There is the journalism that, say, Dexter Filkins does, and then there is the journalism that Joe Posnanski does, and then there is the thing that these emails—from a public relations firm with Some Exciting News and a Unique Opportunity, and then (oddly) from Shoals and Eric—kept asking me to do. The first of those is the sort of in-depth thing that can get one very badly hurt, and that can change minds; the second, which I also enjoy, is the sort of thing that provides a whole new perspective on Pro Bowl fullbacks as human beings. And the last one, the least of these, was some dude asking if perhaps, being as we were into sports over here at The Classical, and seeing that Betty Crocker was doing its Second Annual Betty Bracket to determine the ultimate Final Four-themed artery-constricting party snack recipe—anyway, seeing as all that was the case, he wondered if maybe we wouldn't want to talk to Mario Lopez, whose spokesdimple services Betty Crocker had procured for the contest.
The interview, presumably, could be about whatever we wanted it to be about. Mario's love for cooking and food; Mario's love for whimsical foodish heart-punch items of the cobbled-together-out-of-various-convenience-foods-and-submerged-in-oil-until-golden-brown variety. Personal grooming or the Affordable Care Act or that short-lived, baffling television show in which Mario teamed with one of the auxiliary Kardashians or like The Miz to shame civilians who were mean to that particular celebrity on the internet. (It would not, however, be about "Saved By The Bell," because Mario isn't here to talk about the past, he is here to talk about whimsical foodish etc.)
Anyway, that opportunity was out there. My peers here at The Classical encouraged me to do it. "You love garbage food," they told me, not unreasonably if not quite in so many words. "And if we're being honest this is probably the only opportunity you're likely ever to get to talk to Mario Lopez, which seems like the sort of thing you'd enjoy." I wasn't exactly insulted by this, but neither was I especially inspired to take the time to talk to Mario Lopez on the phone about 1) the importance of eating healthy and 2) the natural synergies between his personal brand and the Betty Crocker family of edible products.
I didn't do it, and today the email arrived announcing the winner of the bracket, with a Mario Lopez Q&A from which we were free to quote as liberally as needed on the topics covered therein—e.g. "My favorite Betty Bracket recipe, the Beer Queso Nachos, is a great recipe choice if you’re planning a college basketball viewing party with your friends. You can have fun with this recipe and make it your own" - Mario Lopez—and particular as regards the winning entry in the contest, which was a beer-battered, fully baconized grilled cheese sandwich. Or, as the press release put it, "America has spoken and we now know what party food everyone is looking to enjoy this weekend - a delicious comfort food recipe, complete with two special ingredients that American’s are loving right now: BEER AND BACON!" We would've had something to talk about.
What makes this winning sandwich unique? I would have but did not ask Mario Lopez. "Well," he might have but did not tell me, "it certainly isn't that it has beer in/on it, since that was a requirement of everything in the contest. Even the chocolate cakes all had stout in them or whatever. There was this one slider thing, which had this like viscous sort of sugar-slurry on it, that had both whiskey and beer. That one barely beat out the Double-Meat Dudewich, which thank God, I guess, because that could've been the end for a lot of things we hold dear. It was just a giant double-beef meat pile kind of jammed into an onion roll, I guess, and even in the professional-grade food photo of it, it looks like some sort accident happened inside the roll. It was like something Tom Savini would design.
"Anyway, speaking personally, me myself as an activist for celebrity rights and a host of various things, I probably wouldn't eat it. And also just knowing that, because I'm in a Crossfit group with Ryan Seacrest and Billy Bush, I'd be kind of letting not just myself but also them down if I ate something like this. It'd be like, 'you are supposed to be doing burpees with us, and you just ate like 3,750 calories worth of dairy so egregious that just reading the recipe for it makes the back of your neck get all clammy,' and I'd have to be like, 'you're right, Ryan, I let you and Billy down.'
"I suppose there's something about the sandwich that captures the imagination or makes it representative of something," Lopez would continue, "not so much because of what's in it but for the way that it exemplifies the bummer-generation possibilities of turning food into whatever this thing is. Not, like—I mean, I like bacon, I like beer, they're delicious. The bummer part for me would just be the idea of making a game out of it, taking the ridiculous historic plenty that we have living where we live and turning it into an excuse for ridiculous historic excess seemingly to spite the very idea that we shouldn't. The conflation of could and should in general, actually, and the way it makes children of us. And the way we are making ourselves sick, basically, because we can't or won't take seriously what it means to have this much." And I would have thanked him.