Every week, Grantland's staff watches all 200 million videos on YouTube and picks their favorites.
Bill Simmons: I loved hockey as a kid because of hockey cards, street hockey, the Bruins and hockey fights. And not in that order. The late-1970s Bruins fought so much that my best friend, Reese, and I watched entire games while talking on the phone, just so we could enjoy the fisticuffs live over rehashing them at school the following day. The best three brawlers on those teams were Stan Jonathan (lefty, part-Indian, low center of gravity, the team's best puncher), Terry O'Reilly (a whirling dervish, also lefty, someone who threw as many haymakers as he took) and John Wensink (completely, totally, utterly insane). Wensink had a tussled afro and a bushy mustache, as well as crazy eyes that always reminded me of my Uncle Ricky's Great Dane, Jake. Whenever I played with Jake (we were the same size), Jake would occasionally get a deranged/happy/disassociated look that basically said, "I'm really enjoying this roughhousing, but part of me wants to see what would happen if I chewed off the side of your face." I never quite knew how far I could push Jake, and honestly, I didn't want to find out. That was Wensink. He wasn't the greatest fighter, but once he got riled up, all bets were off — it usually took two referees to pull him away.
Wensink's breakout moment happened on December 1, 1977, during a home game against Minnesota. I am proud to say that I watched this one live. After O'Reilly and Wensink took turns whipping two overmatched Stars, Wensink skated in front of Minnesota's bench, stopped on a dime, paused for a second, then waved with both hands for another Star to leave the bench and fight him.
I'll repeat that: He waved with both hands for another Star to leave the bench and fight him.
Nobody accepted John Wensink's offer. Can you blame them? He waved at the sitting Stars in disgust (exaggerating that wave for the crowd, who reacted like he was throwing them $50 bills), then disdainfully skated to the penalty box much like a professional wrestler would only he was wearing skates and a hockey uniform. I can't overstate this: At that point of my life (I was eight), this was the single greatest thing I had ever seen. Either I called Reese and we rehashed it for the next 20 minutes, or we were already on the phone yelling in disbelief; I can't remember. There was no DVR, no YouTube, no VHS tapes, just the memory of what we had just witnessed: John Wensink challenging an entire bench and nobody accepting. Screw Clint Eastwood, screw Charles Bronson, screw Starsky and Hutch. As far as we knew, John Wensink was the toughest man alive. And maybe he was.
Chuck Klosterman: The other night I saw the (excellent) new Errol Morris movie Tabloid, part of which involves some (mostly negative) discussions about Mormonism. As a visual aid, Morris uses footage from this very bizarre cartoon (I've been told the footage was also used in a Bill Maher documentary, but I never saw that). Now, the way it's portrayed in Tabloid — and even the way it seems when you watch it on YouTube, devoid of context — one might assume this cartoon was actually made by the Mormon church, possibly as a way to indoctrinate children. But that's not the case. This rotoscoped animation was actually created for a 1982 anti-Mormon movie titled The God Makers. So be aware that this is anti-Mormon propaganda — although it does seem to work off an educated, literal interpretation of Mormon fundamentalist mythology. No mention of Jimmer Fredette, unfortunately.
David Jacoby: Jamaican dances are like Apple products: There's always a newer, faster, and better one just around the corner. Cell-phone cameras and YouTube have accelerated the distribution of the latest reggae dances to the point that something can be popular in the morning and played out that afternoon. Here at Grantland, we wanted to relieve you the stress of having to constantly comb the Internet for the latest dancehall craze, so we provide the above clip. It was published just days ago and at press time had only 18 views, so you know it's still good. When trying this dance yourself, it's important to note the casual mixing-in of the head smash to your partner’s derriere. It not all hip, groin, and foot smashes, rookies. By the time you're done learning these moves, another group of teenagers on a rooftop in the Caribbean will have already uploaded a new dance that you can’t do. Such is the cycle of life.
Katie Baker: Two years ago Jonah Lehrer wrote one of my favorite New Yorker pieces, about a psychological study conducted at Stanford in the '60s that examined children’s' willingness and ability to delay gratification. Overseen by Walter Mischel, the project evolved into a 40-year longitudinal study of its participants and gave rise to some compelling, if controversial, theories of human behavior. More importantly, it yielded a delightful YouTube genre: the Marshmallow Test.
Mischel's original Marshmallow Test is brilliant in its simplicity: A child of about 4 is plunked down at a table and presented with a plump, fluffy marshmallow. "You can eat this marshmallow now," a researcher tells the small, wide-eyed soul. "But if you wait until I get back in 10 minutes, then I'll give you another, and then you'll have two!" The door closes, and we're left with nothing but a marshmallow, a kid, and a camera.
I could watch the resulting footage on an endless loop for weeks. I wish I had a video dossier containing a Marshmallow Test for everyone I've ever met. It's a miniparade of the human condition: the children squirm, sniff, strain and sigh, and many can't help but succumb. Each kid is a burgeoning Someone You Know — your stoner uncle, your goody-two-shoes ex-girlfriend, your yo-yo-dieting roommate, your scheming coworker. (It goes the other way, too. I have enough friends who look just like the curly-haired boy at the 3:55 mark of this one to know that the poor lil buddy never had a chance.)
This version (scroll to 0:43 to bypass the evangelism) adds an extra dollop of chocolate sauce and features some of the great Marshmallow-related performances — the future sociopath at 2:28, the sure valedictorian at 3:20, and the plate-pushing Renee Zellweger lookalike at 4:28. But it's the girl at the 3:48 mark of this one from Colombia who comes away as my favorite: First she auditions for Sarah Michelle Gellar's role in Cruel Intentions, then she eats just the inside of the marshmallow in sly hopes of beating the system. "So, we know she'll be successful in life, but we'll have to watch her," says the researcher at the end of the clip. "So she doesn't go into banking, or work at a cash register."
Chris Ryan: I’d like to say that my nomination of this clip of Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge in “Alan Partridge’s World Cup Countdown to '94” was prompted by the recent U.S. release of Michael Winterbottom’s culinary travelogue, The Trip. Or perhaps it was spurred by the recent Women’s World Cup and some of the excellent calls made by play-by-play announcer Ian Darke. But really, this clip needs no prompting or spurring for me, as it is pretty much always playing in my mind.
When I leg it up the two flights of stairs to the Smith and 9th St. train in Brooklyn, to catch a soon-to-depart F train I will often hear, “Yes, yes, yes ” and as I slide through the closing doors, I will often have to restrain myself from saying, “That was a goal” to the man wearing three pairs of pants and having a conversation with a seven-week-old copy of the New York Post.
Whenever I find myself pulling into the Cherry Hill Mall in New Jersey on a Saturday afternoon, making illegal left turns and driving like Kurt Russell in Death Proof just to get a space closer to the food court, I will often reward myself with, “That was liquid football!”
And regardless of whether it’s Ian Darke, Martin Tyler, Ray Hudson, or John Champion calling a soccer match, if something like this happens, I always, without fail, say to myself, “He must have a foot like a traction engine.”
Molly Lambert: The Sunset Strip used to be cool. It hasn't been remotely cool since the '80s, when Guns 'N Roses were the kings and everybody else fought it out to be second in a hair-metal Game Of Thrones. The "teenage riots" of the '60s are so mythologized that it's pretty amazing to see actual footage. It's pretty anticlimactic because it just sounds so much more fun than it actually looks. It looks like a bunch of kids with the same haircut (longish bob, with sideburns on the men) mostly standing around, trying to look cool without getting arrested. Maybe Tyler The Creator from Odd Future can bring it back this summer and recruit his fans to mob all the bloated tourist attractions and boutique hotels on skateboards.