In an episode of Seinfeld titled, “The Label Maker”, Kramer and Newman are divulged in a game of Risk, the popular board game of world conquest, in which each game ends when one player captures every world territory for themselves. Kramer and Newman, two characters who have essentially no responsibility, concern, or self-awareness in each of their lives, are waging an epic battle against each other, attempting to supersede one another by taking over the planet. They know it’s a game, but they take it much more seriously than that; between breaks of playing (conquesting?), they leave the board in Jerry’s apartment, just to ensure that neither of them will cheat (Jerry is Switzerland). As is the case with every scene featuring Kramer and Newman, it is pretty comical to watch these two imbosols fight and argue over something as trivial as a board game.
Kramer is the goofy, charismatic oddball whose most prominent qualities are his lack of a conscience and penchant for saying ridiculous things. Newman, the primary villain of the show, is friends with Kramer and often helps him with his ridiculous plans, despite Newman being portrayed as a foul and detestable human being; Jerry even states in one episode, “I’ve looked into his eyes…he’s pure evil.” Kramer is a well-intentioned dunce. Newman is despised and misunderstood. And when Jerry is asked what his two idiotic neighbors are doing with this elaborate board game, he simply says, “Oh, it's Risk. It's a game of world domination being played by two guys who can barely run their own lives.”
I’ve told you this because I, in my infinite wisdom, have found the perfect comparison to Kramer and Newman and their half-baked attempt at world domination…and it’s taking place right in my hometown.
On July 27, 2010, my beloved Cincinnati Bengals added yet another ring-leader to their circus by signing wide receiver Terrell Owens to a one-year contract. And not surprisingly, the sports media has descended on the Bengals to try and decipher what it all means for the NFL and the city of Cincinnati. The Bengals, notorious in recent years for employing goofballs and degenerates, entertainers and ex-cons, have added yet another name to the list. The story of T.O. is well known. He is a diva wide receiver whose every career move has caused some amount of uproar and attention. A sure-fire Hall of Famer and easily one of the most talented receivers in League history, Owens is more infamous for the drama and trouble he has stirred up during his 15-year tour of professional football. As impressive as his on-field stats have been, his personality and frolics have caused countless amount of controversy, with a pile of burned bridges and scorned franchises left in his rear-view mirror. He is known more for his touchdown celebrations than his touchdown receptions, more for his reality television show than his skill and work ethic. And just when it seemed that his career was winding to a close, the Bengals swooped him up, and the mainstream sports media practically soiled themselves.
The fact that T.O. was coming to a team with a track-record of signing players such as himself would have been news enough…but it went much deeper than that. Chad Ochocinco, the man driving the clown car of ridiculousness for the Bengals, just happens to be BFF’s with Owens. The two have been friends for over a decade, and one can certainly see why. Chad, too, is known just as much for his antics as he is for his football talents. Chad too takes pride in his touchdown celebrations and has a reality show of his own. In the past, Chad too was known to spurn his fan base and enrage his teammates and coaches, constantly spitting off at the mouth. If you can find two people on this planet better suited to be friends than T.O. and Ocho, I’d sure as hell like to meet them.
All the hullabaloo surrounding the Bengals signing of Owens was concentrated on how a team with so many goofballs, most notably “TOcho” (couple name courtesy of ESPN’s Bill Simmons), would be able to avoid dysfunction. How could a team ripe with so many numskulls and scumbags possibly succeed in the world’s most competitive professional sport? How can two impossible-to-please attention-hogs possibly coexist together and not implode the entire organization? How can this possibly work?
The truth is, it can work because of the relationship that T.O. and Chad have with one another. They are legitimate friends, on and off the field, and have been for some time. They wanted to play together. They believe that teaming up will cause more headaches for opposing defenses than it will for their own coaches. They want to prove that despite Chad being a goofy, charismatic oddball with no conscience or filter, and Owens being the evil villain who has drawn the ire of everyone in his past, the two of them can make it work. Despite what others may think, the both of them know that they are simply well-intentioned and misunderstood.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, Chad is Kramer and T.O. is Newman. And while this certainly sounds exactly like one of my overly ridiculous cross-pop-cultural references, it really does make sense if you stop and think. (Oh, and Marvin Lewis is Jerry. Or maybe Carson Palmer is Jerry. Or maybe I am taking this analogy a little too far.)
Chad is just a real-life, black Kramer that plays football. He’s an idiot. He says and does ridiculous things that no other self-aware human would ever bring into the realm of possibility. Kramer’s first name is Cosmo; Chad’s last name is Ochocinco. But despite what they say and do, neither is given enough credit for their good qualities. Kramer is a loyal friend, always willing to help out others and come up with the next great idea, even if he invariably screws it up. Chad is a gifted football player, whose work ethic and philanthropic nature is overshadowed by his dancing and bilingual name.
Owens may truly be pure evil deep-down, but he has a soft-side too, just like Newman. His tremendous talent on the football field and desire to win is often overshadowed by his inability to get along with others, just as Newman’s job as a United States Postal Worker and loyalty to Kramer is overshadowed by his portly annoyance and hatred of Jerry. Is it impossible to like Owens? Is he pure evil? Maybe. But Chad thinks otherwise, and maybe he’s right, too. Maybe T.O. is exactly what the Bengals and the city of Cincinnati need to get over that ever-present hump. Maybe by joining forces, the two can change the fortune of a franchise desperately in need of Super Bowl run.
Chad and Owens are in the midst of their ploy to take over the planet. The touchdown celebrations and reality TV shows have all led up to this point, where they are finally brought together. And despite the fact that these two men can barely manage to run their own ridiculous and crazy lives, it hasn’t slowed down their attempt at world domination. Except instead of going against each other, T.O. and Ocho are taking on everyone else.
Whether or not this plan works remains to be seen. But either way, the journey will be fun to watch.
Thanks for reading