A 60%-serious case for digitally native awards shows and halls of fame
As a kid my father took me on two weekend trips to the baseball and basketball Halls of Fame, in Cooperstown, New York and Springfield, Massachusetts. It’s an immensely warm memory, obviously as much because of the time spent with my dad as the Hall of Fame visits themselves. I remember our stop at Howe Caverns in Howe Cave, New York as well as I remember walking through the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Halls of Fame used to be awesome before they stopped making sense, just like award shows used to be awesome before they stopped making sense. The Oscars and Grammys provided a few weeks of entertainment and debate as well as a way to discover films and music. The MTV Video Music Awards were actually transgressive (see 0:08, and 4:16 and 4:30 from Nirvana’s performance of Lithium). Nowadays they’re all obviously relics, and very few people in my generation (late Millennial — I proudly part my hair on the side) still watch them or even follow them. I doubt that any middle-parters do. At best they provide a worthwhile YouTube clip or two.
The reason that Hall of Fames and Awards shows are obsolete are obvious but I’ll spell ‘em out anyway:
The abundance of content today overwhelms most relics of shared experience The world is now so meritocratic and legible—number of streams, likes, retweets, etc.—that we don’t need exclusive panels to tell us what’s good
But (but!) there are a few big reasons that Hall of Fames—less so Award Shows, because awards like this deserve the distance that time affords—would still play in today’s Very Online world:
Think: incoherent acceptance speeches, or the 400-lb. that makes grown-ass-men football-guys cry. Please sign me up for a Twitch stream of 400 lb. human showing up at Zach Klein’s house cabin to reward him for the legacy of Lip Dub - Flagpole Sitta. Or at Gruber’s house for inventing Markdown. Not because I want to see someone taint their reputation with a bizarre speech (though I do) or watch grownups cry (though I do) but because we need a way and a place to celebrate these things with a decade-plus of distance.
Case in point: This interview with Scumbag Steve, 10 years hence, did not disappoint. Heck, let’s have Tom Green present the Lifetime Achievement Award in Trolling. Still, there are too many artifacts that have been lost to history. Tim Armstrong’s “Distressed Babies” from 2014 needs to memorialized in the Hall of HR Flubs.
Speaking of trolling, shouldn’t we at least be trying our best to goad someone to do what Kanye did? Heck there’s a fair chance we could get Kanye himself to do it again on Twitter.
You may be wondering, how would anyone agree on who deserves the award? Who cares! There’s nothing the internet does better than failing to resolve unresolvable debates. Sports and culture honors are narrative-driven in the dumbest possible ways. Think: A Star is Born coming out early enough in the year that voters had too much time to think (clearly). Or, your playing career ended seven years ago yet you somehow you earned more Hall of Fame votes this year than last. Or, your career was clearly Hall of Fame worthy, yet you got caught for taking the same performance-enhancing drugs that others merely didn’t get caught for, or you shared Breitbart articles. The internet would absolutely crush this.
Museums and awards cut from NFT’s, DAO’s to elect honors more meritocratically and inclusively, and live streams. Halls of Fame could even fork along ideological lines when we more publicly acknowledge that technology legends are also performance enhancing.
I’d love to see someone make this happen. If it does I’ll see you there, and, if I get the invite, the after party at howescavern.xyz.