Today is, I believe, the saddest day of the year. Because, as is tradition following the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, there are absolutely no sports on TV, which is a total bummer (OK, there are some WNBA games). So naturally, I am left scrambling to fill the void.
I’ve already called my parents and told them I loved them, rescued a pair of dogs from an all-kill shelter, and donated money to several worthwhile charities, but none of that has brought me the kind of perverse gratification that staring at the lineups of my struggling fantasy baseball teams does (curse you Jacoby Ellsbury!). Perhaps I am obsessed with sports. Perhaps, they are ruining my life. And perhaps going without them — even for one day — is a good thing.
But probably not. So rather than continue bettering my life (and the lives of those around me), I’ve decided to use the remainder of these miserable 24 hours to do something really important: Assemble a list of the greatest “Rock N’ Jock Softball” athletes of all time.
See, as a gawky teenager, I was obsessed with “Rock N’ Jock.” I actually used to set my VCR to record it when it premiered each year (though, of course, if I missed that airing, I could always catch the next 567). It was appointment TV! Sure, the brand eventually expanded to include both basketball and football, but for me, “RN’J Softball” was always where it was at. Call me a purist, but there was nothing like watching Roger McDowell (in khaki shorts) give up an inside-the-park home run to Darryl Strawberry, or seeing various castmembers of “Melrose Place” try w-a-a-a-y too hard to stretch a single into a double, or witness Keanu Reeves getting picked off of first by Tone Loc (yes, this actually happened).
In short, “Rock N’ Jock Softball” was magic — to me, it may be the most magical thing MTV has ever done (it’s also the reason a photo of Dan Cortese, Jon Stewart and George Clooney together exists). And yet, aside from a few YouTube clips, its very existence seems to have been forgotten. The achievements of greats like Cortese, Van Earl Wright and Brady Anderson (who just might have been the sideburned embodiment of all things “Rock N’ Jock”) have been lost to the sands of time. And I think it’s time to change that.
So, with that noble ideal in mind (and since I’m going through serious sports withdrawal), I decided to honor some of the best “RN’J” athletes of all time. With apologies to the likes of David Faustino, Jonathan Silverman and Bobby Bonilla, here’s my inaugural class of “Rock N’ Jock Softball” All-Stars.
MC Hammer A no-brainer. Hammer was, of course, a bat boy for the Oakland A’s as a teen (a position he would hold for eight seasons, according to Wikipedia), played ball in high school and actually earned a try-out with the San Francisco Giants. He carried his talents over to “Rock N’ Jock,” where he starred in — as best as I can calculate — at least at least three games. A stirring possessor of both blinding speed and astonishing skill, he stole 16 bases drove in 22 runs in the 1993 contest, a record that stands to this day. OK, I just made that part up, but still, Hammer was the man.
Dan Cortese The face of not only “Rock N’ Jock,” but of the late, great MTV Sports, Cortese was a fixture at all “RN’J” contests, both as a player and a manager. During his final game — the 1997 Softball Challenge — he homered over the Pepsi can in his last at-bat (check the 4:45 mark of this clip, a moment that will live on in “Rock N’ Jock” lore forever).
Sammy Hagar and Sam Kinison: Not only do both of these guys represent everything that was great about the heady heyday of early ’90s “Rock N’ Jock,” but their chess match in the first “Rock N’ Jock” game — as managers of the Salamanders and Aardvarks, respectively — was one for the ages. And not just because, as you can see at the 1:48 mark of this clip, Hagar sized up his side’s chances thusly, referring to the color of their jerseys: “My team is the winning team … we are white, and white is right.”
Mike Piazza Sure, he was a 12-time All-Star in real life, but there are few — if any — athletes who excelled at “Rock N’ Jock” quite like Big Mike. He played in many games and is actually the all-time “Rock N’ Jock” RBI leader, as verified by the immortal Chris Connelly at the 9:30 mark of this clip, which makes him a first-ballot selection.
Jack McDowell I seem to remember him being inducted into the “RN’J” Hall of Fame — they made him a plaque and everything — but now he’s an All-Star too. McDowell was all too willing to play along with the producers of the game, dressing up as a centurion one year, a cowboy the next. As a pitcher, he served up more than his fair share of homers, but he always did it gleefully, which is what counts here.
Kevin Costner I spoke to various people here at MTV about this column. One of them was actually working here back when the channel did “Rock N’ Jock,” and he told me that of all the celebs who graced the field over the years, none of them took the game as seriously — or tried as embarrassingly hard — as Costner did. Watching him sprint around the bases, hair flowing, arms pumping (at the 1:11 mark of this glorious clip) to score on Strawberry’s inside-the-park homer is proof of this.
Share your cherished memories of “Rock N’ Jock” in the comments below!