Today on Salon: They're dreaming of Jeanne, and Zelasko will be first. It's the first annual Write Like Jeanne Zelasko Contest. This column's readers have been channeling the Fox Sports anchor's writing style, hoping to drop anchor in the winner's circle. But will they find themselves outfoxed? After all, stringing together clichés and strained plays on words: That's not writing, it's typing. So who's got the write stuff? Who can make history with their imitation of Zelasko describing history?
OK, that was my entry. I don't stand a chance of winning.
Pearl Harbor, D-Day and the Gettysburg Address were the most popular events for Zelasko parodists, who were vying for the valuable prize of having their entry published in this column. But there were introductions written for events as diverse as the labors of Hercules, the 2004 election -- the definition of "history" is being stretched here, but that's OK -- and the Norman invasion.
It was tough to pick a winner from so many hilarious entries, but the first Zelasko champ is Patrick McDevitt, an assistant professor of history at the University of Buffalo, for his imitation of Zelasko on Pearl Harbor:
"Hawaii is known for the crystal clear waters of an ocean named for its tranquility. But yesterday those pacific waters unleashed a tsunami. With bombers and battleships, the Land of the Rising Sun lowered the boom on the unsuspecting Yanks; it's enough to have some fans contemplating hara-kari. It may be the world's biggest ocean, but its not big enough for these two. Samurai vs. cowboy. Sushi vs. cobbler. Sake vs. Coors. It's a battle of wills to see who will blink first. With Nippon moving across Southeast Asia like wildfire, there's no time for Uncle Sam to lick his wounds. So saddle up them horses, it's time to see if the red, white and blue have got what it takes to cowboy up and put a hurtin' on their arch rivals from across the Pacific."
McDevitt captured that Zelasko mojo a little better than anyone else, right up to her fondness for the phrase "cowboy up," but there were other worthies. The runner-up entry, by Chris S., who will assume the duties of champion if McDevitt is unable to perform them, imagined Jeanne hosting a broadcast of the start of the Protestant Reformation:
"The stage is set today for the long-awaited showdown between Martin Luther and Pope Leo X. No pardon will be given. No begging for mercy will be indulged. With his 95 theses, Luther plans to nail the pope -- but will His Holiness drop the hammer on the monk instead? The pope has his posse: A whole council of his boys are fixin' to get medieval on dissent. Will this Diet of Worms be more than Luther can stomach? Or will the Wittenberg Warrior wind up victorious? The pope holds all the cards, but Friedrich of Saxony stands by to trump his ace. It's a slapdown in Saxony with heaven and hell on the line. What will happen? God only knows! Next, on Fox!"
I wish I could reproduce every entry, but that would make this column thousands of words too long. Here are some more gems, some of which are complete and some just highlights. We'll go in reverse chronological order.
"Will Bush turn from president to ex-resident of the White House, or will the governor from Vermont head home to the Green Mountains? Will the red states sing the blues for the challenger or will the winds of change blow white-hot for a new tune? One thing that won't flag, and that's Fox's star coverage of Election Night '04." (Matt Wall on an imagined 2004 election)
"Thirteen years ago an invasion of Kuwait by an Iraqi dictator made a U.S. president go Hussein in the membrane. It seems the date doesn't fall far from the palm, as Bush the younger prepares to teach sinister Saddam a second lesson. Will it be a thrilla in Faluja, or will Iraq's feared Republican Guard take a Ba'ath? Either way, one thing's for sure: Winner takes oil." (Steve Landau on the Iraq war)
"And a child shall lead them. But the question is -- to where? To the land of the former Yankee field hand, or to the land of milk and honey -- and yes, Marlins? ... Not since Andrew Cunanan was running around these shores have their been so many nervous townsfolk. So who will blink first, the weird fisherman or Mighty Janet? On this stage, in this house, right now -- will determine the entire future of Western Civilization as we know it." (David Perez on the Elián González standoff)
"As Simpson's trial begins, the country collectively wonders if he could have slashed through his ex-wife and her boyfriend in much the same way as he slashed through the NFL. Yes, this Buffalo Bill has paid major bills to assemble the most heralded legal offensive line in history, but you can bet the prosecution will try their best to keep this running back from running back to his freedom. What outcome for this star from USC will the U.S. see? Will justice get juked by the juice? Or will the jury throw the penalty flag for the most unsportsmanlike of conduct? Thousands of questions will be asked, but only one matters: How will O.J. be served?" (Drew Crownover on the O.J. Simpson trial)
"For two years, Adolf's brownshirts have had their way with Europe: They chopped down the Poles, fried the French, and made Mother Russia cry uncle ... Now Yankee Doodle Dandy is marching from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Sicily, and everything is on the line: Will it be a Nazi New Order or a World Safe for Democracy? Because in this arena, history is written by the winners and the losers keep each other company in Mr. Trotsky's dustbin." (Tom Breen on D-Day)
"After years of scheming and months of sneaking, it's all come down to this. The Yanks storm into Normandy with guns blazing, aiming to give Hitler's boys a history lesson. It'll be no day at the beach, but hey, it's also a British invasion and -- oh, Canada is onboard too. 'Naz-so fast,' say the guys in gray. The Froggies courted these Krauts, or a least gave them a lot of 'laissez faire' hospitality. So the the Jerries proclaim, 'Not in our chateau!'" (Jeff Kauffman on D-Day)
"December 7, 1941: a date that not only Lives in Infamy, it has its own subdivision in the historical neighborhood of America's past." (Dean Browell on Pearl Harbor)
"Here we are in the Reich sponsored by Nike, in the house that Hitler built, ready for the crack of that Luger starter pistol. Will the Nazis be too hotsie for the world to handle, or will Jesse own 'em?" (John McIntosh on the 1936 Olympics)
"Some say history can't afford theater, but at Ford's Theater last night, one actor took his best shot. Crying 'sic semper tyrannis,' John Wilkes Booth's sick temper ran us and our ship of state aground as he aimed his gun at the head of our head of state, sending Honest Abe Lincoln to an honest grave ... Make no mistake: Booth is Public Enemy No. 1 -- with a bullet." (Adair Iacono on the Lincoln assassination)
Something's stinkin' in the Land of Lincoln -- the reeking decay of 50,000 Union and Confederate soldiers ... Order in the court, if not the Union: A-Linc is in the house, the house whose roof is on fire, the roof that he himself once raised, as a boy, after he built it himself out of the logs from the trees that he cut down. Trees of destiny." (Matt Fraction on the Gettysburg Address)
"The sons of the Confederacy gird themselves to do violence against their Union brothers. Will son Pickett charge to victory? Will brother Meade drink of the sweet beverage of triumph? It is indeed a Long Street that these men have traveled to get here. Training camp, skirmishes, forced marches, sore muscles, tired feet. All for the chance to leave it all out on the turf today. Call it the Civil War or call it the War of Northern Aggression, we'll call it here on Fox, your Gettysburg Address for scores and so much more." (David Mullen on the Battle of Gettysburg)
"This is it. The one for all the marbles. Will the Prussian eagles rain on the little Corsican's parade?" (Eric Rivers on the Battle of Waterloo)
"They're done with the talkin' on the bluffs of Weehawken. It was a season of slander from New York to Albany, but now it's all over but the shooting." (Fred Dews on the Alexander Hamilton-Aaron Burr duel)
"Will Will the Conqueror, egged on by his loyal Cheeseheads, whip up a Saxon soufflé? Will he make angels of these Angles? Or mayhap Harolde and his hearty horde gnash the Normans into Hastings Pudding? This is one battle that won't be won on the playing fields of Eton!" (Jim McCaffery on the Norman invasion of England)
"Crassus' death having shattered the three-edged sword of Rome, the remaining triumvirs trod opposite paths. Pompey stood for Homeland Security, for truth, justice and the Flaminian Way. But Caesar swept through Gaul like a scythe of flame, blasting the Celts with every power of mind and body. And now he's back. And he's brought his army with him." (Dawn Forty-Six on the Civil War of 49 B.C.)
Coming soon: The Write Like Bill Walton Talks contest!
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