Mark Jackson, “That Man”, and Hitler — how an 85-year-old meme got new life in the NBA

Summary: NBA commentator Mark Jackson’s signature phrase is an old American joke about children not recognizing their father that became so widely popular in the 1930s it crossed the Atlantic and was used derisively of Adolf Hitler prior to WWII.

Full explanation: Mark Jackson’s “Mama, there goes that man (again)” is most closely associated with Kobe Bryant highlights from a decade ago, but Jackson has subsequently used it in his post-coaching announcing career as an acknowledged catchphrase for LeBron James and Kevin Durant, among others, and it pops up occasionally now in other sports.

Ever since Jackson started doing it on nationally televised NBA games, people have been asking “What’s the deal with Mark Jackson saying that?”

A popular answer on the Internet is that Steve Harvey had been using the phrase in his standup in the early 2000s and Jackson took it from that. While that may be the most immediate provenance, I’m not familiar enough with his comedy to recall it, and other than references to Mark Jackson, I couldn’t find evidence of that claim online.

What’s more likely is that he picked it up from a grandparent or great-grandparent, and that’s because “That Man” was an incredibly popular, international meme in the 1930s and early ’40s that all-but-evaporated in the meantime.

This is illustrated by the title of a former BBC show that generated quite a few catchphrases of its own during its run: “It’s That Man Again”. The radio program supposedly got its name from a common practice of the Daily Express newspaper calling Adolf Hitler “that man” in its headlines in 1939. I haven’t been able to find any of those headlines directly, but it’s widely cited and the explanation the creators gave for their choice in title, intending for it to be topical.

You might be fooled, then, into thinking the original meaning is referencing literal, historical Hitler. But to my knowledge, Jackson has never used it for a James Harden highlight, and the phrase was already ubiquitous when the Nazis came to power.

By 1934, it was popular enough that there was already a song called “That Man Is Here Again” by Cab Calloway, and a sort of common reference is made to it in the film “The Thin Man”, also released in 1934.

For a fuller explanation, skip to 16:45 of this episode of Lexicon Valley by John McWhorter as he goes into it and how it was a pervasive joke that made it into all movies and such around that era.

There was a joke and the joke was that a husband and father is away so much that when he comes home his child says, “Mommy, that man is here again.” For some reason that was considered hilarious.

A Dictionary of Catch Phrases” by Eric Partridge takes a more cynical view:

‘The joke-reference had to do with the basic situation of mummy’s boy friend being innocently identified by a child—”Mummy, it’s that man again”—as once more he comes calling while daddy is out’ (Wedgewood, 1977). But then Shipley writes, ‘My recollection [of “Mummy, it’s…, in the US] is that it began not as a story or a joke, but as a caption to a cartoon’—which he cautiously dates as belonging to the early 1930s.

Which also means Alex from Yahoo! answers actually had their shit together years ago, unlike apparently everyone else on the Internet. Well, except for one self-published racist hack, surprisingly.

So there you have it! When Mark Jackson is saying “Mama, there goes that man!” to punctuate a dunk, he’s ultimately referencing an, at a minimum, 85-year-old joke about absent fathers or cuckoldry. Either way, the player in question is a real motherfucker, which lines up pretty well with how the phrase is used today.

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Anti-fascism is not mutually exclusive from homophobia

1. It’s homophobic and deserving of criticism.

2. Those calling for a boycott are doing it cynically from the right, and don’t actually care about LGBTQ rights.

3. Those sincerely critical of it are not calling for a boycott or Stephen Colbert to be fired.

4. Colbert has consistent homophobic and transphobic sensibilities and has often used gay and trans people as punchlines. The reason (sincere) criticism of this sort of humor is important is not to censor it but to make the comedians involved aware of it, question their own reasons and biases, and hopefully correct it in the future.

5. This isn’t the left ‘tearing itself apart’. This is the right upset that Trump and Putin were targets of criticism and trying to use progressive language for an incredibly narrow purpose, and, short of that, to try to use their own facetious overreactions as evidence of something the matter with people whose ideas and values they disdain. This is the equivalent of a 4chan prank where all of the prank posts and twitter accounts are retroactively taken at face value and pointed to as evidence Justin Bieber fans are stupid or feminists widely support free bleeding. Continue reading “Anti-fascism is not mutually exclusive from homophobia”

Donald Trump isn’t president yet, but he’s already started bombing

The other day the candidates finished up the last of three presidential debates after a year and a half of serious campaigning, and the only thing left on the calendar is Election Day itself. Now the final hours of the election are unfolding like the extended director’s cut of Return of the King: we’re ready for it to be over any time now, but there’s still much more than you need or want ahead.

So the 2016 Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner just happened, and because there are pageviews to get and 24 hours of cable to fill and politics are consumed and pored over by laymen like Westerosi genealogies, it wasn’t just another private white-tie fundraiser for New York Catholics and other elite figures to mingle and lightly roast one another; it was a public occasion open to anyone with cable or YouTube and another subject to fill conversation for the chattering classes we can now all count ourselves among thanks to the steady march of progress and the Internet.

Donald Trump gave his speech; Hillary Clinton gave hers. They each apparently gave two versions of their talks because that’s how people reacted to it. Ideology is a prism for splitting the light from any event into your preferred spectrum, and we’re lucky enough to have plenty of sources available to better crystalize our thoughts, whatever the ideology.

Continue reading “Donald Trump isn’t president yet, but he’s already started bombing”