by Erick Brown
The art of going last is a difficult one to master. Maybe one day I’ll stop volunteering for it.
Allen Iverson would have been my first choice. And the entertainment value of the The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons put me into a sort of cheerful stupor that, at that time, made me even think Dan Brown’s Deception Point was a good read (a recent re-read has me rightfully doubting many of my opinions from last decade).
Finally, the “9-5” schedule might be my favorite example mentioned so far. It’s the social norm that allows me to stop what I’m working on, shut off my laptop, and turn off my work-brain when the clock strikes 5 (usually 6, but same idea). It also gives me an air of quiet superiority over my graduate school friends that is only rivaled by their not-so-quiet air of superiority aimed right back at me.
Now I think the John Mayer Effect should be firmly ingrained in your lexicon by now, so I’ll skip the definition and get right down to it.
1. ESPN. A corporate giant, towering over sports like a puppet master. They are the robber barons from the 1800s, the Tywin Lannister from Game of Thrones, and, by all accounts, the guy played by Kevin Spacey in House of Cards (from what I’ve heard, let’s keep this spoiler free until I get a Netflix account). It’s a criticism easily thrown at an organization that has played a large role in the influx of money and money-based decision-making in college sports today. But to fault a company like ESPN for going after the money is missing the source of that money: we’re all watching. Maybe the quality of their journalism isn’t up to par with other investigative pieces, but I genuinely don’t care. I don’t turn on ESPN at any given hour of the day for quality journalism. I like to watch sports, I like to have sports on in the background, or I want to see some highlights. ESPN can always satisfy what I’m looking for. Sure, maybe they’ll be talking about Tim Tebow or Manti Te’o or some other loosely related ‘sports’ topic…but that’s why 3 or 4 other ESPN channels exist. I’ll watch Celebrity Bowling on ESPN2 if I have to, or ESPNews, or Highlights Express. Or I can log onto WatchESPN.com and rewatch a 5 OT ND thriller vs. Louisville. And for those options and more, I’ll always ignore the negatives and be thankful for ESPN.
*(Similar idea but doesn’t quite fit: NBC Olympics Coverage)
2. Neon. There is a certainly ‘truthiness’ about this one that is difficult to put into words. I believe Neon fits within the John Mayer Effect not because of any logical argument, but because I feel it in my gut. Neon has been circling the themed party and costume circuit for far too long. It’s hit underrated status in my book (but perhaps not yet in my wardrobe).
3. Facebook (for people over 40). Facebook can be useful, useless, overused, fascinating, boring, and all things in between for all kinds of different people. It’s a great way to stay in touch but it can also be an artificial means to “stay in touch”. It has lovers and haters, but I think the haters have been growing far more over the past few years. Enter: my mom. A quiet, easy-going person who grew up in New Jersey only to end up moving her family all over the country and eventually settling in Ohio. Fast-forward through most of my childhood and my mom (now with an empty nest) was eager to flee Ohio and return home to New Jersey. Since that move, I am constantly shocked at the power of Facebook to reconnect my mom with friends and family long forgotten. For me, Facebook has some funny posts, some interesting links, and reminds me of my friends’ birthdays. But in reality, I have everyone’s cell phone number if I feel like talking to them. My mom has reconnected with people she probably never would have spoken with again. Facebook can be a powerful and wonderful website, just maybe not so much for our generation.
4. Jay Cutler. See: Allen Iverson. Cutler may just be my favorite athlete out there right now. How can one man care so little about what I think of him? It’s truly inspiring. Get that man an offensive line.
5. Stand-up Comedy. I have a complicated relationship with stand-up comedy. I personally find a truly good stand-up album much more enjoyable than even the best music albums around. But a bad stand-up or really even mediocre stand-up is often just unlistenable (unlike mediocre music). It leaves with that awkward feeling that also makes movies like Cyrus difficult to sit through. But good really good stand-up is one of my all-time favorite things. I’m talking about Patton Oswalt at his best, early David Cross, Mike Birbiglia. John Mulaney, Demetri Martin, and plenty of others. I’ve listened to albums like Cross’ The Pride is Back and Birbiglia’s Sleepwalk with Me far too many times to count. Now does stand-up fulfil the John Mayer Effect? It’s certainly debatable. In my view, the Comedy Boom of the 80’s was followed at least in part by an underestimation of the quality out there. Mediocre comedians like Jeff Dunham draw concert crowds, guys like Cross and Zach Galifianakis are better known by many for their acting than their stand-up, and I think many people, especially those trending younger, would say that their favorite comedians are people like Will Ferrell, who don’t actually do stand-up at all. Louis C.K. is fighting the good fight but there is still far to go. The quality is out there. It’s sitting on Spotify deserving of a larger audience, and I won’t be happy until that Spotify stream of what my friends are listening to includes John Mulaney’s hilarious tale of his trip to Chicago’s Salt and Pepper Diner or Patton Oswalt’s take on liberal arts majors.