#3. Jerry Springer: Political Wunderkind
Michael Loccisano / Getty
It's a popular piece of trivia that Jerry Springer used to be the mayor of Cincinnati, which would seem to make him overqualified for his more famous career as the host of a televised bum fight. But it's not the biggest mismatch in the history of professions. Politicians are known for exploiting the underprivileged and being smarmy and disingenuous, which is also the TiVo description of The Jerry Springer Show.
There's more chair-throwing in politics, but still.
Springer wasn't some slimy politician who bribed his way into public office. He was a goddamn prodigy. He graduated from Northwestern University's law school and immediately became a political campaign adviser to Robert F. Kennedy at the ripe age of 26. When fate intervened in the form of a crazy guy with a gun, Springer moved back to Ohio and ran for Congress against a beloved Republican in a traditionally Republican district. The move was considered ballsy by way of crazy, until he won 45 percent of the vote, and soon after he got elected to the Cincinnati city council. He was 27 years old.
Cincinnati Museum Center / Getty
And markedly less oily.
A few years later, he was forced to resign after bouncing a check at a rub-and-tug massage parlor across the river in Kentucky (we didn't mean to imply that he wasn't smarmy). Here's where you'd expect Springer to declare his innocence and express shock that those women hadn't voluntarily J'ed him O. Instead, he owned that shit, admitting his error in a brutally honest press conference that got him re-elected in a landslide the next year, and eventually would propel him to the office of mayor. So how did a guy who was known and admired for being frank and honest about his faults end up manipulating poor people into fighting on national TV while telling them that they should be ashamed of themselves?
Well, after he ran for governor of Ohio and lost, he decided to take his talents to TV, where he immediately became famous for his brilliant editorials on the evening news. While other news anchors just read the teleprompter, Springer became the most popular anchor in Cincinnati by making witty speeches that represented an actual opinion. And so he launched his own nationally syndicated TV show. It was a journalistically responsible platform where real people talked about real problems. In yet another industry famous for dishonesty and mailing it in, Springer stood out as a hardworking man of integrity.
His bouncers got very little work.
The problem was that nobody gave much of a shit about any of that hardworking integri-junk he was always going on about. And so in 1994, with his show facing cancellation, having lived a good life and succeeded in a number of public service careers, Springer decided that maybe, just this once, he would listen to his producers and take the show in a different direction. And so he hired a guy from The Weekly World News (the magazine that made the Bat Boy famous) and let his standards drop just a little bit. When the public loved this standard-dropping, he let his standards drop a little more. And pretty soon the show was a huge success, and Jerry Springer was basically the most transparently terrible person on TV.
It's worth noting that, had RFK not been gunned down, Springer was in a great position to be a major political player. Instead, his career did a reverse Reagan and he now lords over a show that he once described as "stupid human tricks" before going on to clarify: "It's all stupid. We're all idiots. It's bubble gum" and swearing up and down that he himself has never watched it. So for all the awful things you can say about Springer, at least he's still honest enough to hate himself.
#2. The Big Dumb Linemen: The Smartest Guys on the Field
Everyone knows that the quarterback is the smartest guy on the football field. He has to keep track of thousands of plays and adapt to defenses on the fly. Great quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are constantly described as field generals for a reason. They're the strategists on the field, orchestrating attacks and moving the other players around like pieces on a homoerotic chessboard.
Jeff Gross / Getty
This man is the Eisenhower of throwing leather balls across carefully manicured fields.
If you had to pick the second-smartest player on the field, you'd be hard-pressed. Maybe you'd guess the linebacker, or whoever calls the shots on the defense, or the punter, because you're a racist. But really, football players who aren't the quarterback don't need to do a lot of thinking. The ogres up front, mashing into one another like an obese demolition derby, would appear to be at the bottom of the intelligence totem pole. How many decisions could they possibly have to make? They barely go anywhere. It's just size against size. They're basically fat for a living.
When they're depicted in movies, they tend to be just as dumb as they look. In Varsity Blues, the offensive lineman Billy Bob can't tell the difference between a pig and a dog.
He's got his name written on that truck door so he'll remember it.
If you're a fan of the NFL, you know that before each draft, prospects have to take an IQ-style intelligence test called the Wonderlic. You know this because the quarterbacks' scores get parsed like they're applying to Harvard. What rarely gets mentioned is that their scores are on average lower than those of the fat guys whose job it is to throw their bodies in front of them like the Secret Service taking a bullet for the president (if people shot at the president with bullets the size of human trucks).
According to NFL writer Paul Zimmerman, "Annually, offensive linemen average a higher score on the 12-minute, 50-question quiz administered at the NFL scouting combine than players at other positions do." That's right: The fat-for-a-living offensive linemen are the smartest guys on the field.
Ronald C. Modra / Getty
"Did you think these were the dreadlocks of a fool?"
They have to be because they have the hardest job. The entire defense focuses its attack through the line, which means there are dozens of guys on the other end being coached by a guy with an aerial view of the field, all aimed at outsmarting them. They're both the frontlines of the battlefield and its intelligence officers. All you have to do is catch one lineman by surprise, and the quarterback's the victim of vehicular homicide. The offensive linemen have to figure out exactly what the defense is going to do in real time while staring up at some dude's crotch.
As one NFL general manager put it, "They have to adjust to so many different fronts. They have to understand blitz concepts." That apparently requires pattern recognition and the ability to think and communicate with one another with the efficiency and speed of a beehive. And they have to do it all while frozen with their asses in the air, and then while five to nine of the world's fastest, strongest sentient animals fly at them in complex patterns.
It's one of the rare situations where it doesn't pay to be sane or stupid.
An entire army's worth of alpha males are paid millions of dollars a year to outsmart them, and they only have their fellow linemen, their minds and, yes, an ample helping of fat-marbled humanity under their pads. All to protect the pretty boy who gets to date supermodels.
#1. Michael Bay: Secret Auteur
Larry Marano / Getty
Michael Bay has long been held up as the mascot and spiritual leader of the dumbing down of American popular culture. Internet commenters hate Bay with the depth and ferocity of three-and-a-half William Wallaces.
Mr. Bay inside his home, a perpetual explosion.
He can make Transformers movies that rape their childhoods, but he will never take away our freedom to call his movies "soul cancer" or make statements like "Michael Bay is an AWFUL director, who's [sic] name should NEVER be brought up when speaking of TRUE cinema."
When he's not filling movie theaters with his trademark just-way-too-many explosions, Bay is known for casting underwear models instead of actresses, treating the top four buttons on his shirt like sarcastic suggestions and generally being the sort of middle-aged child who rarely exists outside of the second act of body-switching comedies.
United States Air Force / Getty
"Can you Army just a little harder?"
If you think that Michael Bay movies suck, I'm not going to convince you otherwise (mostly because I agree with you about every one of his movies in which Nicolas Cage doesn't save the world). But it's at least worth noting that many professional filmmakers and film theorists don't agree with us. For instance, James Cameron, the most successful action director of all time, admits to having "studied his films and 'reverse-engineered' his shooting style." Apparently those rapid cuts from one angle to another that are the hallmark of Bay's "lazy" filmmaking style are technically way more difficult to pull off than ... well, not doing that.
The quotes about him being an AWFUL director and a soul carcinogen are from the comment section of an essay in which a respected film theorist claims that "Armageddon is a work of art by a cutting-edge artist who is a master of movement, light, color and shape." The essay was written years after the release of the movie, when Bay's second and third films were released as part of the Criterion Collection, a series of collector's edition DVDs curated by serious film scholars for fans of challenging art movies.
Where we see a car crash of colors and noise being filmed by an unskilled dumbass pointing his camera at whatever is exploding the loudest, some surprisingly great filmmakers and serious film scholars see an idiot savant. We ridicule his one dimensional characters, but film theorist Jeanine Basinger thinks we're missing the point, claiming that Bay's films are supposed to create "a kind of abstraction and unreality that is found in musicals." While we might see his constant cuts as an assault on our short attention spans, Basinger believes that his rapid cutting is the closest thing to abstract expressionism in modern Hollywood films.
In fact, you can make a shockingly strong case for Bay as auteur. For instance, it was long assumed that the plot for Armageddon was sketched out by Hollywood producers while doing cocaine and exploding LEGO cities with fireworks. In fact, it was Bay's vision from beginning to end. He came up with the idea while attending Wesleyan University (one of the best, and most liberal and artsy liberal arts colleges in America). He was taking "a geology course with this tectonic expert" who said, "Calamities happen; it's the plumbers who will fix the world." Bay loved the idea that the blue-collar workers would be forced to save the day if the world ever faced a geological disaster. He just changed the plumbers to oil-rig workers, put them on a giant rock hurtling toward Earth and added the line "Talk about the wrong stuff" because he's a bit of an idiot.
That also explains the whole "minigun on a space mining vehicle" thing.
Just a few years out of college, Bay was already considered one of the best visual storytellers working in the world of TV commercials. He created the first "Got Milk?" ad, and won the two most prestigious awards in the advertising portion of the Cannes Film Festival. And that was all in his first year as a professional director.
Once he made the jump to feature films, he was immediately unpopular with critics and people like me. The Rock is the only of his movies that is rated over 50 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. His most poorly reviewed film, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (21 percent), is also his most successful at the box office. And according to a bunch of people who take film a lot more seriously than I do, it's because modern art isn't for everybody.
Jack O'Brien is the founder and Editor in Chief of Cracked.com. You can follow him on Twitter, and also in the real world if you're sneaky enough.
For more surprising celebrity facts, check out 8 Celebrities You Didn't Know Were Geeks and 7 Celebrities Who Had Badass Careers You Didn't Know About.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 4 Reasons You Should Be Thrilled Disney Bought Star Wars.
And stop by LinkSTORM to learn why John Madden is the smartest man ever.
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