Sunday, June 05, 2005

Hey, Schwab: Stump THIS!

(the following column can also be viewed at, where a new column from yours truly appears each Sunday or Monday. They will also appear here for your reading pleasure. For archives of my columns there, go to and click on "Columnists")

I watched him perform last week, on television, on one of those ESPN channels, and the more I watched, the more I saw his fist-clenching and fist-pumping, the more I noticed his slightly arrogant, hardly humble act, the more I felt my insides churn.

No, I’m not talking about Shaquille O’Neal. Or Dwyane Wade. Or Bill Walton.

I’m talking about The Schwab.

I stumbled upon his show one night -- "Stump The Schwab" -- and I was sucked in within minutes. Seriously, I think I attached myself to The Schwab’s show faster than my wife can get hooked on any movie on Lifetime. I mean it -- I was on The Schwab like a barnacle. I only wish he could have felt my presence and was distracted enough to actually MISS A FREAKING QUESTION!

For those of you who don’t know, and haven’t yet been subject to it -- and may God keep you blessed -- "Stump The Schwab" is a sports trivia show, featuring, of course, The Schwab. I have no idea what Schwabbie’s real name is, though it’s rumored to be Howard. Regardless, The Schwab is basically a fat guy with a beard who must have less of a real life than any human being on this planet, because he appears to know every single sports fact, tidbit and piece of useless junk on this planet. And the funny thing is, if Schwabbie is reading this (which he may because he knows everything about sports), I just paid him a compliment, in his mind.

The man I hate -- The Schwab

The premise is thus: host Stuart Scott is joined by, on one side, Schwabbie, and on the other, three pretenders to the Sports Trivia Throne. The three contestants duke it out, along with the Schwab’s participation, to decide who gets to face Schwabbie in the final showdown. I have only seen a few episodes, but on one of them it was mentioned that a contestant did indeed Stump The Schwab and win once upon a time. I plan on writing ESPN and asking for the tape of that one. I plan on playing it whenever I am blue and need a pick me up. Because after watching a few minutes of Schwabbie knocking every hardball out of the park, I was ready to (Jesse) Barfield all over myself.

I am going to assume, for sake of ethics and credibility, that The Schwab is actually that trivia laced and the whole thing isn’t some put on. They introduce him as ESPN’s very first researcher, so I’m going to take it on face value that he is really that almighty. Besides, it’s more fun, I suppose, to hate The Schwab if I am convinced that he’s genuine.

And I DO hate The Schwab. I found myself gritting my teeth every time it was his turn to answer, hoping beyond hope that he would fumble one away -- just like Leroy Hoard of Cleveland in the NFL playoffs against Denver, by the way -- and leave the door open for a Pretender to put back the miss. When Schwabbie got it right -- as he always seemed to do -- I sneered.

You have to understand, I rather pride myself on my sports trivia knowledge. My friends will agree, and they will also tell you that I am their poor man’s Schwab. My wife would call me The Slob, but that’s another column altogether. Regardless, while I don’t flaunt it like Schwabbie, I feel like I can handle most any sports trivia pitch you toss at me, and at least drive it to the warning track. So when I see The Schwab answering questions that he either should have no business knowing, or that I also know, it makes me want to jump out of my skin and into the ESPN studios to take him on in a know-holds-barred Sudden Death Match. Oh, how I would love to wipe that smug look off Schwabbie’s scraggly face!

The format is Scott announcing several different categories, in which there are usually long lists, such as "Name Every Player Who Has Reached 3,000 Hits Since 1970" (an actual list from an actual episode), and one by one, Schwabbie included, the contestants have to name a player on the list during their turn, until either all contestants are eliminated (which occurs if you fail to answer or get one wrong), or the list is complete, whichever comes first. The list is on the screen for the viewers at home, though I rarely need it (yeah, right). When a player is named from the list, his graphic darkens, leaving the remaining names bright. Schwabbie ALWAYS successfully names someone from the list, and he does so with 100% assurity and with a tad too much defiance for my liking. Like I said, I hate The Schwab.

The next round usually involves something like having to put, in proper order, the teams that a journeyman player from one of the four major sports has played for, within a certain time limit. Schwabbie doesn’t play this round, but he does take over Scott’s role and tells the contestants whether they’re right or wrong. And when they’re wrong -- which they usually are -- Schwabbie doesn’t just give the right order, he offers another piece of trivia, which I am convinced is strictly for purposes of showing off. Like I said, I hate The Schwab.

All this leads us to the final showdown, Schwabbie vs. Pretender, Manu-a-Manu (Ginobili or Tuiasosopo). Each man gets three strikes. There are different categories, from which each player chooses for his opponent to answer. Every wrong answer is a strike. Just like baseball -- the first diamond was laid out by Alexander Cartwright, not Abner Doubleday, by the way -- three strikes and yer out. So far, it’s only been The Schwab remaining. Like I said, I hate The Schwab.

I don’t think I would have as much of a problem with Schwabbie if he showed the slightest hint of humility or occasionally a "Gee, whiz" sort of attitude. Instead, he pumps his fist and smugly answers as if it’s HIS money they’re giving away. Sometimes Scott is only halfway through a question, and Schwabbie is nodding knowingly, ready to pounce as soon as Stu stops speaking. The irony of this obnoxious habit was never more cruel than during a game-winning question from the Championship Edition the other night. The question was, "These two NHL defensemen were the only two teammates to finish 1-2 in voting for the Norris Trophy, in 2002." Schwabbie started nodding during the word "teammates". AARGH! Schwabbie won it on a Red Wings question that I would have been all over like (Eddie) Mayo on a BLT! (The answer, of course, is Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Chelios). Like I said, I hate The Schwab.

I’d like a crack at The Schwab, just so you know. When I watch the show, I play along, trying not to look at the lists on the screen, to simulate what would happen if I was one of the Pretenders. I think I could acquit myself well, even with the lights and cameras and Stuart Scott’s lazy left eye there as distractions. And I’m sure the show isn’t designed to be taking itself seriously. It’s supposed to be mostly fun, I know that. Then how come, when Schwabbie struggled with a question in one of the episodes, did I actually say, out loud, yet quietly but with definite mocking disdain -- and I am not making this up -- "Oh, what’s the matter, Schwabbie? Don’t you know the answer? Oh, poor Schwabbie." The Schwab missed it, and it was my turn to fist pump, basking in the glow of his wrongness.

Did I mention that I hate The Schwab?

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