Hulk Hogan and Atticus Finch Race to the Bottom: How Racially Charged Remarks Felled These American Heroes

In the fading months of this annus horribilis, America received unwelcome word of two distasteful nods to its pop cultural past. Excommunicated wrestling superstar Hulk Hogan has been contacted by WWE (according to his daughter’s comments to TMZ) regarding WrestleMania 33 this coming year. And earlier this month, plans were announced to revamp the hometown of Harper Lee into a tourist destination through creating the Harper Lee Trail, a collection of attractions that would feature a museum and replicas of three homes set in her classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

Both proclamations met with a mixed reception. Washington Post reporter Travis M. Andrews writes that, while “it’s impossible to guess how Lee would have felt about the trail, it’s not a stretch to claim” that the famously private author “likely wouldn’t have been pleased.” Literary critic Sarah Churchwell goes so far as to warn that the Monroeville, Alabama project could create “a Disneyland for racists” nostalgic for a bygone age. As for the Hulkster, he spent most of 2016 under the wing of this delusional benefactor (Brother!).

These foreboding announcements harken back to last year, when two paragons of American virtue were bodyslammed by the unexpected release of racially charged content long kept from public view. Yes, for devotees of Hogan and southern trial lawyer Atticus Finch, July 2015 was the cruel summer when it came crashing down and it hurt inside. Hogan fell into ignominy when audio was released from a recording (made several years ago) that caught the Hulkster making racist remarks – some of which involve theoretical suitors for his daughter. WWE swiftly cut ties with the “Real American”, even erasing mentions of its former top star from the company’s website.

This controversy followed an even more shocking release that took place ten days earlier: that of Go Set a Watchman, Lee’s long-awaited follow-up to To Kill a Mockingbird. The book was published, writes Eve L. Ewing in The Atlantic, when Lee was “at the eve of her death and beset with a dementia that some say enabled her attorney to take advantage” of her condition. Although written prior to her debut novel, Watchman functions as a companion piece to that beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning story. Or, as denounced by New York Times columnist Joe Nocera, serves as “one of the epic money grabs in the modern history of American publishing.” In this book, Atticus Finch expresses segregationist views and attends a Citizens’ Council meeting.

Suddenly, the most famous wrestler of his generation and the legal demigod of what Oprah Winfrey proclaimed “our national novel” have seemingly been exposed as bigoted blowhards. How could these emblems of American idealism fall so far, so fast? Join us as we investigate the rise and fall of “the steward of the nation’s conscience” – and the man who gave the world Hulkamania.

Tale of the Tape
Atticus: Middle-aged and bespectacled; seersucker suit; poor indeed, but not as poor as the Cunninghams. Member of Alabama state legislature.
Hogan: 6’7, 303 lbs.; yellow spandex trunks with bandanna and tear-away shirt; net worth dependent on future sextape-related legal proceedings. Star of Santa With Muscles.

Professional Accolades
Atticus: Academy Award for Best Actor (as awarded to Gregory Peck for his portrayal in the 1962 film adaptation).
Hogan: Six-time WWE Champion.

Biggest Fans
Atticus: Other attorneys. As the American Bar Association gushes, “To lawyers, he was the lawyer they wanted to be. To nonlawyers, he fostered the desire to become one.”
Hogan: Hulkamaniacs. These fanatics adhere to the teachings proselytized by Hogan himself in this worshipful song.

Tag Team Partners
Atticus: Family cook (and surrogate disciplinarian) Calpurnia.
Hogan: Wrestling manager (and megaphone enthusiast) Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart.

Finest Hours
Atticus: His eloquent yet fiery trial defense of Tom Robinson.
Hogan: His eloquent yet fiery title defense against Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III.

Toughest Opponents
Atticus: Racist Jury; Social Injustice.
Hogan: “Rowdy” Roddy Piper; “Macho Man” Randy Savage.

Finishing Moves
Atticus: The Closing Argument.
Hogan: Atomic Leg Drop.

Hero Worship
Atticus, as praised by Thane Rosenbaum, Senior Fellow at New York University School of Law: “Babies are named after him. Indeed, despite his many parental shortcomings, he is the father many wish for themselves.”
Hogan, as praised by WWE announcer Gorilla Monsoon at WrestleMania VII: “Our national hero… An unprecedented winner, three times, of the World Wrestling Federation title. The gold once again around the waist of that incredible individual. And put it all to rest, the war is now officially over. Keeping his promise good to his nation, the immortal Hulk Hogan.” Note: Donald Trump cheered on Hogan from ringside during this match.

Fight for the Rights of Every Man
Atticus: “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”
Hogan: “But just like Donald Trump, Macho Man, I hope you’re ready, brother. Because Donald Trump has questions in his own mind… Donald Trump, don’t worry about my Hulkamaniacs. They’re survivors! They’re ready!”

Epic Challenge to His Peers
Atticus: “I am confident that you gentlemen will review without passion the evidence you have heard, come to a decision, and restore this defendant to his family. In the name of God, do your duty.”
Hogan: “Whatcha gonna do when Hulkamania runs wild on you?”

Best Advice for the Next Generation
Atticus: “First of all, if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
Hogan: “Train, say your prayers, eat your vitamins, be true to yourself, true to your country. Be a REAL American.”

Heel Turn
Atticus: “Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?”
Hogan: Uhhh … you can read all that here.

Enemies List
Atticus: The NAACP and U.S. Supreme Court.
Hogan: African-Americans and online media companies.

Definitive Response
Atticus: From Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, who swore, “I’ll never believe a word you say to me again. I despise you and everything you stand for.”
Hogan: From WWE, which released a statement noting that Hogan’s contract had been terminated, and claiming a commitment “to embracing and celebrating individuals from all backgrounds as demonstrated by the diversity of our employees, performers and fans worldwide.”

Kneejerk Reactions
Atticus, as bleated in this Daily Mail headline: “It’s like finding out Santa beats his reindeer.”
Hogan, as pleaded by Terry Bollea (aka Hulk Hogan): “Oh my gosh, please forgive me. Please forgive me. I’m a nice guy. I’m not the Hulk Hogan that rips his shirt off and bang, bang, bang, slams giants. I’m Terry Bollea. I’m just a normal man.”

Public Defenders
Atticus, as defended by Harper Lee biographer Charles J. Shields: “We could turn this into a plus in our national conversation about racism and the Confederate flag. It turns out that Atticus is no saint, as none of us are, but a man with prejudices.”
Hogan, as defended by The Rock: “I was pretty disappointed with what I heard, like all of us, by the way… I’ve known Terry for a lot of years, my dad helped train him in Florida in the ’70s when he was breaking into the business… I have not known the man to be racist.”

Character Witnesses
Atticus, as represented by Peggy Noonan: “Atticus, now in his 70s, holds views the reader will reject, yet he is patient, sincere—more human as a character than his daughter.”
Hogan, as represented by his daughter, Brooke, in a poem posted online: “If you knew my father, you would know how hard he fought… and the way it brought a smile to people light, medium and dark.”

Strike That from the Record!
Atticus: The Washington Times’ Charles Hurt babbled the following: “Freedom can be ugly business and sometimes you need a man in a suit with a steady hand who can shoot a rabid dog. It doesn’t matter what his opinions are on black people or white people. He just has to be able to shoot straight.”
Hogan: Retweeted a message about President Obama not being similarly vilified for using the N-word, context be damned.

Following their top-rope swan dives from grace, both Atticus and the Hulkster have experienced comebacks of sorts. HarperCollins Publishers announced that Go Set a Watchman is now the fastest-selling book in the company’s history. Meanwhile, Hogan settled his litigation with Gawker Media for $31 million last month. He also expressed interest in serving as the running mate for his old buddy Trump – a low to which even a newly Alt-Right Atticus would hopefully never stoop.

30 for 30 Rock: How Sports’ Biggest Suits Follow Jack Donaghy’s Lead

By Kyle Schmitt

(Twitter: @KyleRadioviolet)

You can’t blame Alec Baldwin for gradually morphing into Jack Donaghy. He’s starred in perhaps the funniest television comedy of this millennium, won Emmy and Golden Globe Awards, and waged heroic battles against photographersairline attendants, and rude, thoughtless 11-year-old girls. With the tumultuous end of his MSNBC show, however, it appears that megalomania has won the day, and the foremost Baldwin brother has now sworn off public life. The blurred line between the actor who engaged in mortal combat with the “fundamentalist wing of gay advocacy” and the boardroom shark who authored the book Jack Attack: The Art of Aggression in Business has finally disappeared.

But Jack Donaghy is more than just a man who “goes to Sbarro when he’s angry, the New York Stock Exchange when he’s horny, and Christie’s Auction House when he’s depressed”, as Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) refers to him. He’s also a gifted athlete who played football and baseball at Princeton University. Even as Jack exploits his mind-grapes to become head of NBC, he remains an avid sportsman who hits the links with his bourgeois buddies, takes in Knicks games via private skybox, and competes with Ryan Lochte for the attention of their shared paramour. Plus, he’s got inside information on how his cousin Tim fixed those NBA games.

Much as he mentors Liz, Jack provides business and life lessons to his fellow titans of capitalism in the sports world. As America mourns the sad death of his onscreen mother, Colleen Donaghy (the late, great Elaine Stritch), as well as the sad continued existence of Donald Sterling, we honor the ways in which sports’ biggest owners and front office talents have emulated Jack over the years. So put on your after-6 p.m. tuxedo, pour a glass of Donaghy Estates Sparkling Wine, and enjoy as 30 Rock’s top exec shows Chicago Typewriter how business really gets done.

Dual-Hatting Leads to Disasters

 Perhaps no team owner is more Donaghy than Dallas Cowboys honcho Jerry Jones. Jack could appreciate more than anyone the hubris that takes physical form in Jerry’s World, as well as the leadership instincts that drive Jones to serve as owner, president, and general manager of his team. Unfortunately, under Jones’ guidance, the Cowboys have won just a single playoff game since the 1996 season. And Tony Romo and Jason Garrett seem as permanently affixed to Dallas football as the 30-million light-bulb video screen hovering inside AT&T Stadium.

Jack Donaghy was once like Jerry Jones. He foists himself onto the TGS with Tracy Jordan writing staff, observing their work and then participating against their wishes. His script suggestions include co-opting the cartoon strip Dilbert into the show’s comedic fare and developing each nascent sketch by first coming up with a catchphrase, then working backward (his best offering, “Beep Beep Ribby Ribby!”, narrowly outpaces “Nuts to you, McGillicuddy!” and “Who ordered the wieners?”). Immediately after this chastening experience, Jack endures a TGS sketch appearance in order to support General Electric’s (GE) product placement directive. After these setbacks, he finally admits that he’s not qualified to perform these jobs, stepping down to allow trained professionals to do their work. Following Jack’s lead could allow Jerry’s team to once again dominate the NFL. But not bloody likely.

 Gender Relations (as practiced by Manhattan-based business tycoons in four easy steps)

  • Isiah Thomas, New York Knicks President of Basketball Operations, is accused of sexually harassing a team executive.
  • Knicks owner James L. Dolan fires the executive, allegedly for making accusations about said harassment.
  • Madison Square Garden foots the bill.
  • All truck parties are postponed until further notice.
  • Jack Donaghy: “Lemon, I’m impressed. You’re beginning to think like a businessman.”

Liz Lemon: “A businesswoman.”

Jack: “I don’t think that’s a word.”

  • Jack: “I like when a woman has ambition. It’s like seeing a dog wearing clothes.”
  • Jack: “I’m tired of talking this much to a woman I’m not having sex with.”
  • Jack to Liz: “Fire her. And don’t ever make me talk to a woman that old again.”

Take a Look, It’s in a Book

Only the Zen Master himself could teach Jack Donaghy something he didn’t already know about personnel management. New York Knicks President Phil Jackson is renowned for educating his star players by giving them books tailored toward their roles and personalities. For Kobe Bryant: Sun Tzu. For Shaquille O’Neal: Nietzsche. For Lamar Odom: a Walter Mosley book called “The Right Mistake”. What else could be expected from a former NBA player who once yearned to be a psychologist, and who titled his own 1995 book Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior? His literary leadership influenced even Jack’s coaching style.

Jack speaking to Tracy Jordan (Morgan) about his little league team from Knuckle Beach, the worst fictional neighborhood in New York: “Phil Jackson likes to give books to his players to inspire them. Which biography of Winston Churchill do you think would improve Rashid’s bunting?”

Unfortunately for these coaches, Michael Jordan and Jerry Seinfeld are not walking through that door. Despite their high-minded applications of the written word, Jackson and Donaghy are stuck directing punchline franchises whose best days are far behind them. Even worse, they must supervise two self-destructive goofballs (J.R. Smith and Tracy Jordan) who now appear to have been separated at birth.

 Race Relations

Donald Sterling: Did some stuff. For a long time. Then someone finally took action.

Jack’s advice to Tracy’s Knuckle Beach little league charges: “Baseball is a wonderful sport, boys. I remember when my high school team won the Boston city championship. Everyone told us we were gonna lose, because our team was all white, and the other team was completely … uhh … uhh … ahh-anyway, we won, and I learned that anything is possible.”

 Avoid Explosive Promotions

This summer marked the 35th anniversary of Disco Demolition Night, which proves that even the sharpest business minds can strike out on planning promotional events. Former Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck gave baseball its first hitting little person, brought back Minnie Minoso to take a few at-bats in 1980 so the former star could boast of playing in five separate decades, and allowed St. Louis Brown fans to help manage a game. As his tenure wound down, however, Veeck allowed his son (Mike Veeck) to greenlight the notorious Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park. Scheduled to take place between games during a July 1979 doubleheader, this promotion offered 98 cent admission to any fan bringing a disco record to the ballpark. The event drew an estimated 90,000 fans, many of them inebriated and some sneaking in with the use of ladders. After a radio personality blew up the offending vinyl, a legion of fans “stormed onto the field, tearing up clumps of sod, burning signs, knocking over a batting cage and flinging records like so many Frisbees.” The ensuing chaos led Detroit Tigers player representative Rusty Staub to claim, “I’ve never seen anything so dangerous in my life.” The White Sox were forced to forfeit the second game of the doubleheader to the visiting Tigers, and the debacle became a public relations nightmare for the organization.

Jack also makes the mistake of setting off explosives in a major American city. Sensing a younger executive encroaching on his turf, Jack dreams up his own promotion: the Rockefeller Center Salute to Fireworks. What he fails to understand about a show involving three hours of continuous fireworks, however, is how they will look exploding in the midtown Manhattan skyline post-9/11. His signature television event is shut down almost immediately after a phone-call from the mayor. The resulting disaster costs Jack his oversight of the GE microwave division and earns him a stern talking-to from his boss, CEO Don Geiss (Rip Torn).

Rebounding from the Agony of Defeat

Not Like This: “As you now know, our former hero, who grew up in the very region that he deserted this evening, is no longer a Cleveland Cavalier. This was announced with a several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his ‘decision’ unlike anything ever ‘witnessed’ in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment… “I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE”

Like This: “I’m certainly not perfect. No, no, no, it’s true. I’ve made mistakes, sacrificed happiness for a job I don’t think I’m ever going to get. We all have ways of coping. I use sex and awesomeness.

Watching the Detectives

 Whatever you do, don’t hire anybody on the down low to help undermine your own employees. George Steinbrenner learned this lesson the hard way when he paid a gambler $40,000 to turn up dirt on his own star player, future Hall of Famer Dave Winfield. Their arrangement went public when Steinbrenner’s new employee repeatedly asked for more money, leading to his conviction and prison sentence for extortion. Steinbrenner himself was banned for life from day-to-day operations of the Yankees, but reinstated in 1993.

 Similarly, Jack discovers that a man in his position cannot trust others to do his dirty work. When page Kenneth Parcell (Jack McBrayer) accidentally receives Jack’s bonus check and finishes squealing at the number of zeroes, he instigates a strike to reclaim his colleagues’ lost overtime pay. Jack responds by hiring private investigator Lenny Wosniak (an extra squirrelly Steve Buscemi) to infiltrate the uprising and bring it down from the inside. This strategy fails as spectacularly as Steinbrenner’s dirty deeds. Everything Wosniak tries – including his effort to siphon off sympathizers by organizing a competing viral protest on “Tweeter and YouTubes” – fails miserably, leaving Jack to resolve the issue on his own. He is finally forced to comply with the page’s demand to sign a piece of paper admitting that he is “a big ol’ liar.” The moral is clear: never hire a PI who attempts to thwart a strike by cross-dressing (as “nympho coed” Charlene LaRue) and attempting to seduce its ringleader.


Proverbs from America’s Greatest Leaders of Men

On Values:

Vince Lombardi, former general manager and coach of the Green Bay Packers (as appropriated from UCLA football coach Red Sanders): “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

Jack Donaghy: “Money can’t buy happiness, it is happiness.”

On Faith:

Vince Lombardi: “There are three things that are important to every man in this locker room. His god, his family, and the Green Bay Packers. In that order.”

Jack Donaghy: “I have faith, in things I can see and buy and deregulate. Capitalism is my religion.”

On Country:

Vince Lombardi: “It is and has always been an American zeal to be first in everything we do, and to win.”

Jack Donaghy: “When our founding fathers first set out, time and time again, our nation horizon. Prosperity, dreams, freedom. But, the spirit, journey, destiny. Mitt Romney values, Jenna values. I’ve met people. For this generation, and generations to come: Thank you, America.”

Reality Bites

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is an entertaining, personable impresario who searches out businesses and products for potential investments in the ABC reality series Shark Tank. But he made a poor business decision himself when he elected to tape episodes of his TV show instead of meeting face-to-face with free agent Deron Williams in 2012. Despite the fact that Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson were both present for the in-person pitch to Williams, it was, as Ball Don’t Lie writer Eric Freeman stated, “fairly shocking that Cuban won’t be present on a day that could change the course of the franchise for a decade.” Many observers thought that Cuban’s absence would be insulting to Williams and lessen the chances that the star point guard would sign with Dallas. After committing to remain with New Jersey, Williams himself confirmed these suspicions, stating, “I think (Cuban) would have been able to answer a lot of the questions me and my agent have for him that really didn’t get answered that day pertaining to the future.”

Clearly, Cuban missed Jack’s regrettable appearance on the Bravo reality series Queen of Jordan. An ill-timed fall, a plausibly deniable bout of gas, and a misinterpreted retelling of his collegiate athletics career (all caught on camera) lead to his casting as “Gay Jack”:

Jack: “Yeah, I was an athlete. Very graceful. Sports stories, I got some… When I was at Princeton, I played baseball and football. And back then, football players went both ways.”

Dot Com (Kevin Brown): “Really? So you went both ways?”

Jack: “Yeah. We all did. It was the 70s.”

Dot Com: “So, when you played baseball, were you ever on the DL?”

Jack: “Yeah… I was on the DL most of my junior year.”

Dot Com: “Hmmm.”

Jack: “When we were on the DL, we spent most of our time in the whirlpool – getting rubbed down.”

Dot Com: “You were a switch hitter?”

Jack: “Switch hitter. Pitcher. Catcher. Whatever the boys needed.”

Donaghy eventually disavows this “idiotic” show, proudly proclaiming that he is not a “clumsy gay flatulent.” If Cuban followed Jack’s lead, perhaps the Mavericks could win their first playoff series since the team’s 2011 NBA Championship.

What’s in a Name? (race edition)

Daniel Snyder on his Washington football franchise: “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER – you can use caps.” Note: this remark was made before news reports that the Fort Yuma Quechan Tribe in Arizona rejected finances from Snyder’s Original Americans Foundation, stating, “We know bribe money when we see it.”

Jack Donaghy: “I’ll tell you who has it the hardest: white men. We make the unpopular, difficult decisions, the tough choices. We land on the moon and Normandy Beach, and yet they resent us.”

Kenneth Parcell: “Well, sir, I’m sorry to disagree, but I am also a white man –“

Jack: “No, you are not. Socioeconomically speaking, you are more like an inner-city Latina.”

A short time later, after Kenneth attempts to shoot himself in a stuck elevator to allow fellow passengers to breathe his share of oxygen:

Jack: “Well, Kenneth, I give up. I thought pure morality died with Chuck Heston, but you proved me wrong. You are better than all of us. You are one Latina Fantastica.”

 Steer Clear of the Political Arena

Former WWE CEO Linda McMahon has been bitten by the political bug – and it is a costly illness. McMahon staged two unsuccessful bids for the U.S. Senate in 2010 and 2012, spending nearly $100 million total to run as a Republican candidate in deep-blue Connecticut. Presumably because there is no Senate seat to lose this year, she and husband Vince McMahon have donated almost $1 million to support their favored political candidates and causes in the current election cycle. Judging by Vince’s recent stock market losses, however, the first couple of the squared circle may want to hold off on signing any more checks for the time being.

When he’s not dating Condoleezza Rice and Skyping with Mitt Romney’s dressage horse, Rafalca, Jack Donaghy also dips his toes in the murky waters of political star-making. He decides to back independent candidate Steve Austin (John Slattery of Mad Men) in a Rhode Island congressional election against incumbent Regina Bookman (Queen Latifah), who opposes his desired NBC/Kabletown merger. Jack knows that his candidate is crazy, but is willing to sell out and support Austin’s platform of bringing back unpaved roads and building casinos on the moon in order to benefit his company. His change of heart is coerced by Liz reciting two of Tracy’s greatest movie lines – one of which is, “Die, werewolf zombie!” He urges Slattery, who is sequestered to avoid being heard in public, to speak his mind at a fundraiser and engage in verbal self-immolation. Contemplating the decision to erase his personal guilt by undermining vital business interests, Jack muses, “Letting morality get in the way of making money. I might as well go and … be a teacher.”

Tell ’em Who You Are

 San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt crowing after his team wins the 2014 NBA Championship: “The best people in the world, we’ve got ‘em. We’ve got the best fans, we’ve got the best city, we live in a great state, and we are in the United States of America! The greatest country in the world!”

Jack Donaghy psyching himself up before a public speaking engagement: “Well, buddy, here we come. Bases loaded, bottom of the ninth. Are you gonna step up? Oh yeah. Because it’s winning time, you magnificent son of a bitch! You go in there and show them. Make Mommy proud of her big boy because he’s the best! Just do it! Is it in you? I’m loving it!”

Fix a Major Sporting Event

This level of accomplishment takes masterful skill and unsurpassed egotism, so only the most elite authorities should even try. It helps to be FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who responded to a reporter’s question on corruption earlier this year by snapping, “Listen, lady, when you speak about corruption, then you have to present evidence.” There have long been allegations that the World Cup can be bought, and the locations of the next two tournaments do nothing to disprove this belief. The 2018 and 2022 tournaments will take place, respectively, in Vladimir Putin’s Russia and Qatar, the latter of which currently hosts migrant workers dying to build up the necessary infrastructure. New Republic piece goes so far as to state that, “After Brazil 2014, unless there is urgent and fundamental reform of a kind that would seem unlikely, the tournament is finished.”

For his own coup de grace, Jack helps to stage fake Olympic events so Team U.S.A. can win more medals. America’s success in synchronized running and octuples tennis raises patriotic spirits as well as NBC’s ratings. This scheme is nearly exposed, though, when the silver medalist in tetherball threatens to expose the lie. Fortunately, Jack buys his silence by offering him a role as the voice of Knight Rider (“the film”), then ensures Kenneth’s discretion by providing him with a free television and an opening to steal cable. Jack proves the only way to cover up massive ongoing fraud is with outright bribery – sadly, a lesson that both the business and sports worlds have learned well.

 Beware the Power of the Press

 Marge Schott on, uhh…“Everything you read, when he came in he was good… They built tremendous highways and got all the factories going… Everybody knows he was good at the beginning but he just went too far.”

Jack Donaghy: “You know how the media are. They wait for a mistake, and that’s all you are. It happened to Hitler. No one eeee-ver talks about his paintings.”

Negotiate Ruthlessly

Owners and general managers deal constantly with greedy employees. Tight ends asking you for wide receiver money. Coaches demanding the payments that you guaranteed them. NFL players accusing you of illegally dispensing narcotics and NFL cheerleaders alleging that you are paying them less than minimum wage. These interminable issues can lead to holdouts, strikes, lawsuits, and acquiescence to give Allan Houston and Amar’e Stoudemire nine-figure contracts to observe games from the sidelines. Such are the fates awaiting each team’s front office – unless they follow the Jack Donaghy method of negotiating with their franchise talents:

– Utilize blackmail (preferably photographs involving the talent and an *NSYNC member frolicking at SeaWorld)

– Make a $1 pay raise offer (then lower it to 75 cents)

– Provide ridiculously uncomfortable office chairs for each contract discussion (then take them away)

– Fawn after their competitors to remind your stars that they can always be replaced

– Poison the well with any other prospective suitors looking to recruit the talent

Finally, give them an ultimatum of no extra money, ban them from pursuing any other career paths, and restrict their religious observances to one Jewish holiday per year. With these techniques, you’ll force even the whiniest superstar to degrade himself by performing the worm and yelling out five reasons why you’re better than him.


Follow Kyle on Twitter: @KyleRadioviolet

The “Decision” that Built a New World Order

How LeBron James and Hulk Hogan Legdropped Their Fans and Changed their Sports Forever

By Kyle Schmitt
Twitter: @Kyleradioviolet


This week marks the anniversary of two shocking moments that altered the history of their sports – LeBron James fleeing the Cavaliers to create Miami’s Big Three and Hulk Hogan’s declaration of a New World Order. Both superstars were the top talents in their industries, but chose to backstab their lame franchises – Cleveland and World Championship Wrestling (WCW) – on live television for a chance to win greater glories with cooler cliques. These epic narratives of alliance and betrayal, which climaxed one day apart in 1996 (July 7) and 2010 (July 8), upset the balance of power in their industries. James and Hogan defined their careers with these actions, transforming from fan favorites into the biggest villains in their sports.

Join us as we revisit the Decisions that changed professional basketball and wrestling forever.

The Settings

LeBron: ESPN’s “The Decision” TV special, broadcast from the Boys & Girls Club, Greenwich, CT

Hogan: WCW’s Bash at the Beach 1996 pay-per-view event, broadcast from the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, FL

The Prologue

2010 – James had just finished his seventh season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but had still yet to win an NBA Finals game. The Cavs were knocked out of the 2010 playoffs by the Boston Celtics, led by their Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen. While James earned regular-season MVP honors and recorded a triple-double in the deciding game, Cavaliers fans dreaded their homegrown superstar’s impending free agency. During the summer of 2010, James embarked on a recruiting trip, meeting with six different franchises to determine where he would sign his contract. Following this courtship, news broke that James would announce his destination on a prime-time TV special airing on ESPN.

1996 – WCW was being terrorized by two ex-WWE superstars formerly known as Diesel (Kevin Nash) and Razor Ramon (Scott Hall). Wearing a denim vest, Hall interrupted a televised WCW match on May 27 and spouted the instant-classic line, “You people, you know who I am. But you don’t know why I’m here.” He concluded his snarky monologue with a direct threat to WCW: “You want a war? You’re gonna get one.” He and Nash followed up on this boast by launching several sneak-attacks on rival wrestlers. Finally, a WCW all-star team consisting of “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Sting, and Lex Luger combined their muscle at the annual Bash at the Beach event to fight Hall, Nash … and a mystery “third man”. Hall and Nash walked to the ring alone, but after they had laid out their opponents, a familiar face showed up to confront them …

Warning Signs

Basketball insiders immediately noted the significance of James removing his tank-top upon leaving the court following Cleveland’s season-ending loss to Boston. Play-by-play man Mike Breen wondered if this was the last time James would ever take off a Cavs uniform, providing epic foreshadowing by intoning, “If he leaves, it would be a disaster of enormous proportions for the Cavaliers.” Hogan showed similar signs of restlessness, shedding his trademark red-and-yellow garb in 1995 and sporting black wrestling gear to display his darker side. After losing the WCW World Championship at Halloween Havoc 1995, Hogan made sporadic in-ring appearances in 1996 while devoting time to his acting career.

Spoiler Alerts

While sports media fed an avalanche of rumors surrounding James’ free agency, Stephen A. Smith broke the news 10 days before “The Decision” that James and fellow Eastern Conference All-Star Chris Bosh would join 2006 NBA Finals MVP Dwyane Wade in Miami. Similarly, WCW color commentator Bobby “The Brain” Heenan sounded the alarm during Hogan’s walk to the ring at Bash at the Beach, repeatedly demanding, “Whose side is he on?” Fans still refused to lose hope in their saviors, disregarding both warnings as unthinkable.

Dirty Deeds

James jettisoned his organization and abandoned his diehard fans to join forces with Wade and Bosh in Miami. He ambushed his home-state team on national TV, telling the world that he was signing with the Heat. His announcement broke the hearts of a Cleveland fanbase that viewed James as the Chosen One who would lead their long-suffering city to a championship. His actions helped to establish the Heat as the presumptive frontrunner for the 2011 NBA Championship, while decimating a Cavaliers team that went from 61 wins in the 2009-2010 season to 19 victories in the 2010-2011 campaign. “The Decision” drew nearly 10 million viewers, and turned James into perhaps America’s most polarizing athlete. His move heralded a new era in which the league’s most talented stars would take less money, even in their primes, to combine forces with other great players for a better shot at winning titles. Suspicion persisted that James, Bosh, and Wade rigged the system to converge in a place of their choosing, reclaiming power for the players even as a new collective bargaining agreement eroded their share of basketball related income.

Hogan jettisoned his organization and abandoned his diehard fans to join forces with Hall and Nash. He cleared the ring of Hall and Nash to raucous cheers, only to double-cross WCW by leg-dropping a prone Savage. The Outsiders joined Hogan in decimating his co-Mega Power as a stunned crowd came to grips with what it had seen. Hogan then gave an interview to a livid “Mean” Gene Okerlund, proclaiming a New World Order (NWO) and telling his fans that “if it wasn’t for Hulk Hogan, you people wouldn’t be here.” His actions helped to establish Hogan as the presumptive frontrunner for the WCW World Championship (which he won a month later), and decimated a WCW stable reeling from the loss of its marquee talent. Hogan’s heel turn marked a sea change in professional wrestling, not just by having the most beloved wrestler of his generation break faith with millions of fans, but by signaling the end of an era of clearly defined heroes and villains and pointing the way toward the adult themes and grey shades of the Attitude Era.

The Outsiders

Both LeBron and Hogan formed an iron triangle with their top peers, colluding with a superstar widely detested by his colleagues (Wade/Hall) and a wisecracking 7-foot center (Bosh/Nash, the latter of whom played three seasons for the Tennessee Volunteers and enjoyed a professional basketball stint in Europe before entering the squared circle). Teaming with these Outsiders, King James and the Hulkster built the crews that would dominate their landscapes for years to come.

Media Presence

ESPN reporter Jim Gray, who asked James the preeminent question, “The answer to the question everybody wants to know: LeBron, what’s your decision?”

WCW reporter ”Mean” Gene Okerlund, who asked Hogan the preeminent question, “What in the world are you thinking?”

Signature Kiss-Off

LeBron: “This fall, I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.”

Hogan: “You fans can stick it, brother!”

The Big Reveal – or, “What the hell is going on here!?” – WCW color commentator Dusty Rhodes

LeBron: “I can’t say it was always in my plans because I never thought it was possible. But the things that the Miami Heat franchise have done to be able to free up cap space and to be able to put themselves in a position this summer to have all three of us, you know, it was hard to turn down. Those are two great players, two of the greatest players that we have in this game today. And, you know, you add me, we’re gonna be a really good team.”

Hogan: “Well, the first thing you gotta realize, brother, is this right here is the future of wrestling. You can call this the New World Order of wrestling, brother.”

Why It Happened – or, “For you to join up with the likes of these two men absolutely makes me sick to my stomach… You want to put yourself in this group?” – “Mean” Gene Okerlund

LeBron: “I think the major factor and the major reason in my decision was the best opportunity for me to win. And to win now, and to win in the future… It’s about joining forces with the other two guys who I feel like I respect their game the most, and I feel like we have a great chance of winning and winning for multiple years.”

Hogan: “As far as Billionaire Ted goes, Eric Bischoff, and the whole WCW goes, I’m bored, brother. That’s why these two guys here, the so-called Outsiders, these are the men I want as my friends. They’re the new blood of professional wrestling, brother.”

Best OMG Moment of Realization that the Linchpin is Gone

Heenan: “Now what happens to us? What happens now to WCW? … What do we do now?”

Realist Fan on a Cleveland street talking about the Big Three: “They’re about to win a championship.”

But Really, How Bad Is It?

Heenan on the New World Order’s (NWO) formation: “Probably the lowest shot ever given to professional wrestling.”

Distraught Fan in Post-Decision Interview: “He’s one of our own; that’s what makes it so painful. Art Modell, you know, he was 65 years old, he went away and the Browns came back. LeBron can never come back.”

Ill Will and Bad Tidings

Rhodes: “A career of a lifetime, right down the drain, kid. I hope you love it – you just sold your soul to the devil.”

Angry Cavs Fan: “For him to go in there and drag us through the mud for seven years and stab us in the heart, he deserves everything he gets. I hope he never wins anything in Miami.”

Least Dignified Display of Physical Aggression

WCW Fans: Turning the Bash at the Beach ring into a landfill in their efforts to pelt Hogan with trash

Underemployed Fans: A protracted effort to burn Witness t-shirts and a Cavs #23 jersey while some guy off-camera mutters, “No integrity. No integrity.”

Least Dignified Display of Non-Physical Aggression

WCW Play-by-Play Announcer Tony Schiavone: “We have just seen the end of Hulkamania… Hulk Hogan, you can go to hell. Straight to hell.”

Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert channels his petulant inner seven-year-old in an infamous open letter, which condemns the “shameful display of selfishness and betrayal by one of our very own”, calls James out for deserting the region, and contains the immortal phrase, “Some people think they should go to heaven but NOT have to die to get there.“

Verdict of the Legends

NBA legend Michael Jordan on LeBron’s actions: “There’s no way, with hindsight, I would’ve ever called up Larry (Bird), called up Magic (Johnson), and said, ‘Hey, look, let’s get together and play on one team.’”

NBA legend Charles Barkley on LeBron’s actions: “If you’re the two-time defending NBA MVP, you don’t leave anywhere. They come to you. That’s ridiculous.”

Retired WCW wrestler Larry “The Living Legend” Zbyszko on Hogan’s actions: “Unmanly.”


Both James and “Hollywood” Hogan won multiple world championships due to help from their two new friends. The Big Three reached four consecutive NBA Finals, winning championships in 2012 and 2013. Hogan would win numerous WCW World Championships with the NWO, exploiting a hip new persona to jumpstart his stagnant career. The Heat and the NWO became simultaneously the most popular and hated teams in their sports, and they sent ratings and merchandise sales skyrocketing for their organizations. Despite millions of fans rooting for their comeuppance, victory always seemed assured for the red, white, and black bad guys. Strangely, both men battled the NBA’s best: while LeBron made quick work of Kevin Durant and Paul George, Hogan tag-teamed with Dennis Rodman and faced off against Karl Malone.

Best Braggadocio

LeBron: “Not one … not two … not three …”

Hogan: “Not only are we going to take over the whole wrestling business … we will destroy everything in our path.”

ODB Memorial “Wu-Tang is for the Children” Shout-Out

LeBron (in a letter to a Cleveland city councilman regarding the charitable funding stemming from advertising proceeds related to “The Decision”: “I am so excited that the renovated gym, new floor and computer lab at the Broadway Boys & Girls Club are finished, and I’ve been told that everything looks amazing. These additions are great for the neighborhood, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to give back to the Cleveland community.”

Hogan: “I held my head high. I did everything for the charities, I did everything for the kids.”

The Bench

To pad out their rosters, LeBron and the Hulkster relied on help from a motley cast of roleplayers. Both squads featured the following personnel:

Declining Veterans Willing to Forgo Personal Gain for Team Victories: Ray Allen and “Macho Man” Randy Savage

Tattooed Blond Big Men: “Birdman” Chris Andersen and “Big Poppa Pump” Scott Steiner

Follically Blessed Executives: Pat Riley and Eric Bischoff

Unloved Whipping Boys: Mario Chalmers and Syxx, who claimed he was fired by Bischoff via a FedEx delivery because the boss was mad at his friends Nash and Hall

Canaries in the Coalmine: The acceptance of David Flair into the NWO vs. the Heat’s reliance on Michael Beasley in a Finals game

Biggest Jerk Moves

LeBron and Wade mocking Dirk Nowitski’s illness during the 2011 NBA Finals.

Hogan, Nash, and Hall attacking countless WCW wrestlers before spray-painting them with their trademark NWO tag.

Most Grandiose Displays of Divine Power

Miami’s Big Three being deified at a pep rally that eerily resembles a pro wrestling event.

The NWO remaking the WCW Monday Nitro set in its own graven image.

Best Bodyslam of Haters

LeBron: “All the people that was rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today.”

Hogan: “As far as I’m concerned, all the crap in the ring represents these fans out here.”

Tapping Out

LeBron’s low point: Losing a humiliating five-game series to the Spurs in the 2014 NBA Finals. San Antonio’s dominance led Bosh to confess, “They played the best basketball I’ve ever seen.” Worse, James’ supporting cast collapsed during this series, prompting comedian Chris Rock to tweet, “When did the Heat become the Cavs.” (SIC) This lopsided defeat precipitated the Big Three opting out of their 2014-2015 contracts, leaving the future of Miami’s New World Order in doubt.

Hogan’s low point: The Fingerpoke of Doom, a match that saw Hogan “beat” Nash in a manner that has been debated as “the biggest mistake WCW ever made”. On January 4, 1999, Nash defended his WCW World Championship against Hogan. Although the two men had become bitter enemies during the past year, the match ended almost immediately when Hogan tapped Nash with his finger, causing the giant to drop like he’d been shot. Hogan proceeded to pin Nash as pro wrestling’s Big Three reunited to once again wreak havoc on WCW’s do-gooders. This ill-conceived “match” is widely considered to mark the beginning of WCW’s downfall, throwing the organization into a creative tailspin that ended only when Vince McMahon bought the organization in 2001.

The Way Ahead

LeBron James has two options: he can do what Hulk Hogan did in 1999 by reforming the Big Three and taking another stab at dominance. Or he can do what Hulk Hogan did later in 1999 after seeing the (scripted) light. The reformed Hulkster took a stand for heroism once more, reclaiming his yellow-red-white-and-blue babyface character and ultimately defeating his former blood-brother Nash to retain the WCW World Championship. The Hulkster’s babyface comeback shows there is still hope for James to return home as the prodigal son, and finally prove himself a Real American.