8 Things That Broke the Internet (For Less Than A Minute)
Because we have a collective insatiable maw that needs to be constantly fed new information, it's impossible to remember everything that had us talking in 2014. That was especially true in the second half of the year, when a handful of legitimately important stories managed to distract us from the usual pettiness we focus so much time and energy on. That doesn't mean those things didn't happen, though! The following headline-grabbers held our interest long enough to at least garner a meme or hashtag before we moved on ...
The Red Eye of Bob Costas
The Sochi Olympics promised to be a disaster of epic proportions. Leading up to the games, there were accusations of massive corruption, serious concerns about human rights and the treatment of LGBT people, as well as daily reports of construction SNAFUs.
This is a problem.
Everyone loves a train wreck, though, so not surprisingly the world waited with bated breath to see what new strain of calamity would befall the actual events. Who knew the most intense drama would be the battle between NBC's prime-time host Bob Costas and a gross eye infection? With what seemed to be an iron grip on his hosting chair, Costas subjected viewers to nightly appearances by his inflamed peeper. When both eyes began to ooze and glow red, Costas, who has hosted the prime-time Olympics broadcast for NBC since 1988, apparently while wearing the same pair of dusty contact lenses the entire time, finally relinquished his position and took a six-day leave of absence.
I'll take the inflamed eyes of Costas over Lauer's beady ones any day.
By the time Costas stepped aside to let Matt Lauer cover what was turning out to be a lackluster sporting event, his red eyes had taken on a life of their own and had become the talk of the games.
Costas appears to have made a full recovery. But the interest in his ocular misadventures didn't end with the closing ceremonies. Post-Olympics, there was speculation that the eye infection was caused by botched Botox injections. It's a claim NBC denies.
The Potato Salad Kickstarter
According to Zack Brown, his using Kickstarter to raise $10 for a potato salad was meant to be a joke among friends. While the humorous aspect of the endeavor may have been a bit thin, the success was not. What started out as at best a mediocre gag, turned into a full-blown international news story and ultimately raked in over $55,000.
Which is odd, considering potato salad is disgusting.
Nearly 7,000 people from 20 different countries donated and helped make the potato salad Kickstarter the fourth-most-viewed page on the crowdfunding site. But it wasn't without detractors. Some complained that it took away from more deserving projects, while others credited it with being the "Harbinger of the fall of the Ironic Empire."
Kickstarter is where the world goes to invest in useless junk. So it's not quite clear why the Internet lost its collective mind over the success of the potato salad campaign. What many seem to forget is that 90 percent of Kickstarter projects are garbage, and the rest are big companies cashing in on easy financing. Yes, I'm looking at you Zach Braff. At least potato salad is (barely) edible. And it's not the stupidest thing ever funded on the site. A staggering $67,000 was raised for a statue of RoboCop in Detroit:
And over $12,000 was raised to create ...
... an inflatable sculpture of Lionel Richie's Head. Also, sorry, I was reading from the list of the best things Kickstarter has ever done just now. I promise most of it really is stupid, though.
Turns out Zack Brown is a pretty good guy. Instead of taking his windfall and laughing his irony-busting hump all the way to the bank, he decided to do some good. Kickstarter doesn't allow campaigners to give their funds directly to charity, so Brown funded a concert event with proceeds going to nonprofits fighting hunger in Central Ohio. That's so much better than fighting it with $55,000 worth of potato salad.
Alec Baldwin Retires From Public Life
After a string of epic public meltdowns, Alec Baldwin decided that 2014 was the year he'd say good-bye to the haters for good. In a long-winded letter published in New York Magazine, Baldwin announced his retirement from public life. Dramatically titled "Alec Baldwin: Good-Bye, Public Life," the letter was not only a farewell but also an eff you to the many people and things Alec felt slighted by, including but not limited to: Anderson Cooper, Shia LaBeouf (join the club), Andrew Sullivan, Harvey Levin, Rachel Maddow, TMZ, MSNBC, and New York City itself.
Stop being a jerk, New York City.
The rambling 5,000-word essay is a lot to chew on, but if you make it to the end, you'll find that Baldwin promises: "I'm aware that it's ironic that I'm making this case in the media -- but this is the last time I'm going to talk about my personal life in an American publication ever again." That's a pretty strong gauntlet to throw down for someone who seems to thrive on constant attention and is married to someone who incessantly posts self-indulgent yoga poses on her public Instagram account.
Yoga is healthy, this dinner won't be.
By November of this year Baldwin seemed to be not only ready to return to public life but willing and overly eager to completely embrace it. He and wife Hilaria invited gossipy TV show Extra to follow them on their family vacation in Rome, Italy. While Alec spent time parading his baby daughter around for the paparazzi, Hilaria struck more "yoga" poses for the cameras and anyone else who happened to be passing by. That was fast!
US Airways Twitter Disaster
It's a sad but true fact that 2014 may go down as the year of the disappearing plane. It's looking more and more likely we will never find out what happened to Flight MH370, and that's just one of the many high-profile and completely tragic aviation calamities that dominated headlines this year.
Not every airline disaster was a sad one, though. Take that time US Airways tweeted a very graphic photo in response to a customer complaint about their service, for example.
The image of a woman with a plane lodged in her nether regions accompanying the reply, "We welcome feedback. If your travel is complete, you can detail it here for review and follow up," was not only shocking, it pretty much negated what we imagine was the intended sentiment. The EXTREMELY NSFW tweet was left up for nearly an hour, which is basically an eternity in Internet time. After it was finally pulled, US Airways offered a profuse apology via Twitter ... sans image of any sort.
Undoubtedly the most graphic social media gaff of the year, we assumed heads rolled back at the corporate office. So what happened to the employee who tweeted that epic fail? According to US Airways, nothing. They explained that it wouldn't be fair to fire someone for an "honest mistake," which is pretty cool considering most companies are looking for an easy scapegoat.
Hunky Paul Bunyan types have been frequenting micro-breweries, fair trade coffee shops, and even the Cracked offices for some time now ...
Sexy Word Puncher
But it wasn't until mid-November, when a spate of articles on the "Rise of the Lumbersexual" hit the web, that the term fell into the vernacular. Within a week's time, The Atlantic, Time Magazine, Jezebel, and seemingly every other news-ish site filled the Internet with breathy reports of their calculated ruggedness, manicured beards, and aloof earthiness. Suddenly "lumbersexual" seemed to be rolling off everyone's tongues and into our collective consciousness.
In what has to be the strangest exploitation of the hip by the unhip, kooky conservative Glenn Beck is selling pricey lumbersexual gear on his website. Offering everything from a $200 ax to $80 jugs of manly shampoo featuring the "unique aromatic experience of sweet tobacco."
Gwyneth Paltrow introduced "conscious uncoupling" to the lexicon this year, when she used it to describe her separation from Chris Martin after a decade of marriage. Rather than admit defeat in a relationship, she rebranded it. Would you expect anything less from someone who once quit smoking by spending three days alone on a deserted island in the Caribbean, documenting the experience for a cover story in fashion magazine Marie Claire?
Gwyneth Paltrow: Survivor
It's been a busy year for the lifestyle guru who cat fights via elaborate magazine photo spreads. Paltrow may have reached a new high in double speak, but "conscious uncoupling" is only the second- or third-least self-aware thing that's come out of her mouth in 2014. Earlier she compared dealing with online critics to being like a soldier in battle and also claimed that parenting is harder for her than it is for moms who "have a regular job."
Is Paltrow backtracking or perhaps "cognizant unforwarding" on her announcement? According to recent reports, she apparently regrets her decision, but no official word yet if she and Chris Martin will attempt to consciously recouple anytime in the near future.
Comcast, We Wish We Knew How to Quit You
Anyone who has tried to cancel a service contract knows how painfully difficult it can be. The bureaucracy is huge, and each step is designed to wear down your resolve. It's pretty much par for the course, but when you're the largest cable company and Internet service provider in the U.S., you get to ratchet up the process to torturous levels. Ryan Block was already 10 frustrating minutes into his attempt to cancel his contract with Comcast before he decided to start taping the conversation, which we imagine was second choice to throwing his phone through the wall.
The good news is, if you could stomach listening to the entire eight minutes, you probably elevated your heart rate enough that you can skip the gym today. The bad news is, if the upcoming $45 billion Comcast-Time Warner merger takes place, "Mega-Comcast" is poised to control nearly 50 percent of the broadband market. After the taped phone exchange front-paged on Reddit, others began sharing similar interactions and exposing the company's morally bankrupt policies.
Eventually Comcast offered an apology that was more "throw employee under the bus" than genuine act of contrition. They said, in part, "We are very embarrassed by the way our employee spoke with Mr. Block and are contacting him to personally apologize. The way in which our representative communicated with him is unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives."
Comcast managed to squeak a few more "caught on tape" customer-service disasters just under the New Year's wire, including a customer spending four hours on the phone in an attempt to cancel his account.
Donald Sterling's Racist Rant
In what had to have been the most poorly kept secret since Tony Stark revealed he was Iron Man, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was publicly exposed as a racist. He was finally outed after TMZ leaked a secretly recorded conversation between Sterling and his paramour/possible employee, V. Stiviano.
The nine-minute-long conversation includes Sterling telling Stiviano that he didn't want her bringing black people, including Magic Johnson, to Clippers games. The shameful discussion on race and racism is intermingled with bouts of gaslighting from both camps and truly cringe-worthy moments of sweet talk between the 80-year-old Sterling and his "31"-year-old girlfriend.
Everyone is young next to Donald Sterling.
After the tape came out, the public uproar over the recording was intense. The players and fans staged protests. Sterling was fined $2.5 million by the league and was ultimately banned from the NBA for life by commissioner Adam Silver.
After months of legal battles, Sterling was forced to sell the Clippers to former Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer for $2 billion. Considering Sterling bought the team for a highly leveraged $12 million back in the '80s, it was certainly a punishment with a huge perk. And even with that hefty profit, not everyone thinks he got a fair shake. Sterling got a surprising endorsement from the hip hop community when West Coast rapper Kurupt praised Sterling as a "great guy who got screwed over by the NBA" in a recent interview.
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For more from Diana, check out The 6 Most Hilarious Ways Mainstream Media Failed at Google and The 5 Craziest Ways Adults Got Banned From Youth Sports.
Check out Robert Evans' A Brief History of Vice: How Bad Behavior Built Civilization, a celebration of the brave, drunken pioneers who built our civilization one seemingly bad decision at a time.