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The Gaben Awards

If you’re familiar with reddit (particularly r/gaming, r/pcmasterrace or r/technology), I don’t need to explain who or what  Gaben is. You can skip the next paragraph.  But for those whom aren’t indoctrinated into reddit’s glorious, never-ending time-suck…

The sports leagues need a Gabe Newell. Gabe, or Gaben in the vernacular, is the billionaire head of Valve Corporation, which is credited with creating the Half Life series, Left 4 Dead, Portal and other hit titles. He’s also the creator of Steam, a massive online shopping and gaming mecca for PC gamers. But that’s not makes Gabe Gaben. He has received the moniker as a token of his demigod status to the Internet culture for things like his so-far-irrefuted vow to reply to every e-mail he receives from fans, with class to boot; he’s been named Our Lord and Savior of many subreddits, even moreso than Nicolas Cage. Think about the scope of his popularity combined with the skullduggery ‘www’ will take you to. He, who is again a billionaire CEO, is complicit in our weird little inside jokes, like the refusal to include the number ‘3’ in one of those emails, lest Half-Life 3 be confirmed. (Rest assured, when Gaben uses the number 3, you will know the bread of Heaven is coming.) In AMAs, he’s transparent, honest, eloquent, and understands his followers to a tee. FFS a redditor turned 50 GBs of porn stills into a collage of his face.

Redditors, please re-join me.

The qualifications for a Gaben, thus, are such: unassailable respect and unanimous admiration from the constituency and a God Hammer of influence. The third condition is he/she must be alive. It’s with a heavy heart that this rules out Walter Payton for the NFL; the level of current influence is key. (Though goddamn would he come close from the grave with his posthumous awards and charities.)

P.S. Confessional: Do we need the Gaben Award like I said we did? Probably not, but it’s the off-season.

NFL Possible Nominees: Aaron Rodgers, Calvin Johnson, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady.

Just missed the cut: Brian Urlacher, Troy Polamalu

Tom Brady

If we lived in a world where people could admit that pejoratives like ‘pretty boy douchebag’ were only rooted in jealousy, he’d be the frontrunner. But TB just lacks that illustrious Gaben quality because Gaben would never have to spend time publicly addressing rumors that he’s an overrated assembly of discarded UGG boots. Sorry, Tom. Mad respect here at O2LSports.

Aaron Rodgers

I’ve never heard anyone disrespect Aaron Rodgers, a man who handled the really, really annoying Brettuation with perfect class. Also the most beloved active figure of the most likable fanbase, unless you’re a Bears fan. Downside: The State Farm commericals aren’t on an upward trajectory.

Calvin Johnson

Megatron’s inside track to Gabenism is the mythic parallel. Whereas we PC lovers exaggerate the height of Gabe Newell’s powers, Calvin Johnson might literally be a god. His only ‘Achilles heel’, so to speak, is everyone around him.

Peyton Manning

Thought about auto-selecting him out of pure homerism, but this site owes enough to Simmons already. I do like PFM as the NFL Gaben because the worst thing you can say about him is that he’s too vanilla, or maybe just too white. But don’t you see, my children, that’s the wicked trick he plays! When you least suspect it, something like ‘Omaha’ or ‘Papa John’s’ or ‘Cut that meat!’ will spring forth into the collective consciousness and achieve eternal sustainability, because its cult of personality is itself, not Manning. And what better way to represent the NFL than to let the product speak for itself? (Insert ‘because everyone else is afraid to speak out against it’ joke.) 43-8 didn’t help ‘God Status’ much.

Drew Brees

A.K.A. The Real FEMA? A notable mouthpiece for the players? Seems like a shoo-in, logically, but lacks the je ne sais quoi to be a meme.

NFL Gaben:  Calvin Johnson

Look, this is not the god you e-mail. This is the god you fear and for whom you spread lamb’s blood above your doorway. He may grant you mercy, provided you don’t jam him past five yards. Otherwise, he’s by all accounts likable enough to take the throne.

NHL Nominees: Wayne Gretzky, Wayne Gretzky, Wayne Gretzky, Wayne Gretzky, Wayne Gretzky

Missed the cut by a lot: Everyone

NHL Gaben: Wayne Gretzky

NBA Nominees: LeBron James, Tim Duncan, Greg Poppovich, Daryl Morey, Phil Jackson, Adam Silver

Just missed the cut: Kevin Durant (needs to win more MVPs and titles), Michael Jordan (see: HOF speech), Kobe Bryant (needs to make a friend), Mark Cuban (a polarizing figure because people are blind to his shining glory).

King James

If you manage a triumphant fanfare back to the place that burned your jersey, you’re touching on some prime Gaben-esque invincibility to criticism. I mean, palm fronds are nice, but even Jesus didn’t make it out of Golgotha. (Not Jesus 1.0, at least. Also, Ghost LeBron would be a force off the pick-and-roll.)  The stats are there, obviously, and he’s now more mature than you or I will ever be. Few of Miami’s gentry leave there as a more mature person. Then again, I’ve never met someone who’s left Miami.

Tim Duncan

Now here’s a demigod I can get behind! My favorite part about Tim Duncan is The Onion’s Tim Duncan Criterion Collection, in which he is the world’s greatest friend. I do worry that there’s too much of an ‘aw, shucks’ facet to his lordship. Gaben’s kind eyes have just the tiniest glint of rage, which is important if someone were to ever leak Half Life 3 details without his consent.

Gregg Poppovich

It was either Zach Lowe, Jacoby, or Alex Pappademas that said Pop should be disqualified from Coach of the Year out of fairness to other coaches. I like hearing these very true things about potential Gabens.

Daryl Morey

DM’s a Gaben who could really bring us into 2015 with an advanced-statistical bang. However, he’s also prone to completely fleecing teams in trades and that strikes me as mean. A Gaben is not a win-at-all-costs figure. He values the win-win above all.

Phil Jackson

Don’t tell me his powers are waning in New York. Beowulf never took any shit for fighting badder beasts and James Dolan’s clusterfuckdom is the Grendel of the NBA. And through it all, he remains zen. Through it all, he still has thirteen rings and how dare you.

Adam Silver

He has potential, as the swift justice of the Sterling ruling showed us, but unchecked power rarely makes for a good tenure.

NBA Gaben: Gregg Poppovich

I like my NBA Gaben to give negative one hundred fucks about the press. Servitude to a rapidly saturated profession is not to be conflated with servitude to fandom. If Gaben gave us what we wanted, we’d have Left 4 Dead 11 and it’d be terrible. (I’m paraphrasing Henry Ford here.) A Gaben knows how to deliver quality, and that’s by sitting his star players during an asininely long season.

MLB Nominees: Derek Jeter, Mike Trout, David Ortiz

Just Missed the Cut: Ken Burns (Editor’s Choice), Cal Ripken, Jr. (I think I recall him doing Flomax commercials. Not influential stuff, for the Under 60s anyway.), Ken Griffey, Jr. (Praying his daughter becomes the next Babe Ruth so he’s thrust back into relevancy and I can oust whomever the current Gaben is.), Pedro Martinez (No idea what he’s doing), and Tim Lincecum (Keep fighting back, Timmy).

Derek Jeter

The Captain’s quest for Gabinity begins this November. I expect he’ll Yeah, Jete! through the tropics, make a few promotional appearances, and somehow get an even better tan. That’s fine. But after that, it’s time to get down to business. The Curt Schilling (Possibly) Congressional Route could be good choice, but he who fights monsters yada yada yada. My unsolicited advice: spend your requisite three years on the YES Network, open a NY Pizza chain (and a dynamite one, at that), unveil damning evidence against 1990s Bud Selig, marry Jennifer Lawrence, and keep sending those gift baskets. It’s yours to lose.

Mike Trout

Some say he’s too young to take the immortal reins. Find those people, put them in front of an Angels broadcast, and then return them to the wild. The only player with the stats and Joe Schmo name recognition to walk out to Kanye West’s ‘I Am A God’ is Trout, unless we’re counting Cespedes’ right arm as a candidate. (Side note related to name recognition: holy shit, Jose Altuve has stolen 42 bases with a .343 average by July. Someone get him a publicist.) Anyway, let’s  bookmark Trout as a GIT (Gaben in Training).

David Ortiz

Personality Factor: 10/10. Baseball Legacy and Relevance: 10/10.

Okay guys, let’s wrap it up he—aw, goddamnit, Steroid Cloud. Yes, his numbers have not dipped at all post-scandal and that’s very impressive. I just… maybe we’ll never know. Or maybe he’s good enough to announce an unprovoked Lance Armstrong down the road. Either way, his reputation is not unimpeachable. A besmirched Gaben is a ruined Gaben. His road to the throne: Get a PhD in chemistry and prove beyond a doubt that he could not have taken steroids. It’s like The Fugitive meets Moneyball.

MLB Gaben: Derek Jeter

This is the way it has to be. Yeah, yeah, fuck the Yankees. But consider: when Mike Trout retires, assuming he produces at a consistent rate, we can re-evaluate. What Jeter did for the MLB brand and for the Yankees will probably slap Trout’s contention silly. Maybe not. That’s why we play the game.

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About the Author

Chris O'Toole (Colorado State '12, Chapman '15) recently finished a Screenwriting MFA. He has written for Livestrong, CBS, and other publications. Love, hate, and job offers can be sent to: