Key & Peele and the Future of Football, Part One

Comedy Features Football
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“A career day for Hingle McCringleberry, the rookie out of Penn State.”

We all want better things for our children, nicer homes, better schools, and brighter teeth. And yet most of us, after falling in love and the inevitably fusing of gametes, give our children the same old names. Rose is still called Rose, even though she looks and smells more sweet.

In the late 1970s, Edward and Elizabeth Mapp wanted their children to have distinctive names to match their distinguished aspirations. Their sons, Scientific Mapp (1976) and Majestic Mapp (1981) did not disappoint. Both were All-NYC point guards and won scholarships to FAMU and UVA, respectively.

When Majestic Mapp was UVA’s star point guard, the Cavaliers’ offensive line was anchored by a left tackle named D’Brickashaw Ferguson. He is now a pro-bowl tackle for the New York Jets, as well as the inspiration for Key & Peele’s “East-West College Bowl” name introductions. Without D’Brickashaw Ferguson, there would be no Hingle McCringleberry, Eqqsquisitine Buble-Schwinslow, Ozamataz Buckshank, or D’Pez Poopsie.

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“D’Brickashaw Ferguson, University of Virginia.”

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“Hingle McCringleberry, Penn State University.”

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“Ozamataz Buckshank, Stanford University.”

“We had to do something,” says Keegan-Michael Key in Season 2, Episode 2. “There is an offensive lineman from the New York Jets; my man is named D’Brickashaw Ferguson. That’s his real name. His mama named him D’Brickashaw Ferguson, someone asked her, ‘where did his name come from, ma’am?’ and she said, ‘it’s a family name.’

“It ain’t no family name. That’s not a family name . . . D’Brickashaw? That’s like three different nouns in your son’s first name. Come on now. Just threw letters in a bucket and (pretends to shake it up).”

The name D’Brickashaw was actually chosen with deliberate intent, inspired by the character Father Ralph DeBricassart, a lustful priest from the Australian novel and miniseries The Thorn Birds. His mama could call it a family name because her son D’Brickashaw was probably conceived to the mini-series.

Of the 96 characters in the East-West Bowl series (10 real and 86 fictitious), one stands alone: DaHistorius LaMystorius, the Mystery of History.

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“DaHistorius LaMystorius, Utah State University.”

Among the world’s many wonders, we must include the comedic duo of Key & Peele, who have somehow become the most influential color commentators on our new national pastime. (Baseball fans should watch the Key & Peele skit “Slap Ass,” where Garcia reminds Raffi, “This is the major leagues, Raffi. We are all from the Dominican Republic”).

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“We’re all Dominicans here.”

Let’s break out the telestrator and examine Key & Peele’s football skits individually to prepare us for their longer Super Bowl Special (which we will write about in Part 2).

1. “East-West College Bowl 1&2” introduced 64 different players with 62 unique wigs or do-rags—all but the two white players receive custom hair, makeup, and voice inflections. “Making specific the men the culture treats as indistinguishable” writes The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum, is Key & Peele’s “greatest strength.”

What makes the skits both more bizarre and believable are the white middle-aged broadcasters Dave Sassin and Jeff Worthing (Joel Meyers and Bill Seward) who must keep a straight face when talking about “the meteoric rise of D’Pez Poopsie.”

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“I could talk about Fudge all day.”

With a hard-hitting theme song and slick motion graphics, the skit has a high production value, a reminder that amateur sports are, in fact, big business. ESPN has agreed to pay the NCAA $7.3 billion dollars over twelve years for the rights to broadcast the BCS Playoff. In 2015, when Ohio State beat Oregon 42-20, fans paid an average of $690 a ticket. “They do make a lot of money off us,” says Ohio State’s Tyvis Powell.

In 2014, UGA running back Todd Gurley received a four-game suspension for selling autographs. In 2010, UGA wide receiver AJ Green was suspended four games for selling his jersey. Green only had a handful of jerseys, but there were hundreds for sale at the UGA bookstore for $99.99. In light of such discrepancies, the NCAA will permit stipends up to $5,000 to student athletes from the “power-five conferences.”

A good number of these players make it to the NFL. The rest are not so lucky. A 2013 study [PDF] showed that of the 15,594 senior football players, only 254 were drafted, or 1.6%. If you account for eligible juniors, this figure would be even lower. Of course, not all drafted players, like Michael Sam, will make the final cut.

“Never make fun of a person’s name,” says Mr. T (Peele) in a rediscovered PSA. “Your momma gave you that name or you made it up for business purposes.”

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(Lesson 2: Respect each other’s name choices!)

Will these players’ Afrocentric names—Tyroil “Smoochie” Wallace, D’Isiah T. Billings-Clyde, LaCarpetron Dookmariot, or Shakiraquan T.G.I.F. Carter—affect their job prospects? A 2004 study [PDF] done by Freakonomics authors Fryer and Levitt revealed that Afrocentric names often correlate with poverty, but do not cause it. Another study, however, found that fictional resumés with Afrocentric names receive one-quarter the rate of call-backs to identical resumés with European-sounding names. “Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal?”

In “Substitute Teacher”Key & Peele’s most popular skit, with seventy million views—Mr. Garvey (Key) instructs students in an all-white biology class to say their names “correctly.” Clearly named for Marcus Garvey, the Pan-Africanist leader, Mr. Garvey says, “I taught school for twenty years in the inner city, so don’t even think about messing with me.”

The room contains 18 students and nine microscopes. “De-Nice?” Mr. Garvey asks. Is there a De-Nice?” If one of y’all says some silly-ass name, this whole class is going to fill my wrath. Now, De-Nice.”

“Do you mean Denise?”

“Son-0f-a-bitch!” Mr. Garvey breaks the wooden clipboard over his knee.

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“You say your name right, right now!”

And so Denise becomes “De-Nice,” Blake becomes “Balakay,” and Aaron becomes “A.A.Ron,” and we know these are correct because in the “East-West College Bowls” Aaron Blake A.A.Ron Balakay plays football for Morehouse College, and A.A.Ron Rodgers for Cal.

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2. “Hingle McCringleberry’s Excessive Celebration”

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“That was three pumps, and the rulebook says you can’t have more than two.”

The NFL, aka “No Fun League,” has put together this safe-for-work compilation of the top 10 touchdown celebrations of all time. In it, you will not find Randy Moss’s 10,000 fine for mooning the Green Bay Packers, Terrell Owens removing a sharpie from his sock to autograph a football, or “the Hingle McCringleberry,” in which a player puts his hands behind his head before delivering three pelvic pumps that knock his teammates to the ground unconscious.

Sometimes life can imitate art. And on December 29, 2013, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Lance Moore broke out the Hingle McCringleberry after catching a 44-yard strike from Drew Brees. Moore, like McCringleberry, was fined 15 yards for “an illegal demonstration.”

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“The ref is going to get you every time.”

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“It’s just frustrating to see young players without the ability to restrain themselves.”

3. “Quarterback Concussion”

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“Eqqsquisitine Buble-Schwinslow, University of Nebraska”

In the pouring rain, Rhinos quarterback Eqqsquisitine Buble-Schwinslow (Key) takes the snap and begins a seven-step drop, his eyes on the end zone when the linebacker breaks through the line and drives his head to the ground in an explosion of fireworks.

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“Eqqsquisitine, you need to let the medics look at you.”

In the huddle, a concussed Buble-Schwinslow tries to serve apple pie from his helmet and then panics when he cannot find his Rhinos’ horn.

Of all the Key & Peele football skits, “Quarterback Concussion” is the least humorous. Perhaps director Peter Atencio added the orchestral music and cinematic aspect ratio to further dramatize the rhino in the room that is football’s concussion crisis.

Recent studies have shown that repeated blows to the head, even on the subconcussive level, can cause short-term memory loss and long-term cognitive damage.

This past summer, the state of California banned “full-contact” practices.
LeBron James was an all-state receiver, but will not let his children play football. President Obama says he would not let his hypothetical sons play in the N.F.L.

The President, it appears, wants to avoid taking a stand against Pee Wee football, which would be the equivalent to telling Catholics parents not to allow their children their First Holy Communion.

Bill Simmons writes, “When I was growing up, everyone wanted to play football—the best football players received the most attention, dated the best-looking girls and lived by a different set of rules. My buddy Bish won our school’s QB job in 10th grade, started a couple of games and (more important) started dating a smoking-hot redhead from the class ahead of us. He couldn’t even drive yet! She had to drive him around. We thought this was unbelievable. I couldn’t have been more jealous. Had you offered me the deal, ‘You can switch places with Bish for a month, but you lose three years at the end of your life,’ I probably would have grabbed it. So it’s hard for me to comprehend that this dynamic is shifting as much as we think. In football hotbeds like Texas or Oklahoma, do you really think they spend their days wondering about concussion safety and whether football might be going away? It’s going to take years, if not decades, for concussion awareness to fully trickle down. If it ever does.”

Just yesterday, Junior Seau was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. A twelve-time Pro Bowl selection, Seau, like Dave Duerson, Ray Easterling, Kurt Crain and OJ Murdock, was one of seven former players in the last three years to commit suicide. Seau shot himself in the chest. His autopsy showed evidence of CTE or chronic brain damage.

4. “Ozamataz Buckshank Postgame Interview”

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“What did you have for dinner last night?”
“100 percent of 100 percent.”

After single-handedly leading the Rhinos to victory, a slack-jawed Ozamataz Buckshank (Peele) gives the same stock answer to every question from the sideline reporter (Key) including his recent fatherhood: “we wanted to stay as a team, execute, give 100%, play by play.”

In 2014 Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch was fined $100,000 for refusing to speak to reporters. He now likes to answer every question with the same stock phrases, including “Yeah . . . I’m all about that action, boss . . . I’m here so I won’t get fined.”

In Key & Peele’s Super Bowl Special, all Lynch (Peele) has to say is “biscuits and gravy.”

Marshawn Lynch aka Beast Mode prefers to let his play do his talking. After long touchdown runs, he has been known to grab his genitals, for which he has been fined $11,050. Since all NFL fine money goes to charity, Lynch makes crotch-grabbing a good cause.

Football players must speak to the media. It is their “obligation” to fans, says Commissioner Roger Goodell. And yet by ignoring the media, Lynch has become the NFL’s most popular running back.

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“Biscuits and gravy.”