Sunday, July 31, 2016

The parallels between Matt Kemp and Adam Sandler

In a world not too long ago, Adam Sandler was arguably the most popular movie star in the world. He burst onto the silver screen in the mid-90’s with hit films like Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore. Those films helped transform the New Hampshire-born actor into a comedic box office force. 

In 1998, Sandler started in The Waterboy, his first $100-million film. Between 1998 and 2011, Sandler started in 11 films that grossed at least $100 million, despite most critics despising the work he did. Still, the fans came out in droves, hungry for fart and boob jokes and Sandler acting like a goofball.  

With the success of his films came the large paychecks. Most celebrity net worth websites list Sandler’s net worth in the neighborhood of $300 million. At one point in time, Sandler was probably the most beloved celebrity amongst teenagers and young adults. I can attest to that -- Sandler movies became a guaranteed night out with my friends. We used to quote lines in each film and laugh like babies. “Veronica Vaughn, so hot, want to touch the hiney. OHHHHWOOOOO!!” Comedic. Freaking. Genius. 

Then when I hit my mid-20’s something changed. Sandler lost his appeal. He got old, fat and kind of stale. He was making the same exact jokes in 2011 that he made in 1996. The man played the exact same characters in every film. There was the movie where he got to “hook up” with Brooklyn Decker AND Jennifer Aniston in the same film. That’s My Boy is a cinematic masterpiece that involves a dorky Sandler impregnating the high school teacher, then reconnecting with his rich son. Oh, there’s also some insect jokes in there for good measure. Both plots were ridiculously unbelievable. It...it wasn’t funny. In fact, I walked out of the theater thinking my love affair with Adam Sandler was over. It was time to bury him in the time capsule of my life. I’d place his films next to my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys, my Discman and the first adult magazine I found in my buddy’s dad’s drawer. No more, I said. 

After 15 years, Sandler no longer seemed relevant to me. I still love the films I saw as a teenager but I was pretty sure I would never pay to see one of his films again. He is a has-been and no longer cares about making a quality film for his audience. Hell, he has even admitted to making films just to hang out with his buddies. Peter Dante and Allen Covert has sucked at the Sandler tit for the better part of 20 years. Well, looks like the cash cow is dryer than a California summer. 

In 2006, Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp made his big league debut. He was a giant outfielder -- 6’4 and 230 lbs and man, he could run like a gazelle. The athletic outfielder also could hit balls with authority and as much as I hated the Dodgers, Kemp looked to be the next superstar Padres fans would love to hate. 

In 2011, Kemp was basically the best player in baseball. He led the National League with 39 homers and 126 RBI. He stole 40 bases and his OPS+ of 172 was the best in the league. The man was an offensive force and should have won MVP. The man looked like he could be this generation’s next great slugger. He signed an 8-year, $160 million contract after that incredible season. Kemp talked about winning championships and making all-star teams. Instead of greatness, the Dodgers got a rapid decline. 

Kemp missed a lot of time in 2012 and 2013 with various injuries. He dealt with ankle and shoulder problems and his athleticism seemed to be sapped from his body. Kemp was no longer the dynamic player he once was -- in fact he wasn’t really an average player anymore. The Dodgers had seen enough. 

On December 18, 2014, the Los Angeles Dodgers traded Matt Kemp to the San Diego Padres for catcher Yasmani Grandal, and minor league pitchers Zach Eflin and Joe Wieland. The Dodgers paid the Padres $32 million to take Kemp off their hands. It was staggering. 

Yeah, I’ll admit, I drank the Matt Kemp Kool-Aid. I remember the Matt Kemp that used to be a physical specimen, the one that looked like a sure-fire Hall of Famer. I saw my team actually acquire big league talent instead of shipping it off to an actual contender. I salivated over a Kemp, Justin Upton, and Wil Myers led team. I remembered the dark days of watching Brad Hawpe and Orlando Hudson hitting in the middle of the order. The Padres were going for it, and it was fun, dammit. Shortly into the season, the optimism and excitement started to fade. Matt Kemp ain’t what he used to be. 

Kemp, now 31, couldn’t really run much. For most of the 2015 season, he couldn’t hit either. He had one homer through 56 games. He didn’t draw walks, he couldn’t play the outfield and really was a sub-replacement level player. To be brutally honest: he sucked. It was like watching Grown-Ups 2 all over again. Only this time the movie was six months long. 

The one thing that Kemp did was get fans excited. The casual fan remembered that he used to be good. Yes, the man eventually drove in 100 runs and hit 23 homers but he didn’t do much else. The women loved him and he was a box-office draw. There is value in name recognition. People bought up his jerseys and cheered him on. Kemp was good once, they thought, perhaps he will find the magic than made him arguably the best player in baseball at one time. Kemp never did in San Diego. 

In 2014, after his latest box-office flop, Adam Sandler signed an exclusive four-movie deal with Netflix. The thought was probably “Sandler used to relevant. Someone out there may pay us $8 a month to see him play a ukulele and jerk off a horse. Let’s make some money!” 

Low and behold, the two movies Sandler made for Netflix thus far have been critically panned. I am not sure if the company has increased their profits by inking Sandler but it doesn’t seem that likely. Sandler’s days of making America laugh are long over.

In this analogy, the San Diego Padres were Netflix. They attempted to take the fading star and hope he would propel an mundane team into the limelight. San Diego’s foray into high-spending failed miserably. It was a disappointment, for sure, as I was certain the Padres could nab a Wild-Card berth. Kemp was supposed to be the leader of that box-office smash. Instead the blended mix of players failed like Sandler’s movie Blended. Hey, let’s see him pursue and try to nail Drew Barrymore AGAIN. Box-office gold! 

Kemp returned to San Diego this season and once again, hit homers, but couldn’t do anything else. Kemp couldn’t beat the Friar mascot in 40-yard dash. He legs are shot and he is no longer dynamic. Still, the man can hit dingers, is handsome and used to be good. Could it be plausible that the rebuilding Padres could easily trade the once-amazing Kemp to bevy of contenders looking for that extra bat to propel them to a championship, right? Wrong. 

The Padres traded the corpse of Matt Kemp to the Atlanta Braves for Hector Oliveria, a 31-year-old Cuban who is currently serving an 82-game suspension for domestic violence. San Diego, wanting no part of a potential convicted felon, will designate Oliveria for assignment and eventually release him. 

San Diego’s part in the trade was motivated financially, as they will trim some money and “save” about $25 million. The Dodgers will continue to pay $3.5 million for the duration of the contract and the Padres will take on the approximate $30 million owed to Oliveria. 

So, to sum things up: Kemp was once an MVP candidate, now he is only tradeable to a last-place team for a guy who beats women. Quite the fall from grace for a man who used to romance Rihanna. The Padres essentially sold Kemp to Atlanta, hoping to open right field for younger and almost certainly less-handsome ballplayers. To see Kemp smile is to see an unfinished symphony from Mozart. The ladies love him. 

The parallels between Adam Sandler and Matt Kemp are staggering. In their prime, they were both big stars who commanded the adulation of their respective fanbases. Now, both starts seem to be going through the motions, both going where a causal fan will never find them. Sandler hasn’t done a studio film since Pac-Man tried to have him murdered and Kemp went from Los Angeles to San Diego to an Atlanta team that is in tank-mode. 


Both men were once at the top of their respective professions but now? They are wasting away, shells of what they once were. The public eye is a ruthless bitch.