Picks and Pans Review: Sports Illstated
Magazine-length magazine parodies can get tiresome in a beating-it-to-death-and-then-stomping-on-it kind of way. Both these examples include too much to read in one sitting, but they also lock on to their targets' weak points with insidiously funny results.
Penthorse, created by the writer of The Best of Playboar and Cowsmopolitan, includes a suitably pretentious editorial by founder Bob Getchyerponi, a "center foal" who complains that "the only problem with being Center Foal quality material is that a lot of horses—both male and female—assume you're stupid" and an interview with a cowboy-eating longhorn from Texas. ("Penthorse: 'You're a killer?' Longhorn: 'Yes...Yes I am! and No!...No I'm not! I swallow them alive and what they do after that is their own business.' ")
The parody also includes a nastily pointed series of ads for liquor and cigarettes ("The Surgeon General's Little Comment Box: Careless smoking has been known to cause: barn fires, more barn fires, and the very tragic—often resulting in great loss of life—Barn Fire!") Not to mention an ad for the Hair Club for Horses.
Sports Illstated is the work of a group of writers headed by editor Wolff, a sometime SPORTS ILLUSTRATED contributor. They have perfectly nailed such SI foibles as its pun-filled captions (pictures of towel-flaunting coaches John Thompson and Jerry Tarkanian are captioned "How much can Tarkanian and Thompson expect the NCAA to towel-erate?").
They also have fun with the styles of SI's star writers. A story on the "Trump U.S. Open" by "William Emmy Johnson" says, in the sometimes stentorian style of William Oscar Johnson, "Back to the subject of manure shortly, but first a look at the equally surprising action off the course, which culminated with the most prestigious title in golf getting an appendage added to its name." A column on football predictions, in the eloquent wiseacre tone of "Curried Kirkpatrick" (as in Curry), sneers, "Don't you get it? You're just a fan. Heck, fans are a dime a dozen, or in these times of inflation, perhaps 25 cents a dozen."
Wolff and company muddy matters by including a number of straight ads. many for such charities as the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (it takes a while to figure out whether they're parodies, like the ad for Jokey shorts or the house ad that pitches a free "Jock Phone" in the shape of an athletic supporter cup to people who subscribe for 15 years).
Mostly, though, Sports Illstated, like Penthorse, toys with its subject without doing it much serious damage. (Pent-horse: William Kent, paper, $9.95; Sports Illstated: Andrews and McMeel, paper, $9.95)