Friday, January 13, 2006

The Four Geeks of the Apocalypse

Ah, the geek. There are a variety of terms for the unpopular guy- “nerd” became popular with the TV show Happy Days; “spazz” came into vogue in the 80’s; I’m pretty fond of using “doofus” myself. But “geek” is in a class all its own. It began as a term of derision in the same grouping as all the others- a guy naïve to the ways of the world might be called a geek; an accountant-type with thick glasses might be called a geek and a spazz; someone in the high school band may have been called a band geek (although there was another term in my high school that I can’t use here- rhymes with “band hag”). And then there was me in junior high school, with unwashed hair, slightly overweight with a penchant for drawing dirty cartoons. I think I qualified for all three names and some I can’t print.

But the past decade has seen the redemption of the term “geek” in the same way that the 70’s term “freak” has passed into common usage. There was a show called “Freaks and Geeks.” Someone obsessive about their hobby is a “_____ geek”. Do cheerleaders actually date the geeks now? Nah. Human nature is what it is.

What are some of the common categories of geeks? Let’s explore that question.

-----Dungeons and Dragons geeks. You know the type. They spent every study hall either pouring over the Monster Manual or drawing elaborate maps on graph paper. Friday nights, while the cool crowd populated the high school dance, they sat in their parents basement with a few buddies, engrossed with tales of elves and dwarves, of hydras and…well… whatever fantasy monster could be conjured up. These guys (I don’t know if a woman has ever played D&D) were usually pretty smart, but seemed to be in their own little world. Laughed at at the time, they grew up with better imaginations than any of us, and went on to successful careers as science fiction writers or video game developers. Either that or they killed themselves because they couldn’t move out of their parents basement. I don’t know.

You could list war game geeks in the same class as D&D geeks. These guys might sit for hours playing games on large maps with hexagons covering the terrain. Games like Squad Leader, Panzer Blitz, Panzer Leader and Axis and Allies would recreate key battles of World War II in excruciating detail. Their children are the ones populating hobby shops playing Magic: The Gathering and games involving carefully crafted figurines of wizards and warlocks. The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree.

-----Sports games geeks. These days nobody knows what a sports game is, or they think the genre is limited to Madden video games. Not so, grasshopper, not so. Back in the early 50’s a gentleman named J. Richard Seitz morphed an even older baseball game called National Pastime into one called APBA Baseball. The premise is simple- a card represents a given major league player. On that card is a mathematical representation of his career, either in numbers or written results (APBA used numbers), and these results were triggered by a dice roll. Take one set of cards for the New York Giants, one for the Milwaukee Braves, and pretty soon Willie Mays and Hank Aaron aren’t figures in the sports pages but living figures on your tabletop. You play a whole game, you keep the stats; you play 154 games, and Willie, Mickey and the Duke end up with results pretty darn close to real life. In the 60’s Strat-O-Matic came into being; in the 70’s, Replay Baseball; and throughout the years there have been numerous others. I am proud to say that I am a sports gaming geek. I can add numbers in my head faster than some people use calculators, all because of tracking Ty Cobb’s batting average against the baseball teams of 1979.

The sports gaming geek still exists, although our numbers are smaller. From our humble beginnings have arisen the fantasy baseball phenomenon. Sabermetrics counts among its disciples Strat-O-Matic and APBA players. Trip Hawkins, the head of Electronic Arts, plays Strat. We’re here, we’re near, get used to us.

-----The Star Trek geek. Oh, they prefer to be called “Trekkors”, but a Trekkie by any other name still hasn’t kissed a girl. They dress in Starfleet uniforms for movie openings, conventions, and even jury duty if they can get away with it. William Shatner in an infamous Saturday Night Live sketch from 1986 put it better than I ever could:

William Shatner: You know, before I answer any more questions there's something I wanted to say. Having received all your letters over the years, and I've spoken to many of you, and some of you have traveled... y'know... hundreds of miles to be here, I'd just like to say... GET A LIFE, will you people? I mean, for crying out loud, it's just a TV show! I mean, look at you, look at the way you're dressed! You've turned an enjoyable little job, that I did as a lark for a few years, into a COLOSSAL WASTE OF TIME!

[ a crowd of shocked and dismayed Trekkies.... ]

I mean, how old are you people? What have you done with yourselves?

[ to Jon Lovitz, wearing Spock ears ] You, you must be almost 30... have you ever kissed a girl?

[ "Ears" hangs his head ]

I didn't think so! There's a whole world out there! When I was your age, I didn't watch television! I LIVED! So... move out of your parent's basements! And get your own apartments and GROW THE HELL UP! I mean, it's just a TV show dammit, IT'S JUST A TV SHOW!

Charlie: Are- are you saying then that we should pay more attention to the movies?

William Shatner: NO!!! THAT'S NOT WHAT I'M SAYING AT ALL!!! HEY, YOU GUYS ARE... THE LAMEST BUNCH... I'VE NEVER SEEN... [ walks away from podium ] I can't believe these people... I mean, I really can't understand what's....

-----The Friends geek. This type isn’t around much anymore, ever since Friends went off the air in 2004, but they exemplify the term very well. Remember that woman in your office? She was the one that knew the first and last names of every character- Ross Geller, Monica Geller Bing, Chandler Bing, Phoebe Bouffay, Joey Tribbiani, and Rachel Green. Ross was married and divorced three times- once in the first season to Carol, who was a lesbian and left him for Susan. The second time was to Emily, who was from London; she got mad at him after he slipped and said Rachel’s name at their wedding, during the vows. She later divorced him after he wouldn’t promise to never have contact with Rachel. Rachel and Ross get drunk when the whole gang was in Las Vegas, get married in a quickie chapel, and later get the marriage annulled. Rachel was engaged to Barry but left him at the altar; the first episode begins with Rachel coming into the coffee shop, Central Perk, wearing a wedding dress. Her and Ross are on again, off again during the whole run of the series. Joey is an actor who played Dr. Drake Ramoray on Days of Our Lives for a short time. He was a roommate of Chandler’s for awhile. He got (and lost) the part of Al Pacino’s butt double in a movie. He also appeared on a public service poster for venereal disease. Monica used to be fat; she appears in a fat suit in several flashback episodes. She’s a cook and an obsessive neat freak. She dated Richard (played by Tom Selleck) for awhile; he was an opthamologist and much older than her. She slept with Chandler when the whole gang was in London for Ross and Emily’s wedding; she later married Chandler. Chandler’s father is a cross-dresser and his mother is a romance novelist played by Morgan Fairchild. He was the wise-a** of the group. Phoebe sang in the coffee shop. She once was homeless. She filled the blonde stereotype well. She was a masseuse. She was a surrogate mother for her brother and his wife and gave birth to triplets.

Yeah. That’s what that woman in the office would tell you. That's the ticket....

Time does not permit elaborate descriptions of Dante’s Seven Levels of Geekdom. Modern society has spawned the reality show geek, the Trading Spaces geek, the computer/tech geek and many others. The explosion of leisure time in our society has created a monster. I would dare say there is a little geek in all of us.

But not me. Oh no, I keep everything in the proper perspective. A time for everything and everything in its time, that’s what I always say. Now I have to go; I have to watch LOST on the TiVo. What do the numbers 4-8-15-16-23-42 mean? Will Sawyer get Kate? Why did Jack’s marriage fail? What is the monster? Where is Walt? Is Charlie on heroin again? (Sean’s voice continues to utter meaningless questions off into the distance.)


Blogger Darcie said...

I LOVED THIS!!!!!!!!!!! I am sitting at the Elyria Public Library, restraining myself from laughing uproariously because it was so funny!

Hello, my name is Darcie and I am a scrapbooking-purple-mickey mouse geek. Hi Darcie!

3:39 PM  

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