The John Mayer Effect, Part II: Matt’s Picks

starbucksby Matt Waller

To reiterate from Cameron’s post yesterday, the John Mayer Effect is “the effect whereby an object becomes so drastically overrated at a certain point that it subsequently becomes underrated.” Cameron’s top five were John Mayer, Allen Iverson, Avatar, Grant Theft Auto III, and Poker. That’s a tough act to follow, but here goes (in no particular order).

  1. Starbucks Coffee. For every positive or even neutral thing I hear about Starbucks, I probably hear five negative things. Everyone seems to have the same complaints: it’s overpriced, it’s on every street corner, it’s a massive corporation when there are plenty of local stores worth supporting. Each of those complaints has its merits, but the tired critique of Starbucks as a whole overlooks some its far more redeeming strengths. For one thing, Starbucks makes a damn good cup of coffee, and a grande sets you back a mere $2 (about $2.50 less than my favorite local place). Quality-wise, I would guess that in the majority of neighborhoods outside of major cities, a cup of Starbucks coffee is better than 95% of other options within a ten mile radius. As for the complaint about Starbucks stores being ubiquitous, I consider this a good thing. There are four different Starbucks stores within a twenty minute walk of my apartment and, insofar as they’re not threatening local coffee shops (they’re not — the local shops are thriving), I’m fine with that. If I can get a consistently good cup of coffee while walking in any direction in my neighborhood, that’s a good thing. Finally, and most importantly, Starbucks inspired a national obsession with coffee that likely made the existence of many of the local shops possible. So while they’re now rivals, a good amount of the local shops wouldn’t be there if Starbucks hadn’t laid the groundwork and gotten Americans addicted to high-end coffee drinks.
  2. The “Diva” NFL Wide Receivers of the Late ’90s – 2000s (Moss, Owens, Johnson/Ochocinco). I hesitated to include Chad Johnson/Ochocinco in the company of Randy Moss and Terrell Owens, but I put him in there because even more than either Moss or Owens, he captures the flamboyance and ego-centrism of (many of) the NFL’s star wide receivers in the late ‘90s-00s. The WRs of this era, even and especially the superstars, made a name for themselves with their touchdown dances, press conference antics, and reality TV exploits. This behavior went on for so long — T.O.’s career began in ’96, Moss’s in ‘98, Johnson’s in ‘01 — that it is their behavior, perhaps more than their play, that will define their legacies for many fans. What stands to be overlooked (by the average fan, though statheads and diehards might not be surprised)? Owens and Moss are second and third all-time in receiving yards, and fifth and fourth in total touchdowns scored, respectively (links to full stats: Owens, Moss) . Only Jerry Rice has caught more touchdown passes than Moss or Owens. Johnson, for his part, was in the top five in receiving yards for five consecutive seasons with the Bengals. Perhaps another unintended consequence: the Moss/Owens/Johnson overload may have pushed NFL fans’ tolerance for this type of thing to a breaking point, and the new star WRs–led by quiet types like Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson–would much rather just shut up and play the game. I think most fans are okay with that.
  3. The Da Vinci Code. When The Da Vinci Code was published in the early 2000s, I was an impressionable freshman in high school with a love, or at least an interest, for anything that seemed rebellious. Thus, I was a big fan of Dan Brown’s book. Looking back at what I used to read makes me cringe (and probably always will — ten years from now, I will probably look back at the books I read in 2013 and consider them at least somewhat embarrassing), but regardless of its literary sophistication, I still consider the Da Vinci Code to be a fairly important — and underrated — book for American culture in the ’00s. The reason is pretty simple: it got much of the country, and certainly much of the Catholic community, to engage in a conversation that considered religion with a critical lens. I’m not sure how much of it was a real “conversation” — instead of talking to me about the book, my dad just bought be a book called Breaking the Da Vinci Code for Christmas, and my high school religion teacher was outraged when someone even mentioned the book in class — but the book was able to stir a sizable debate in our culture for significant amount of time. It’s a good thing when the entire country has such a spirited conversation about any book (perhaps with the exception of Fifty Shades of Grey), and The Da Vinci Code got that conversation started like few recent books have.
  4. Manti Te’o. For this one, it’s important to distinguish between Manti Te’o the linebacker and Manti Te’o the lover of fake women. Manti Te’o the lover of fake women continues to be overrated as a news story. I was as enthralled as anyone when the news first broke — I stayed at work late just because I didn’t want to leave the Internet long enough to drive home — but I lost interest pretty quickly. However, the embarrassment and subsequent media saturation of Manti Te’o the lover of fake women has caused Manti Te’o the linebacker to become an underrated NFL prospect. For much of the season, Manti was considered a top-10 pick, but after his dismal performance in the national championship, he (understandably) slipped to the 15-20 range. However, in the wake of the Lennay Kekua scandal, Te’o is now out of the first round in the majority of NFL mock drafts I’ve seen. Te’o was not convicted of using steroids, driving drunk, or using drugs. Physically, he is the same player that he was all season, and now that the truth appears to be finally out, his character does not seem to be in question as much as many initially thought. His main crime was his naivete, which I’m not sure should result in a 15-20 pick free-fall. It seems to me that Manti Te’o the linebacker is being irrationally undervalued because no NFL team wants to be embarrassingly associated with Manti Te’o the lover of fake women.
  5. Flying (on airplanes). Complaints about flying, airports, etc. are kind of like complaints about Starbucks, but are far more jaded. We now take the convenience of flight so for granted that we fail to recognize the absurdity of complaining about it–and complaining is pretty much all people do when they talk about flying. Imagine explaining to someone from 1750 that your flight across the ocean in a magical metal machine was inconvenient because a fat guy next to you snored. Still, people complain about flying far more than they stop and think about how ridiculously awesome it is. As usual, Louis C.K. pretty much nailed it on this topic, so I’ll end with his description of flight: “You’re flying. You’re sitting in a chair in the sky. You’re like a Greek myth right now” (from Louis’s special Hilarious). So the next time you complain about flying, remember, even if your trans-Atlantic flight only has Coke products and you’re dying for a Pepsi, you’re still sitting in a chair flying across the sky.
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