George Will’s Sports Machine

by Daniel Foster

Ed, your easy eloquence on matters sporting put me in mind of the SNL classic “George F. Will’s Sports Machine,” with Dana Carvey as the legendary Will, here hosting a baseball quiz show; Corbin Bernsen as costestant Mike Schmidt, Jon Lovitz as contestant Tommy LaSorda, and Kevin Nealon as Sam Donaldson, the fictional show’s announcer. Due to lousy copyright laws, I can’t get the video, but here’s a flavor:

Sam Donaldson Voice-over: It’s “George F. Will’s Sports Machine”, the sports trivia show for the real fan. And now, here’s your quizmaster, syndicated columnist, George F. Will.

[ cut to game studio, with an audience of die-hard sports fans cheering, as George F Will enters ]

George F. Will: Good evening. “Sports, say the ancient Greeks, is morally serious because mankind’s noblest aim, is the loving contemplation of worthy things.” That’s an excerpt from my new book on baseball entitled.. [ holds up book ] “Men at Work”, and I’d say it’s particularly a propos in light of today’s Expo-Padre game. [ audience issues a blank, sluggish stare ] Joining me today are two gentlemen who would no doubt agree. First, former slugger for the Philadelphia Phillies, Mike Schmidt. Good day, Mike. Tell us, what do you miss most since retiring from baseball last year?

Mike Schmidt: Well, George, I guess I miss going to the ballpark every day.

George F. Will: Ah yes, ballparks. In humanity there exists a vestigial memory of an enclosed green space as a place of freedom or play.

Mike Schmidt: [ confused ] Yeah. I guess.

George F. Will: Excellent. Competing with Mr. Schmidt today is skillful practitioner of the managerial arts – from the Dodgers, Tommy Lasorda. Salutations, Tommy.

Tommy Lasorda: [ slaps his stomach ] Good to see you, George. I’m ready to play!

George F. Will: Well, the manager’s role is one of both hector and helper, naysayer and nexus. Around his circumference lies the full measure of the game.

Tommy Lasorda: I.. uh.. well, I’m ready to play!

George F. Will: Very well. Let us engage the sports machine. Gentlemen, as always, the questions will focus exclusively on baseball, the only game that transcends the boundary between fury and repose. All right, hands on buzzers. [ he hits several buttons on the machine, which spits out a quiz card that George reads ] “The precarious balance between infield and outfield suggests a perfect symmetry. For $50, identify the effect of that symmetry.”

[ the contestants stare cluelessly, as the buzzer sounds ]

George F. Will: Sorry. The answer is: “The exhilarating tension between being and becoming.” Being and becoming. Next question: [ hits several buttons, dispensing another card ] “In 1954, Willie Mays, in an emphatic stroke of Byzantine whimsy, made his over-the-shoulder catch off of Vic Wertz. What was it not unlike?” [ no answers ] Take it? Anyone?

Mike Schmidt: The.. uh.. the catch in Cincinnati that.. [ buzzer sounds ]

George F. Will: Sorry. “It was not unlike watching Atlantis rise again from the sea, the bones of its kings new-covered with flesh.” [ audience members stare blankly in awe ] Well, gentlemen, no score as of yet, but the night is young. Perhaps what you gentlemen need is a little incentive, so here to tell you about today’s prizes is our own Sam Donaldson.

Sam Donaldson: Thank you, George. Thank you. Today’s winner will receive a copy of Roget’s Expanded Thesaurus. [ holds up book, singing ] “Buy me a Roget’s and crackerjacks, I don’t care if I never come back. And they’ll also receive.. [ holds prize up ] ..Chocowhip, chocolate-flavored whip topping. It’s sweet and fluffy. Mmmm, Chocowhip!

George F. Will: Sam, isn’t it somewhat of a given that a whip topping would be sweet and fluffy?

Sam Donaldson: Oh, come off it, George! You can’t see the forest for the trees!

George F. Will: We’ll continue this spirited discussion later. As for now, it’s time we moved on to the Big Board. And the categories are: “Baseball as Narrative”, “Aristotle and Comiskey”, “Joyce Carol Oates”, “Left Field: Myth or Monopeia?”, “Pitch Patch Potch”, “Dulce et Decorum Est”, and “Pot Luck”. Mike, choose a category.

Mike Schmidt: [ contemplating ] Uh.. “Pot Luck”.

And so on.

UPDATE: Great work, commentors.

Though I actually think this one reads better than it plays. Despite all Dana Carvey’s talents, the SNL audience don’t seem to be in on the joke.