Modern Seinfeld: Season 1

Ep. 1: The Auto-Tune

Newman becomes an internet, Auto-tune sensation when his rant about the Government shutdown goes viral. In an effort to ease his friend’s job worries and capitalize on his fame, Kramer devises a business plan with Newman to home-deliver Red Box movies.

Jerry’s girlfriend becomes upset when she discovers he unsubscribed from her Facebook feed.

Kramer: “If you wanna date the girl, you have to date the Facebook, Jerry.

Jerry: But I don’t wanna date the Facebook!

Elaine: What’s the big deal? Just subscribe to her already.

Jerry: “All day long she posts about cats. Cat videos. Cat diet tips. Cat hygiene strategies. I can’t stop thinking about cats!

George: Great, now I’m thinking about them!”

Elaine and Puddy rekindle their romantic relationship; start bing-watching “Mad Men” on DVD. But Elaine’s growing resentment for the show reflects her growing resentment for Puddy.

Puddy: “So who IS Don Draper?”

Elaine: “I don’t care

Kramer starts an online Kickstarter campaign to bring back “Kramerica Industries”; wants to make a sequel to “Argo,” the fake movie within the Oscar-winning movie of the same name.

Jerry: “You know that wasn’t a real movie, right?”

Kramer: “You too, Jerry?”

Elaine is dating a guy, doesn’t know whether to friend him on Facebook or wait for him to friend her.

George: “I never send Friendship Requests.”

Elaine: “Why not?”

George: “Because I don’t think people will accept them.”

Jerry is upset that his girlfriend leaves long voicemails on his cell phone: ” I barely read my mail; I’m certainly not going to listen to it.” In conversation, she references the voicemails without going into detail, leaving him guessing as to what she is talking about.

Ep.2: The Street Art

Kramer is the first to stumble across Banksy’s latest street mural, and is mistaken for the elusive artist when passers-by record him drawing on the art work. Kramer later claims he was trying to “fix” the mural.

Jerry: Fix it? What were you tying to fix?

Kramer: The man draws rats that act like people. Rats, Jerry. it’s not natural!

Elaine: You should see some of the rats in New York City.

Jerry: The people, too.

Bania is the current “It” comic of NYC, after selling numerous copies of his latest stand up special exclusively from his website. Jerry runs into him at the club.

Bania: I’m online, Jerry!

Jerry: Yes, yes. I heard.

Bania: The internet’s the best, Jerry. The best!

In light of the upcoming 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, George reflects on his own romantic demise.

George: I, too, was a man destined for greatness before being struck down by an unknown force.

Elaine: Yeah. You’re bald.

Elaine dumps her Christian boyfriend when they disagree on the subject of gay marriage. She is in favor of it.

Elaine: Two men that are married to each other are two men that are guaranteed not to bother me.

Jerry: So if a man is gay and single, he might find you attractive?

Elaine: It’s happened before.


Ep. 3: The Marathon

Bania declares himself “The Fastest Comedian in New York City” after completing the NYC Marathon. Jerry, suspicious of Bania’s accomplishments, learns that Newman has a contact that can snoop email accounts:

Newman: But it’ll cost you, Jerry. It’ll cost you big time.

Jerry: Oh yeah, what’s that?

Newman: Your integrity.

Jerry: I’m fine with that.

George picks up women at the Ground Zero memorial by telling them he’s a “Survivor”

Elaine: Even for you, this is low.

George: I AM alive, am I not? I survived that day as much as anyone else!

Elaine: You say that as if its a good thing.

Kramer wants to start a real world social network, builds his friends by inviting strangers to hang out with him. They congregate in Jerry’s apartment.

On a whim, Peterman goes to Afghanistan to secure a contract to save the struggling company. He calls to check in.

Elaine: So what kind of clothes do they wear in Afghanistan? Shawls? Are you sure Americans want to wear shawls?

Peterman: They wear clothes. Americans love clothes.

Elaine: Well, yeah–

Peterman: Elaine, I’m in a cave.

Elaine: You’re what?

Peterman: I’m lost in a cave, Elaine. I need your help.

Ep. 4: The Ex-Pats

Two months after moving to Hiroshima, Japan, George is paranoid that the locals see him as a tourist; goes out of his way to interrupt people on the street and tell them where he lives.

George: I’m not a tourist, Jerry!

Jerry: well, you act like a tourist.

George: In what way?

Jerry: is the fanny pack necessary?

Jerry is comfortable with his Japanese, but doesn’t know why he’s not getting laughs at his Open Mic.

George: Did you do the bit about the chop sticks?

Jerry: Yeah.

George: And?

Jerry: Nothin’.

Kramer unwittingly entertains high level Japanese ad executives at the Karaoke bar. They hire him alongside Ken Watanbe for a Cologne Billboard Campaign. Elaine hits it off with Watanbe, only to be foiled when George asks him one too many questions about “The Last Samurai.”


Ep. 5: The Zombie Apocalypse

George is concerned that the only reason he has a girlfriend is due to her lack of options in this post-apocalyptic world:

Jerry: Billions of people are dead, yet the real tragedy is that an attractive woman wants to date you.

George: That’s the world I live in, Jerry.

After watching movies for research, Kramer and Newman start delivering messages between survivor colonies in exchange for Twinkies, which Newman insists can be used as a kind of currency. Without consent, they begin storing the Twinkies in Jerry’s apartment.

Kramer: Well they look like gold. And they taste good, too. Here, try it! Try the Twinkie, Jerry!

Jerry is dating an amazingly beautiful woman, but is turned off by the ferocity with which she kills Zombies.

Elaine: Well, what do you expect? It’s Survival of the Fittest out there! Charles Darwin…and all that.

Jerry: You know, I don’t think Darwin was thinking about the Undead while drawing sketches of the Dodo bird.

Elaine starts having sex with Puddy again after he rescues her from the grips of a Zombie. Jerry accuses Elaine of falling back into in a relationship with Puddy.

Elaine: It’s just Rescue Sex.

Jerry: You know the rules: one sex for one zombie. Now how many zombies did Puddy save you from?

Elaine: One

Jerry: And how many times have you had sex with Puddy since then?

Elaine: …

Jerry: Elaine.

Elaine: I dunno…five, six times.

Jerry: Ah, that’s it! You’re all the way back!

Elaine: Ugh.


Ep.6: The Time Travel

Time travel exists. Jerry wants to meet his younger self and pass onto him his compiled knowledge of comedy in order to propel his career.

Jerry: I wonder if I’ll like Young Jerry.

Elaine: The better question is, will Young Jerry like you?

Jerry: Well, I don’t like me….So, no. I don’t think so.

Kramer’s apartment is overflowing with CD’s, which he doesn’t want or need anymore, so he decides to store them in the past. Elaine thinks she is “past her peak” romantically and wants to go back in time to seduce Young Jerry with the intent for Young Elaine to marry him.

While eating chinese food, George says he wants to go back in time to his “Critical Point,” a moment in his life that changed him from a “beautiful, strong man of promise to the man I am today.” This incident happened at a Christmas party in 1988 when he brought the wrong Secret Santa gift and was laughed at by everyone at the party. His date dumped him and that night he started to lose his hair.

George: I should never have bought that fruitcake!

Back 1988, Old George sneaks into the party unrecognizable as a bald man. He switches Young George’s gift with the one he brought, but gets the gift wrapping wrong. Young George picks up another gift with the same wrapping, which also happens to be a fruitcake. Old George is laughed at, again, for the fruitcake, as is Young George.

Young Jerry’s career failed after being catapulted to stardom before he was ready, Young Elaine dumps Young Jerry for being a loser, and Kramer makes a fortune for inventing CD’s, but loses it all when he invests his money in Apple, which is a failed company.

Back in the Present, Old George finds a job as a delivery man for a Chinese food restaurant. One day, he delivers food to Young Jerry’s apartment and overhears Young George saying he wants to go back in time to his “Critical Point

Ep. 7: The Superheroes

Kramer and Mickey collaborate to film a low-budget summer blockbuster in New York City. Kramer is the director, Mickey is the lead, and Uncle Leo beats out Newman for the role of the villain. Newman: You’re making a huge mistake, Kramer! You’ll rue the day you met…The Postman!

Kramer casts Jerry as the funny sidekick, which Jerry reluctantly agrees to. Kramer: You’re a comedian playing a comedian. It’s meta, Jerry! Jerry: Why do people keep using that word? Jerry is prescribed reading glasses, which he needs on stage to read his notes when working on new material. He has been bombing on stage recently, but on set, without his glasses, he is killing among the other actors.

The female lead opposite Mickey is the MC at the club where Jerry has been performing. She doesn’t recognize him without his glasses and tells him he should try stand up comedy sometime. Amy: you’re funnier than a lot of the people that do stand up. This one guy, Jerry, is terrible. He’s the worst comedian I have ever seen. Jerry’s the opposite of funny. By the way, I never introduced myself. My name is Amy. Jerry: My name is…Kal-El

George is worried that he has no “clout” (Jerry: you gotta have clout) and wants to do something to help the city. George’s favorite sandwich shop refuses to sell sodas over 16 ounces, even though they have the cups available. He wants Elaine to try to purchase a large soda while he films the events. She is reluctant, but George insists: George: I demand justice, Elaine! Elaine: Alright, cool it Batman, I’ll be your damsel in distress.

“Kal-El” dates Amy, not revealing that he is also Jerry. Elaine has no problem buying a large soda, much to George’s chagrin. Newman sabotages the filming of the penultimate scene of the movie by dumping a load of mail onto the set (Newman: special delivery!).

Amy is standing with Jerry when Elaine walks up, sipping on her soda, with a depressed George in tow (Jerry: what’s his problem? Elaine: he forgot his cape). Elaine reveals Jerry’s true identity. Amy dumps Jerry. In the last scene, Mickey is seen walking with Amy into the sunset.

Ep. 8: The Stand Up Friend

Jerry runs into Louie CK at the comedy club.

Jerry: Hey, Louie, how’s it going?

Louie: Ok, I guess. Just…life, you know? The boilerplate misery, the feeling that it’s all for nothing. Today I was jerking off–well, I jerk off every day-and I was thinking about all the potential lives I have destroyed from masturbating. I hit puberty, what, thirty years ago? So 365 times 30: I basically performed genocide against a million of my unborn children. See this hand? This hand is Hitler. I love my kids, is basically what I’m trying to say.

Jerry: Yeah, I know what you mean.

Jerry introduces Louie to the group.

Jerry: Louie, everyone. Everyone, Louie.

Louie: Hello.

Kramer: You’re like George in a fat suit!

Elaine starts dating Louie. She describes the dates as “aimlessly wandering the streets of New York City while doing his errands” and Louie as “a sadder but somehow cooler version of George.” Despite all this, she likes him.

Jerry: So it seems to be going well.

Elaine: I kind of hate men, and he kind of hates himself, so it works perfectly.

George has been telling funny jokes to the group, but is replaced as the “funny bald man” whenever Louie is around. George resents being ignored, and one day, he walks into Jerry’s apartment dressed as Louie: Red hair, fake red goatee, black shirt and jeans. They stifle shock when George enters (George: who’s laughing now?!).

To make amends, Jerry and Louie bring George to the club to hang out. There’s a spot open on stage after a comic cancels, so Jerry and Louie tell George to go up there and tell some jokes (George: what do I say? Louie: Just tell the truth). George kills when he begins to explain how he is a “sad, pathetic little man with no ambition.”

Future episode: :Louie makes a short, surreal film called “Kramer’s Day,” which follows Kramer through one day of his life

Ep. 9: Comedians in Cars: The Genesis

Jerry goes to buy his first car at the local dealer. He goes on a test drive with the Salesman.

Jerry: You got beef with used car dealers?

Salesman: I don’t have any beef.

Jerry: I’m not blaming you if you do. I would have beef, too. Before, I’m sure everyone trusted you and your cars, then these Used Car Dealers come along, putting sawdust who knows where! Now everyone thinks you’re trying to rip them off.

Salesman: You think I’m trying to rip you off?

Jerry: I don’t care how new a car is, no car smells that good without some kind of alteration. Whaddya got? Spray? Tiny Christmas tree?

Salesman: Scented candles.
Jerry: Throw them in with the car and I’m buying.

Jerry drives his new car off the lot. Gets a call from Chris Rock.

Chris: Jerry, what are you up to?

Jerry: I just bought a new car!

Chris: White man driving! Look out everybody!

Jerry: What are you doing? Can I come pick you up?
Chris: You think a white man can just drive a black man around? People see that and they’re gonna think that I’m your chaffer and couldn’t take it anymore, so I carjacked my client.

Jerry: I’ll be like Miss Daisy, but I’m the one that’s driving.

Chris: You think I want an old racist white lady driving me around?

Jerry: Miss Daisy was proud. She didn’t want anybody’s help. It had nothing to do with race!

Chris: If some white lady is mad at me, it doesn’t matter the reason, she’s racist. Plus, the woman had an extra ticket to see Martin Luther King Jr. give the “I Believe” speech and she didn’t give it to him. Are you kidding me?

Jerry: Oh, come on.

Chris: Jerry, if you had an extra ticket to Jay Z and didn’t give it to me, I’d call Obama on speed dial. You’d be in Guantanamo the next day.

Jerry: So you want to get some coffee or what?

Chris: I can’t.
Jerry: Why not?

Chris: I’m married, Jerry. I’m married.

Jerry stops at a stoplight and someone gets in the backseat.

Jerry: Excuse me.

Man: Are you my Uber?

Jerry: Your what?
Man: My Uber?

Jerry: Is this a Craigslist thing?

Man: Uber. It’s like a taxi service.

Jerry: Oh, I see. No, I’m just a man driving a car and you got in.

Man: Can you take me to Brooklyn?

Jerry: Well, I am headed that way.

Man: Thank you. You are a good man.

Jerry: Why not just take a taxi? What’s the appeal of Uber? Both are driven by complete strangers that have no vested interested in your safety.

Man: You are a dangerous driver?

Jerry: No, and I’m not a taxicab driver, either.

Man: Ah yes, because you are an Uber driver.

Jerry: I’m not an Über driver! I’m a Jerry driver!

Man: I should have taken the subway.

Ep. 10: The Plague

An unknown virus sweeps through New York City. Manhattan is quarantined and under Martial Law. Jerry is concerned that nobody is coming to the club

Jerry: I’m supposed to get 50 percent of the door. But there’s no door. I’m doorless!

George: Now, is it considered comedy if you’re doing it and nobody else is there?

Elaine: Well, that describes your sex life, George, and that IS considered comedy.

Elaine’s new boyfriend is an attractive man who is sick, but she doesn’t know if it’s curable or something more insidious.

Jerry: Well, what are his symptoms?

Elaine: Well, let’s just say that all of his body parts aren’t working the way I want them to.

Jerry: You’re not talking about…

Elaine: Oh I’m talking about.

Jerry: Yeah. He’s a gone-er

Kramer comes rushing into the apartment. He says that they can all get out of Manhattan in Newman’s postal delivery truck but they have to leave now. Enter Newman.

Newman: I have a man on the inside…let’s call him Steve.

Jerry: What’s his real name?

Newman: His real name is Steve.

They all get into the truck. At the meeting point, Steve gives them military fatigues and masks, which they all change into, and Newman drives them near the guarded military exit. Steve leaves them and says he’ll be back. While they’re waiting, an Army Major comes up to them and yells at them for “loafing around,” (Kramer: No excuse, Sir!) and orders them to an assignment in the city.

They are walking in uniform past the club. Jerry gets an idea. Because it’s Martial Law, they can order people to watch his show. He orders Kramer and Newman to round up the required audience members (Kramer: Yes, Sir! Newman: Yeah, alright).

The last scene is Jerry in full military hazmat suit telling stand-up to a crowded club.

Jerry: I’ll be here all week. YOU might not make it ’till then…but I’ll be here.

Ep. 11: The Move

Jerry announces to the gang that he’s leaving Manhattan for Los Angeles, a move he hopes will restart his stagnated stand up career.
George: Do you think California is better than New York, is that what it is, Jerry?
Jerry: It’s probably worse.
Elaine: It’s sunny in Los Angeles.
Jerry: Have you been to LA, Elaine? The sun is out, but it’s not shining.
George: Maybe I’ll move to California.
Elaine: Your wings are clipped, Icarus.

Kramer thinks it’s about time that he finds a regular job:
Kramer: Did you know you can sit in an office from 9 to 5 and get paid for it?
Jerry: Why do you want a regular job, Kramer? You are terrific at doing nothing. Why risk being terrible at doing something?
George: I have a regular job.
Jerry: And look how that’s worked out for you.

Jerry works out new material at the club, which is his last appearance before he leaves:
“Manhattan is an island. Not a lot of people think about that. When people think of islands, they think of beaches and tiny umbrellas in their drink, not rats the size of dogs and cops killing humans for sport.”

The world is also an island. We’re just floating along in space, far away from the stresses of the cosmos. You say, ‘There might be aliens with death rays trying to hunt us down.’ I say, ‘This tiny umbrella in my drink makes a fantastic force field.'”

After his set, Jerry is hanging out in the back of the room when a fellow female comic comes up to him:
Amy: You really going to leave all this, Jerry?
Jerry: What would I stay for?
Amy: New York City. People know you here.
Jerry: I don’t like people. I’m pretty sure I can do that anywhere.
Amy: Mr. Funny Man. Everything’s a joke to you, isn’t it?
Jerry: It’s not to you?
Amy: Not your jokes.

On the job hunt, Kramer “tries out” different jobs around the city: jostling for position on the stock trading floor; frantically blowing his whistle as a traffic control cop; exploding in chalk as a teacher.

Amy and Jerry join George and Elaine at Monk’s for a final meal before he leaves. Kramer is the waiter:
George: Did you know that if you’re on Death Row, you can literally order anything you want for your last meal?
Jerry: I’d have a bowl of cereal,
George: I can’t eat anything heavy when I’m nervous. I like lobster but not in stressful situations.
Elaine: Is cereal actually a meal?
Jerry: Does it have to be a last meal? Can it be a last snack? Or is that cruel and unusual nourishment?
Amy: Well, they are killing you in a couple of minutes.
George: A soup I could do. A hearty soup with some bread.

Kramer brings their food and places it on the table, which is set with candles, dining cloth, and fine silverware. He then attempts to pull the cloth from underneath and everything goes flying off. He’s fired on the spot.

Jerry: (to Amy) I won’t be seeing things like this anymore.
Amy: How does that make you feel?
Jerry: Hungry.
George: You know what would have made a good sitcom, Jerry? This. A show about the four of us.
Jerry: …I don’t see it.

Amy and Jerry are at the airport.
Amy: Well, this is goodbye.
Jerry: I don’t like goodbyes. Why waste the opportunity for conversation with information we already know?
Amy: What do you want to talk about?
Jerry: Something new.
Amy: What would you say if I bought a ticket to California on the same flight as yours?
Jerry: You did or just hypothetically speaking?
Amy: I did. Are you ok with that?
Jerry: Yeah. I’m ok.

On the flight, Jerry looks through Skymall magazine:
Jerry: Does anyone actually buy this stuff? I mean, who needs a massage chair that ALSO makes pancakes? How many breakfast masseuses are flying these days?
Flight Attendant: Would you like anything to drink, Mr…Seinfeld.
Amy and Jerry: Kramer!!

Turnover notes from the depths of my desk drawer: Communicating in Japanese, Part 1

In the drawer adjacent to my desk are papers stuffed at random, filling the files to the brim. There are old weekly schedules. There are  copies of articles written by previous Pep Officers, one written by Captain J.M. Ellicott in 1947 about Japanese students at the United States Naval Academy , filled with typical adjective-laden Naval prose.  There is an original copy of an article written by a Pep Officer, which I can deduce was written in the early 1980’s, due to its mention of the Imperial Naval Academy that existed “40 years ago.”  And, although incomplete, their is a two-page copy of an article called “EtaJima, the Dartmouth of Japan”, which is astutely written, in particular the author’s observation of the “nearest approach to misbehavior in my three years at Eta Jima:”

One day, during the very hot summer weather, I came into the classroom and found the words, “We want to sing an English Song!” written on the blackboard. The cadets would never have though of doing such a thing in one of their instructor’s classes, and the impression I got from their shy smiles and triumphant chuckles was that they had pulled off a very daring prank.

Their is also a large volume of turnover notes on my office computer. They are as casual as a saved email correspondence between on-coming and off-going Pep Officers and as formal as an 8,000 word document that seems to be an ongoing document updated as the current officer sees fit. Some of these turnover notes are handwritten and saved in old-three ring binders. Perhaps due to the intimate means of hand writing a document, the handwritten documents include as much about the qualitative side of the job as the quantitative.  One gem that I came across was written in 1991, but an unnamed officer, simply titled “Communications.” It includes advice about the difference in Japanese language and culture. Upon reading it, I have felt better about the many confounding aspects of my transition to this country. I would like to share with you the first part of this advice, which focuses on the mechanics of the Japanese language:

Communications: This has been one of the biggest problems here, if not the biggest.  Don’t know whether I can discuss it intelligently or not, but I’ll try. One big problem is, of course, the language. This is normally no cause for concern-the everyday dealings are very easy in Japanese. However, when you’re dealing with something important, make doubly sure that you are understood and understand what’s said to you. Don’t be embarrassed to stop them and say you don’t understand.  A minute of clearing an uncertain point is well worth the effort.  You’ll find that some people take your ability for granted and they talk to you just like they would another Japanese. I’ve come to understand them, even though they talk fast, but this takes time. Just tell them to slow down. By my experience, they slow down for about two sentences and then “resume base speed.”

Along these lines, do not get upset when you find that you do not understand speeches of instructions/directions. These employ difficult Japanese and it would most likely take the best part of 10 years. So see the light in this area.  Also in the language area, you’ll find an extreme reluctance on the part of some people to communicate with you in either English or Japanese. They are either shy or ashamed or afraid of things foreign or a combination of these and others. I haven’t found an answer. I’ve had instances when I would ask directions or something and use perfect Japanese and the person wouldn’t understand me. I say wouldn’t understand, but I knew he did understand! It’s simply a refusal to believe that a foreigner can speak Japanese. This kind of thing is very frustrating.

With these people, and the people who are reluctant to talk to you, you can expect rather cold treatment.  These cases are very few, though, and would happen anywhere. Just telling you so you’ll know that it happens to everyone. Language is a problem–there’s no way around that–but it’s definitely not the biggest problem in communication at Eta Jima. Indeed, it’s probably your greatest asset.

Will Galen Rupp Finally Get the Respect he Deserves?

galen rupp

On August 4th, 2012, running in London’s Olympic Stadium, Galen Rupp won silver in the men’s 10,000 meter final, earning the first U.S. Men’s medal in a long distance track event since Tokyo’s 1964 Olympics, when Bob Schul won gold in the 5,000 meters and Billy Mills in the 10,000 meters.  Coupled, several days later, with Leo Manzano’s silver medal in the 1500 meters, Rupp helped paved the way to what is arguably the best American distance running performance at an Olympics, where every race from 800 meters to the Marathon saw an American performance of at least 4th place.  Before the Olympics, there was question as to what role Rupp played as an ambassador to a new era of American running.  This reputation was born in the underworld of internet message forums and has since found life in mainstream running culture.  Now with a silver medal in hand, Rupp’s role and place in American running history has forever changed, but will public opinion give credit where credit is due?

Since Schul’s and Mill’s performance in 1964, international distance athletics has drawn from a more populated and organized talent pool, one that has grown more competitive and difficult for American runners to succeed.  There has been shifting blame for this lack of success over the years, to the superior genetics of East African distance runners, to the inferior mileage and interval-laden training of the American runners, to the gaps in social-economic motivation that African runners would have to compete well vs. American runners:  Africans run as way out of poverty and destitution.  Genetically superior Americans stray away from running and into one of the big-3: Baseball, Basketball, or Football.  At a grassroots level, American cannot compete with the per capita numbers that a country like Africa can, leaving a smaller talent pool to choose from and put at the starting line of international competition.

But Galen Rupp has succeeded despite these archetypal restrictions, and has done so in a manner that was done in a way that is distinctly American, and in stark contrast to the harsh conditions of Africa that was thought to hold the key to international success.  By chance, American running legend Alberto Salazar has been the protégé to Rupp since his freshmanyear of high school and Central Catholic in Portland, Oregon. At the time a soccer player, Rupp reluctantly started running at the behest of Salazar, who was the team’s cross country coach.  At the time also coaching the Nike Oregon project Rupp reaped the benefits of alter-g treadmills, sleeping in a hyperbolic chamber that simulates the affects of altitude, and other gadgets and gizmos that were given to Salazar by Nike as a way to give his athletes every possible advantage that might be had by state of the art technology.

Rupp rose through the ranks and last year ran the 10k in Beligum in an American record of 26:4800.  At this year’s Olympic trials, he beat Bernard Lagat for the first time ever in an Olympic Trials record of 13:22.67, surpassing fellow Oregon University alum Steve Prefontaine’s record by 13 hundredths of a second.  Even with the American record, and faster personal records than legacies of running such as Prefontaine, there was reluctance to place Olympic expectations on Rupp.  American distance runners before him have tried and failed.  As international running grows more competitive by the year, there were questions as to Rupp’s ability to end the medal drought.

The criticism of Rupp is that he is coddled and privileged, a poster child for the “White Collar vs. Blue Collar runner” debate that exists in the seedy world of internet message boards, where threads questioning whether a cross country course is “Rupp Certified” mocks Rupp for not being as tough, or “Blue Collar” as his competitors, where they again question his toughness after his road race debut at New York City Half Marathon in 20120, due to a mask he wore to protect himself from exercised induces asthma. This despite his time of 60:30. They question what he says in interviews, his mannerisms, his voice inflection, they question his perceived slight of his competitors when he won both the 10k and the 5k at the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials.

Throughout the Olympics, Malcolm Gladwell and Nicholas Thompson posted several “Conversations” in which they commented on the ensuing and ongoing track and field competition at the Olympics. In it, Nicholas Thompson reveals his true feelings about Galen Rupp:

I like Rupp. But there’s also something off-putting about him. During the qualifying rounds of the trials, he refused to shake the hand of someone who had finished just ahead of him. When he won the finals, he spat and scowled. Lagat, meanwhile, hugged the man who finished just ahead of him in the qualifying rounds; and he smiled and pointed cheerfully at Rupp after losing by a step in the finals.

The disdain that Nicholas Thompson feels for Galen Rupp is not unlike the disdain you see written by the anonymous and ignorant on the internet message boards that I am loathe to even mention (though, ok, I do frequent, of which I am also loathe to mention).  The rhetoric isn’t exactly the same: Thompson draws from a larger, snootier Vocabulary. But they are born from the same place: insecurity and jealousy.

Thompson cannot understand Rupp.

So Thompson wants Rupp to fail.

Watch an interview with Galen Rupp and you will understand his personality a little. He’s tepid. He’s not charismatic. But he’s not exactly boring. He’s normal.  But on the track, damnit he’s a competitor.  The person who finished ahead of him in the qualifying rounds at the trials, out ran Rupp at the tape, considered an unsportsmanlike tactic.  The scowl you see after Rupp won the race? It’s not to spite his competitors. It’s a continuation of the personality that lives through him on the track, and in direct contrast to the Galen Rupp you see speaking to the cameras. 

In a sport where your feet do the talking, the camera offered a brief glimpse into the fact of what kind of feet they were dealing with: fierce, fearless, and here to win.  After Galen won silver he mentioned how he was hesitant to previously speak publicly about his intentions, but it was the fruition of a dream that was years in the making:”It’s something me and Alberto have been talking about since I was in high school — to put Americans on the podium in distance races in events that have always been dominated by Africans,” Rupp said.

It was the scowl of a winner, and who had every intention of wanting to end the drought of Americans on the Olympic podium, and the confidence that he would be the person to do it, while helping prop up other Americans, too.  What’s more, Thompson makes it seem as if Rupp ignored or condescended to those who finished behind him. Far from it. Yes, he was in a sort of spell from having won the race, but he broke from that long enough to slap hands with Lagat and Lopez Lomong, the other two Olympic qualifiers in the race. If this display was vague as to his intention of his support for other American, he was more explicit after winning silver in the 10k.

If I could be an inspiration to others, that would be the greatest compliment ever. And h
e did. Three days after running the 10k, American Leo Manzano won silver in the 1500 meters.  The message behind Rupp’s Spit and Scowl is clear: The Americans weren’t here to play nice. They were here to scowl their way to the Olympic podium. Thompson can’t bear to see someone he cannot explain achieve those aspirations. This is circular, defeatist logic: If someone like Galen Rupp could be explained by Thompson, then he wouldn’t be good enough to be Galen Rupp.

In a way, it took someone inexplicable like Galen Rupp to end the Olympic medal drought, and, it could be argued, lifting the psychological burden off of his American competitors from achieving a similar feat, much the way Britishman Roger Bannister became the first person to break 4 minutes in the mile, only for his countryman, John Landy, to break 4 minutes in the mile less than two months later. Thompson calls Bernard Lagat, now an American, and previous bronze and silver medal winner for Kenya, “The smoothest and most beautiful runner I’ve seen,” and lauds his “genuine” personality and kick as the key to Olympic victory.  Rupp, in Thompson’s words, “has a slightly awkward lean while running. Also, when Rupp talks about his training, it’s all about intensity.”

Rupp doesn’t uphold Thompson’s standard of superhuman physical and personal qualities that he sees in Bernard Lagat, who he pegged as the gold medal winner in the 5k.  Gladwell responds to Thompson with a more reasoned approach about both Lagat and Rupp, accounting Lagat’s graciousness for his competitors due to already making his name and earning the privilege of being both happy and competing.  “I’m not sure that being nice is the way to beat the Kenyans and Ethiopians,” says Gladwell. To no avail.

To Thompson, Rupp is damaged goods.  In Thompsons’s words, “Rupp doesn’t always act exactly the way I want athletic icons to act.”  With his “awkward forward lean,” he doesn’t look the part either. Thompson would rather a superhuman athlete that he can admire be the American on the podium because his inability to relate to that person doesn’t make him a threat.  To Thompson, Rupp is, like Thompson, a fractured runner. His “flaws” stand in contrast to what he is supposed to represent as an Olympic medal winner, and thus an icon for American running. Rupp is the modern equivalent of the Little Engine that Could, the Ugly Duckling that blossomed into a Swan, et cetera; Thompson was never able to overcome his flaws to become Olympic champion, so he doesn’t want Rupp to overcome his. He wants Superman to swoop down and save us all.  Here’s the problem: Superman doesn’t exist.  Yes, Lagat beat Rupp in the Olympic 5,000 meter final, but wasn’t able to win a medal for the United States.  Rupp, made ordinary by all his “flaws,” was the one able to accomplish the extraordinary.

Ok, so I’m picking on Thompson. In his defense, he may have been taking the perspective of a Point to Gladwell’s Counterpoint as a way of balancing opposing sides of view that exist about their points of topic.  Also, Thompson may neither reflect nor be an extension of a widespread belief structure involving Galen Rupp, and might argue that, if he does believe it what he is saying, that they are his beliefs, and his alone.  But the internet rhetoric that is now endemic has been brewing for far too long to believe that the similar thoughts brewing to the surface of the mainstream is just coincidence. Heck, the handles that exist on the message boards may have been written by Thompson himself.

Either way, the conversation between Gladwell and Thompson is indicative of a larger conversation about how we view our American Running icons that takes the sides of Sensibility vs. Corrosion; Empathy vs. Judgment; Support vs. Self-Defeat. We should recognize our Icon’s ability to be flawed, divisive individuals while supporting what they stand for and have accomplished.  Has Rupp been fed with a silver spoon by Salazar? Is he given an unfair advantage by all the gadgets and gizmos that Nike provides? Who cares?  Rupp was given every advantage and opportunity to succeed, and he succeeded. We should champion that accomplishment.  In a sports culture where success is synonymous with doping, Rupp is a clean athlete who found success in a program that worked for him. It may not be a training program of running uphill, both ways, while being chased by a pack of lions, or whatever myths we believe of why the East Africans deserve to win more than the Americans do; the point is the program was individualized to Rupp’s criteria for success. Africa may have a larger talent pool to choose from, but if Americans cultivate their select talent we can compete at the same level the Africans can. Rupp is a manifestation of this thinking. He found glory in an Ameican running culture that accepts failure as a way of doing business.  What you think about him doesn’t matter.  How’s that for the American dream?

The internet is not all fire and brimstone. Amidst the sea of hate, there are people making a case for the kind of reasonable thought which may help change the tide of public opinion.  In a message board thread entitled, “Why the Rupp Hate?” a user by the name of A Duck (in homage, I suppose Rupp’s alma mater, the Oregon University Ducks) has some words for those who would cast the first stone against Galen Rupp:

hose that slam him ought to be looking in the mirror and asking themselves…what is it about themselves that they are such insecure losers that continuing to bash Rupp holds some sort of sick appeal for them…Again, it has been said that “perception is projection,” the Rupp bashing on this board says everything about the bashers, and nothing about Rupp.

“A Duck” speaks to the self-perception of those that would bash Rupp, how their corrosive rhetoric says more about themselves than it does anything about Galen Rupp.  The same could be said about American Distance running for the past 40 years.  It’s finally time we stop looking down on ourselves and start talking about how, not if, we are going to succeed on the international scene.  “A Duck” makes a strong case for why need to support Galen Rupp.  Galen Rupp will succeed despite what you say about him.  He doesn’t need you.  But wouldn’t it be great if we decided to lay down our arms and embrace Galen?  Hasn’t he done enough already to win over our support?  American distance running should be in the business of winning races, not popularity contests.  Galen wins races.  We should support this achievement.

Time will tell as to what History has to say about the legacy of Galen Rupp.  That perception is in part dependent on Galen Rupp succeeds on the international scene in the years and Olympics to come.  It’s neither wise nor fair to compare him to the American running greats of the past; his personal bests are faster than Steve Prefontaine’s, but both existed in different eras, running to the top of their respective competition fields that grow faster from one time period to the next .  Steve Prefontaine also has the benefit of nostalgia working in his favor.  Killed in car crash in 1975, his legacy in part due to our collective wonder at what could have been. In past years, Rupp might have left some of his races wondering what could have been. At this year’s Olympics, Rupp won Olympic glory. Rupp is.  He’s not the next Steve Prefontaine. He’s the first Galen Rupp.  During Prefontaine’s reign, competing teams created t-shirts that had a red Stop Sign and the words “Stop Pre” written in white.  They later came to be a symbol of Pre’s dominance and are now worn in reverence to his running ability.  In that same spirit, I hope to have the final word on “anti-Rupp” rhetoric: Stop-Rupp.