Image courtesy of GoCast.
Image courtesy of GoCast.
The Detroit Tiger teams of the late 90s and early 00s were endlessly entertaining, at least for fans that didn’t insist upon winning baseball. But for those who enjoyed legal troubles, club house fights and relief pitchers blowing out their arms throwing octopuses—or, failing that, were growing up in Michigan—this was your team.
While there were no real “faces of the franchise” during these losing years, Dmitri Young and Robert Fick wouldn’t have been bad choices. After all, both represented the Tigers in the All-Star Game, albeit during the years when, by rule, each and every MLB team was required to have at least one representative. They had their moments as players, but in retrospect mostly symbolize the team’s off-field problems during that era.
While Fick and Young only played together in Detroit during the 2002 season, it was apparently enough for them to form a bond. They would later cross paths while on another struggling team, the Washington Nationals in 2007. Maybe it was the same frustrations with being stuck on losing baseball teams or shared demons or maybe just a mutual love for God’s green herb. More seriously, there is the intervention that Young organized for Fick four years ago, which has led Fick to four years of sobriety. Whatever brought these two together, it has culminated in the FYI: Vodcast on the GoCast Network, an obscure-ish online network seemingly specializing in such web staples as bro-comedy and strident, chuckling atheism.
I tuned in Tuesday expecting a train wreck, especially when I learned it was not only live but also a video broadcast. Not only that, but fellow Tigers troublemaker Jeff Weaver brought his little brother Jered as special guests. It seemed reasonable to expect that some or all studio property would be grievously damaged. That wasn’t quite how it went.
Fick and Young opened the show talking about smoking weed, their wives and whether or not their wives smoked weed; Fick’s four years of sobriety did not seem to get in the way, here. It did not necessarily seem as if either knew they were being recorded, let alone broadcast live. When Jered and Jeff were introduced on the show, the conversation turned into a round of busting on each other for their clothes; for better or worse, it sure seemed like what gets talked about in a Major League locker room. That it was a whole lot of nothing—copious burns and counter-burns, like the deleted scenes of some justifiably lost Kevin Smith movie—didn’t necessarily matter much. It was live, and weird, and weirdly transporting.
Because it was presumably insufficiently difficult for two ex-ballplayers to do a live, streamed and uncensored show, FYI is also a call-in show. The first caller? Jed Weaver, the cousin of Jeff and Jered and, as it turns out, Dmitri’s realtor. After a quick update on how the sale of Young’s Florida condo is going (not great!), Fick tried to steer the conversation back to sports by asking what it was like to catch passes from Tom Brady, which is something Weaver did eight times in 2004, as a member of the New England Patriots. Fick then sheepishly admitted a “man-crush” on the Patriots QB.
This was, ironically or awkwardly or both or neither, followed by Fick asking the Weavers a question—presumably emailed in, it was never quite made clear—about how they would feel about having a gay teammate. The brothers Weaver countered, reasonably enough, with an incredulous “That is your first question?”
Fick volunteered that he would not be cool with it before quickly backtracking after Jeff and Jered pointed out that “if you can pitch and you can hit, who cares?” The unease hung in the air before the conversation was redirected to Super Bowl picks.
FYI’s highlights, at least by the lights of this dead-ender TIgers fan, came in the less scripted moments in which Fick told tales from the franchise’s anti-glory days. There was, for instance, former Tiger reliever Matt Anderson, the mere mention of whom led to a discussion of his offseason training regimen (chopping logs at his farm, full stop), his love for snakeskin belts and his new career path as a lawyer. “Man, he once drove cross country…” Here Fick trailed off. “I can’t tell that story.” Damn, so close.
There were other moments like that: the use of hair products to doctor balls, the mastery of scuffing class provided by Doug Brocail, and the use of PEDs in the minor leagues. Topics were alluded to with knowing grins, but dropped just before something slipped. Could Bud Selig possibly know about this show? Has the statute of limitations passed on whatever Deivi Cruz anecdotes Fick and Young are holding in reserve?
Then something magical happened. The second and final caller was a man named Brick. Everyone in the studio knew him. Brick joked about coming down to cook for everybody. Inside jokes were bounced back and forth. I still had no idea who he was. When Dmitri finally got around to introducing him, he said Brick was a man who would drive you around, get your bags for you, and who had Kansas City on “lockdown.” Then it was right back to the inside jokes.
This maybe does not sound like a highlight. It might not actually have been a highlight. But there was something endearing and great about it all the same. It was as if Fick and Young had figured their entire audience as friends and former players, and decided to speak to them in a code they’d easily understand. It’s actually quite possible that this is in fact the case—a previous FYI episode available on the GoCast Network is listed as only having four views. But that is exactly the appeal of it, and the thing about FYI that works best.
To wrap up the show, Dmitri opened a package on the air. He had engaged in a bit of not-so-subtle foreshadowing about it earlier in the broadcast, so it was not all that surprising when it proved to be a baseball bat. It was, it turned out, the bat used by Robert Fick when recorded the final hit—a grand slam—at old Tiger Stadium.
And so onto more reminiscing from Fick and more ribbing from Jeff Weaver. “Jesus, Rob,” he said, “it’s not like Gibby’s World Series home run.” And that was that.
I still don’t know what the hope for the show is. I still can’t believe MLB is okay with something this unsanctioned, and potentially this radically off-message, although I'm not sure to what extent MLB's opinion might matter. And I still have no idea who Brick is. This might just be my problem, but I really would like to find out.