Wide World of Journals

Hello and welcome to the finals in the World Championship of Web Journal Writing here on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. I’m Al Michaels and with me here in the booth is my longtime colorman and sweatshop foreman, Frank Gifford.

Hello Al, and a big greeting to the folks watching at home.

That’s right Frank. We’ll be hearing from Frank once the contest gets under way, but for now I’m gonna point him at the weiner table and let him have at it. As I’m sure many of you know, this contest brings to a final glorious close the weeklong celebration of virtual self-aggrandizement here where some say it all began, San Francisco. A crowd of at least a dozen is on hand here at the 3Com stadium, milling about all staring at their feet.

The contest will be getting underway shortly, so we’re going to break for a commercial and when we come back, we’ll meet the contestants, Up Close and Personal.

cue music. fade to: “Netscape Netcenter” ad

(voiceover blank screen) When was the last time you had fun at a portal? (earthrise center bottom screen, large N fade in) Sure, you’ve got lots to choose from, and they all promise the same thing. Lots and lots of links spread out against a white background paid for by branding trade-offs so one high-traffic site can leach much-needed hard currency from a larger media concern suckered into believing eye count equals Neilsens. None of us really care about you, but we can pretend… why not join us? (sudden flare, theme music ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ full) Netscape Netcenter. Because we have no frickin’ clue how we’re gonna make money when we lose the browser war. Just don’t tell Excite. (fade)

(screen fills with yellow, then a happy red cartoon exclamation point bops on screen. helium voiceover:) SNAP! (it hangs midscreen before the tail fans out into the recognizable NBC stylized peacock logo. helium cutsie voice continues:) We don’t know why the hell we did it either, but we’re damned glad the logo works like this. We’re c|net, and we own a lot of URLs! Who knew?

Welcome back to San Francisco and the World Championship of Web Journal Writing. Right now I’m going to throw it over to Mary Lou Retton who’s down in the locker room with our first finalist. Mary Lou?

Thanks, Al! Hi everyone! I’m perky! And I’m here with Lance Arthur, representing Boston today here at the World Championship of Web Journal Writing. Lance, hi!

Hello, Mary Lou.

I wanted to ask…

Goodbye heart.



Okay! Lance, are you psyched about this event?

Not really.

I noticed you drinking some water earlier!

I was thirsty earlier. I’m less thirsty now.

That’s great! Let’s look at this incredibly fascinating profile I did of you on video tape!

You didn’t do it, you just voiced over the…

cut to: Arthur Profile—filmed

(voiceover) “Lance Arthur is an incredibly complicated man. And really old, too! Honestly, I had no idea!” (fade in, shot of Lance at keyboard. this shot continues from various angles throughout the profile, at one point seemingly shooting up his nose) “Lance works several hours a day perfecting his personal site, the grandiosely named ‘glassdog world domination headquarters’, or more simply ‘glassdog’. It’s anyone’s guess why, but it’s brought him here and now to San Francisco as one of three finalists in the World Championship of Web Journal Writing here on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Interestingly, Lance doesn’t consider himself a journal writer.” (Lance voiceover) “I don’t consider myself a journal writer.” (Mary Lou voiceover) “Why is that?” (Lance voiceover) “Because. God, you’re stupid.”

(Mary Lou voiceover continues) “He lives on the first floor of a small, rather dingey house outside Boston.” (Lance voiceover) “The roof leaks. Sometimes. I told the landlord but he doesn’t care. At least he doesn’t seem to. I actually only ever talk to his sister. She’s nice enough, I suppose.” (Mary lou voiceover) “Fascinating!” (Lance voiceover) “Whatever.” (Mary Lou voiceover) “Don’t let his calm demeanor fool you! Close friends of the author relate that he’s a smoldering cauldron of suppressed sexuality! Really, really suppressed. Like almost everyone else on the Web, only more suppressed! Even if they don’t have a camera watching them sleep!” (shot of: Lance staring intently at the screen, resting several chins on his hand. Lance voiceover:) “The secret of my success? I guess it’s because… hell if I know. Are we done yet? I’m bored.”

cut to: Al in the Booth

Thanks Mary Lou! We’ll be right back.

It Could Happ’n…

(Loud David Bowie vocals screeching ‘We could be heroes’ over jiggley camera shots of slack-jawed kids staring blankly at monitors showing absolutely no attempt at heroics whatsoever and getting fatter by the second due to lack of physical action. Digital effects superimpose lots of licensed crap from MSNBC and this seemingly random shot of Da Vinci’s head over and over, related to nothing. Shot of video in small window giving inaccurate representation of an .AVI file, no sign of Quicktime anywhere. Screen goes white, Microsoft logo slices itself across the canvas and new slogan, debuting here for the first time: “Submit. You’ve got no choice. Ha ha ha.”)

(Happy, fun music up quickly and Mickey Mouse enters the screen. Not the cool, retro Mickey, the dorky “modern” one.) Heh heh! Hi! Heh heh! Have you been to Infoseek, kids? Have you ever heard of it? It’s a magical candyland filled with chocolate and ice cream! And rides! Yeah! And Pluto is there, too! Pluto! At Infoseek! And streaming video of Tommy Lee and Pamela! Heh heh! Yeah! Pluto! Infoseek! Heh heh! (Mickey goes into little dance and the word “Infoseek” starts blinking with a mesmerizing, hallucinogenic quality.)

Hi everyone! I’m Carl Lewis and I’m standing here with Alexis Massie, or Ally as she likes to be called.

(she’s dressed in a white jacket covered with sponsor logos and her hair is teased to the hilt, giving her a very Spice Girls flair) Yes, I’ve been called Alex, Lexi, Alexis and Al so I thought Ally would be next.

That’s amazing!

Yes, it is Carl.

Can you tell us what your strategy for the contest will be?

I can take Lance easy. I’ve kicked his ass so many times there’s a permanent imprint of my red silk pump on his butt cheek. And I’m familiar with his writing style, how he writes as well as what he writes, so I’m fairly sure I can fake him out.

How are you going to do that?

Pictures of naked men, Carl.

Who wouldn’t be tempted?

Exactly, Carl.

And what about Magdalena Donea, your other challenger?

Same thing. I’ve rigged it so both their PC’s… and please what self-respecting Web author uses a Wintel machine anyway, I ask you?

Who, indeed?

That’s right. Mac, baby! (she flashes some sort of secret signal to the audience, presumably something only Apple owners will understand or care about, then pulls on her sponsor jacket showing the prominent Apple logo) Anyway, when they open their screens they’ll be so taken with the wallpaper that the thought of writing anything but another boring “Colors” entry will fly right out of their heads.

Interesting strategy, Ally!

Thanks! Apple Power!

Earlier I filmed this profile of Alexis Massie. Let’s take a look at that now…

fade to: Alex in shades looking skyward

(Carl voiceover) “She’s been called visionary and bitch, and visionary bitch. Her fans worship her like a Goddess, and she’s proclaimed herself ‘Queen of the Damned’ in honor of that contingent of Web authors who get no respect, the journal writers.” (Alex voiceover) “My dream is that one day, some day, we’ll finally get paid for writing something. I’m sick to death of Webzines! I gotta eat, here!” (Carl voiceover) “Having recently relocated to Philadelphia—some say to qualify for this contest outside her former home in Boston to avoid competition from her purported ex-lover, Lance Arthur, Ally continues to strive for Web Journal genius, changing her pages like other people change their shoes.” (shot of: Alexis running up the steps of the library in Philly ala Sly Stallone, her voiceover:) “I think your Web page reflects your personality. Is that a platitude? Wait, don’t use that!”

(Carl voiceover:) “With her meteroic rise behind her and safely ensc… enscon… ensconced on the pedastal of Web fame, she continues to rally the troops and hold the torch up for Web Journal authors around the world.” (She’s in that gazing skyward pose again, this time sans sunglasses. Alexis voiceover:) “Winning is important, sure it is. We all want to win. But it isn’t important. Winning… wait, did that make sense? Where was I? Can I get final edit approval on this? I need control, dammit! Steadman! Where’s my manager! Steadman!”

fade out. cut to: commercial

Contestant #3, sign in please!

(black screen, then the AT&T spinning globe enters. It spins silently until the TCI logo enters and it gobbles it up. Then it starts bouncing around farting out set-top boxes. The following phrase rises over the scene: “AT&T—We Don’t Want The Whole World. Only The Part You Use.”)

(scene: dense forest, dark and shadowed. voiceover by Charleton Heston, old man gun freak: “It’s a big scary Web out there. You’re trying to find the information you need, the information you’re entitled to, but mighty forces stand in your way.” a giant spider appears, labelled ‘Lycos.’ “You need help to find your way past the pretenders and the copy-cats.” a springing ‘X’ bounds out from behind a tree, labelled ‘excite.’ “Who can you trust? Who’ll be your savior from the darkness.” the trees part, the sun comes up, looking like a little jumping figure. Heston’s voice intones: “Yahoo. We’re serious about the Web.”)

As you can see, Alanis Morrisette has just started the National Anthem but we couldn’t secure rights for rebroadcast so instead let’s turn our attention to our field commentator, Derek Powazek, who’s standing by near the contestant computers with some pre-competition thoughts. Hopefully some of her singing will filter through anyway and we can get away with broadcasting her song without actually paying for the rights. Derek?

Thanks, Al! It strikes me that your plan is very reminiscent of the Web in general! What with using music without… you know.

Insightful commentary, Derek! What’s the mood of the crowd?

Subdued, Al. I wandered through the two or three dozen people seated sporadically around the stadium and not one of them had a story to tell me. There’s a small contingent of fans for each author, but they’ve been fairly quiet following a bloody incident earlier this morning in the parking lot between the glassdoggies and the dinnerites.

Who do you see taking the lead in this contest?

As you know, Al, all three have written for my Web site, brackets the fray sans-brackets, http colon slash slash fray dot com, so I prefer not to take sides. I must say that the “Meeting Peter” episode continues to garner press long after anyone actually cares about nested frames and HTML appropriation, and the “Touched” article has been featured in several profiles of my site, brackets the fray sans-brackets, http colon slash slash fray dot com. Curiously, nothing ever written by Lance has made the slightest press dent, so I tend to discount his chances here.

Understandably. Can you give our viewers some pointers about what to watch out for as the contest begins?

Al, it’ll be important to watch Maggy’s face, particularly the angle of her glasses on the bridge of her nose. The lower they go, the more intense her concentration becomes. Lance is a poor typist and tends to freeze up when he’s being observed.

Like a wild animal?

More like a stray cat. Or a cockroach when the kitchen light comes on. I think Alex will have the easiest time of this, since she tends to be the most comfortable being observed by an audience.

What about the absence from the contest from big names like Justin Hall? Surprised that they didn’t make the cut this year?

No, Al. The judges have tended to favor a more splashy, image-building site over one that delves more deeply and inexhaustibly into the writer’s life. All three contestants favor surrounding their words with lots of annoying, purposeless graphics which tend to make their content seem more interesting than it really is. I think this will actually hinder all three contestants since they will be forced to simply write this evening instead of design. It will be interesting to see who cracks first.

Thanks, Derek! Before we get down the field, we have one more profile to show you from correspondent Mike Ditka. Let’s roll that now.

fade to: sound of keyboard tapping

(Ditka voiceover:) “Magdalena Donea. Her life is an open book. Literally.” (more typing, fade in on scene of Maggy unaccountably walking through a field of flowers) “Holding nothing back about herself, Maggy refuses to tint her life or subdue her opinions for others to see.” (scene change, Maggy at the computer. Maggy voiceover:) “The Web for me is like a priest confessor. Except without the wafer.” (Ditka:) “She calls herself an Old Timer, someone who’s seen her share of knocks but keeps coming back for more.” (Maggy on screen:) “You know how some people are masochists, which is accepting pain for pleasure, and some are sadists, which is inflicting pain for pleasure. I’m a Webbist.” (Ditka on screen:) “What does that mean?” (Maggy on screen:) “Hell if I know, but it makes damned good copy on Nightline.”

(scene change: Maggy staring across some water. Ditka voiceover:) “Donea also describes herself as entering a ‘post-jaded’ phase in her journal writing life.” (music cue under Maggy voiceover:) [I get knocked down, but I get up again. They’re never gonna keep me down. I get knocked down. But I get up again. They’re never gonna keep me down] “I don’t know why I do it, really. Is it compulsion? Ego gratification? Hunger for acceptance? Maybe I just have too much time on my hands.” [I get knocked down, but I get up again…]

Let The Games Begin

As you can hear in the background, “Fanfare for the Common Man” is blaring through the stadium sound system and echoing through the mostly empty seats, signalling the entrance of the finalists for the coveted title, “1998 World Champion of Web Journal Writing.” First on the field is Lance Arthur. He looks relaxed, wouldn’t you say so Frank? Frank? Take that weiner out of your cakehole and get the hell over here before I unlock the door and let Justin in!

Urm. Um. Uh, yes, Arthur appears collected and comfortable, but Jesus those pants sure make his ass look big!

Yes, I’m afraid in his case, kalki’s don’t do anything but expand his butt region. Next out of the gate is Alexis Massie in a lovely Jones New York suit accessorized with a contingent of, what would you call them, lackeys?

Hangers-on, possibly. Some sort of support retinue, obviously.

And here comes Maggy Donea, looking quite fetching in an Armani, my notes say. Wow, that’s some great cross-branding going on down there.

Except for Lance’s pants, Al.

Right you are, Frank. Sell your GAP stock now, ladies and gentleman. This is not pretty. Okay, they’re mounting the platform and the referee for today’s final bout, Steve Silberman, is doing his spiel about fairness and angst. Let’s go to Derek who’s closer to the action. Derek?

Thanks Al and Frank. I’m not sure if it’s an indication of things to come or if he’s just fat, but Lance is already sweating. Alex and Maggy exchanged simple nods… the tension is so thick you could cut with a knife, spread it on a slice of rye and eat it with mustard! The computer screens are dark—I wonder if the slow start-up for NT will hinder the two PC players. I use a Mac, myself, when I’m working on my own Web site, brackets the fray sans-brackets, http colon slash slash fray dot com and now http colon slash slash fray dot org, too.

Derek, is there any sign of where the contestants plan to go with their entries? Any furtive glances to indicate..?

No, Frank, and that’s an extremely stupid question. How the hell should I know what they’re thinking, for crying out loud. back to you, Al.

Silberman is done briefing the contestants and they’re approaching their computers. Looks like Lance has opted for Dell—you can see a big Dell brand also on the collar of his shirt and we’re proud to say Dell is a sponsor of our broadcast today. Can we get a shot from the Dell blimp? No? We’ll try to get that later. Lance uses Allaire’s HomeSite, according to their press release, and is probably being paid handsomely to have that big Allaire logo on his butt.

That’s one big ass, Al.

Yes, you’ve made that abundantly clear, Frank. Massie, as we all know, is using a Mac G3 and it looks like Donea is using Compaq. Not surprising since Lance and Dell have an exclusive contract.

The whole area of branding in sports is very interesting, isn’t it Al?

No, Frank, it’s not.

And They’re Off!

Silberman is raising the starter’s gun in the air, the crowd is hushed. And… there they go! Looks like Alex has an advantage with that keyboard on button rather than the CPU power switch, but there is all those applets to load even before she gets a screen.

Don’t forget that the NT users, Arthur and Donea, have to go through a lengthy boot process as well. We’ll take a quick break and come back when the action gets rolling…

cut to: commercial

(scene shows small boy looking up into a blue sky. the clouds form the shape of the DELL logo as a small boy’s voice intones:) I’m Lance Arthur. (there follows a quick series of jump-cuts with a succession of children all saying the same thing:) I’m Lance Arthur (until the last face we see is Lance Arthur’s, and he says:) I’m Tiger Woods. Or something. (screen fades to black with DELL logo. a martin sheen-like voice says:) Dell Computer. Beige is good.

cut to: scene in progress

You’ve joined us just as Alex’s machine seems ready. Lance is staring at a blue screen—we knew all that RAM would hurt him.

It was a chance he took, but it seems to be backfiring, Al.

And Maggy is already starting her HTML editor. Looks like her Webmaster background is really paying off in these early stages. She’s got the HTML tag in place, going for the TITLE, the BODY, and, oh! She slams her keyboard over Arthur’s hands! That’s gotta sting!

You don’t want a keyboard injury this early, Al. Not when you have so much typing…

Arthur is still stymied by his boottime, but it’s clear he’s itching to… ooh! Oof! Massie kicks him in the shin and wraps her mouse cord around his throat!

The women appear to be double-teaming on Arthur. He’s really going to have to come up with some…

Ow! Did you see that, Frank?

Yes I did, Al. Maggy performed a beautifully executed Peterson Maneuver and frisbeed her Photoshop CD-ROM right at Massie’s face! That cut looks bad!

Don’t know how easy it’ll be for her to summon up enough angst to write with all that blood in her eyes.

Lance’s machine is finally online and I’m wondering what he’s going to do first.

It’s always dangerous to be the last one. Looks like referee Silberman is watching him closely and… oh no! Massie’s plan appears to be working! He’s been distracted by his wallpaper!

That costs him precious time, Al. He has a lot of points to make up and, wait, he’s not distracted by the wallpaper! He’s… is he doing what I think he’s doing?

It appears so, Frank, and it’s a big gamble but will be well worth it if it pays off. He seems to be counting on the fact that the two women will be so distracted ripping each other’s hair out that they won’t see him coming up behind and…


Ouch. That’s gonna sting for a while. You watched it with us, ladies and gentleman. Arthur went for all the marbles and tossed his monitor into the fray, so to speak. Looks like Massie may have a broken arm and there’s a lot of blood on the canvas.

A broken arm will make it extra tough for Alexis to…


Oh, right, Ally. For Ally to write about any of this before the final bell. Donea is clearly stunned. Don’t know if, now watch Massie here. She’s wild when she’s riled. She’s looking around for some… Oh!

That’s one to write home about! An ergonomic chair in the cajones is nothing to sneeze at, friends! I’m speaking from experience. Although Lance has already been supplied with a replacement monitor, he’s doubled over and I think I’d call that shade on his face crimson?

Ruby red, Al.

Donea is still lolling on the canvas. Massie’s arm is hanging limp at her side—it’s amazing she overcame so much obvious pain to hurl that chair like that.

She sort of kicked it.

Very smart move on her part. Looks like the action portion of the tournament is just winding down and the three contestants will be approaching their computers to write about what they’ve just been involved in.

Or write about writing about it, Al.

Right, Frank. While they’re clearing away the broken equipment and blood, we’ll take a short break. You’re watching The World Championship of Web Journal Writing on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. We’ll be right back after this word from IBM.

July 2, 1998

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