole object of the game is to reach zero, which goes against all sports logic.
Lacrosse is not a sport; lacrosse is a f@ggoty college activity. I don't care how rough it is, anytime you're running around a field, waving a stick with a little net on the end of it, you're engaged in a f@ggoty college activity. Period.
Field hockey and fencing. Same thing. F@ggoty college s***. Also these activities aren't sports, because you can't gamble on them. Anything you can't gamble on can't be a sport. When was the last time you made a f***in' fencing bet?
Gymnastics is not a sport because Romanians are good at it. It took me a long time to come up with that rule, but dammit, I did it.
Polo isn't a sport. Polo is golf on horseback. Without holes. It's a great concept, but not a sport. And as far as water polo is concerned, I hesitate to even mention it, because it's extremely cruel to horses.
Which brings me to hunting. You think hunting is a sport? Ask the deer. The only good thing about hunting is the many fatal accidents on the weekends. And, of course, the permanently disfigured hunters who survive such accidents.
Then you have tennis. Tennis is very trendy, but it's not a sport. It's just a way to meet other trendy fruits. Technically, tennis is an advanced form a Ping-Pong. In fact, tennis is Ping-Pong played while standing on the table. Great concept, not a sport.
In fact, all racket games are nothing more the derivatives of Ping-Pong. Even volleyball is, technically, racketless, team Ping-Pong played with an inflated ball and raised net while standing on the table.
And finally welcome to golf. For my full take on golf, I refer you elsewhere in the book, but let it just be said golf is a game that might possibly be fun, if it could be played alone. But it's the vacuous, striving, superficial, male-bonding joiners one has to associate with that makes it such a repulsive pastime. And it is decidedly not a sport. Period.
In the same bit Carlin talks about improvements to the three sports (football, basketball, and baseball). He mentions the “three second shot clock” and the “gasoline fire ten feet away from both sides of half court” for basketball. For football, he mentions “leaving the injured on the field.”
But my favorite improvements were to America’s pastime below:
“Baseball needs a little speeding up. You know how you speed up baseball? Everybody gets one swing, that's right. One swing, F*** you, you're out, sit down, next, let's go, come one, sit down, come on, let's go. Here's another thing that would make baseball a lot faster: If the pitcher hits the batter with the ball, the batter's out. You hit 27 guys, you got yourself a perfect game my friend. You get two really good accurate pitchers out there and you could be out of that ballpark in 15 minutes. You could be home watching football on TV and see some serious injuries. One more thing for baseball, out in the outfield I would have a series of randomly placed landmines. "There's Marshall, settling under that ball." (EXPLOSION sound effect) "Holy s***!"
If there’s one thing George Carlin probably would not have wanted it would be to be memorialized in a sappy way. So I guess all we can do is have a moment of silence as Carlin talks about below:
“The custom of observing a moment of silence before an athletic event to honor dead people strikes me as meaningless. And arbitrary. Because, if you'll notice, only certain people get this special treatment. It's highly selective. Therefore I've decided that someday, when the time comes that every single person in the world who dies receives a moment of silence, I will begin paying attention. Until then, count me out. It's ridiculous. Here's what I mean.
Let's say you live in Cleveland, and you decide to go to the Browns game. There you are in the football stadium, with a hot dog and a beer, ready to enjoy action, and a somber-sounding public-address announcer interrupts the festivities, intoning darkly:
"And now, ladies and gentlemen, we ask that you remove your hats and join us in observing a moment of silence for the forty-three unattractive, mentally retarded, overweight Bolivian dance instructors who lost their lives this morning in a roller coaster accident at an amusement park near La Paz. Apparently, they all stood up on a sharp turn and went flying off, willy-nilly, into the cool, crisp, morning La Paz air. And, being heavier than air, crashed through the roof of the funhouse, landing on several clowns, killing them all and crushing their red noses beyond recognition."
You can see the problem either announcer would face; the fans would simply not be able to get into it. But I understand that; I can empathize with the fans. Because, frankly, I don't know what to do during a moment of silence, either. Do you? What are you supposed to do? What do they expect? Do they want us to pray? They don't say that. If you want me to pray, they should ask. I'll pray, but at least have the courtesy to make the formal request.
But no. They offer no guidance, no instruction at all. I honestly don't know what to do. Sometimes I resort to evil thoughts: I wish my seatmates ill fortune in days to come; I fantasize about standing naked in front of the Lincoln Memorial and becoming sexually aroused; I picture thousands of penguins being hacked to death by boatloads of graduate students. More often though, I wind up bored silly, searching for something to occupy my thoughts. One time I inventoried the pimples on the neck of the man in front of me, hoping to find one with a hair growing through it, so I could quietly pluck it out during the confusion of halftime.
Those are my thoughts, and I can't help it. During a moment of silence my imagination runs away with me. I don't know what to do. And why is it silence they're looking for? What good is silence? The ones being remembered are already dead, they're not going to wake up now. Why not a moment of screaming? Wouldn't that be more appropriate for dead people? Wouldn't you like to hear 60,000 fans screaming, "Aaaaaiiiiiieeeeeaaagghh!!" It sure would put me in the mood for football.
And one more criticism. Why honor only the dead? Why this favoritism? Why not the injured, as well? There are always more injured than there are dead in any decent tragedy. What about them? And what about those who aren't dead or injured, but are simply "treated and released"? How about, if not silence, at least a moment of muffled conversation for those who were treated and released? It's an honorable condition. Personally, I've always wanted to be treated and released. Usually, I'm treated and detained. Perhaps it's for the best.”
Through Carlin’s iconic career, he often peppered his material with sports and sports references. Whether it was back in his early days playing a sportscaster: “Partial score, Pittsburgh 7”, or if it was his take on the difference between football and baseball.
“In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy's defensive line.
In baseball the object is to go home! And to be safe! - I hope I'll be safe at home!”
So let’s have a moment of muffled conversation for the late George Carlin, who is now safe at home. Thanks George!