Glory Days: New ‘The Biggest Loser’ Features Ex-Athletes Gone to Seed
Hashtag-America in hashtag-2014 is a place where you can turn on your TV and watch former athletes who are now way out of shape wear jerseys emblazoned with their respective weights — 366, 388, 263, 301, you get the idea — as personal trainers exhort them to lift medicine balls and run on treadmills.
And better yet: It’s all for your viewing pleasure! Because you are an American citizen and this is why we fight the wars, baby.
The 16th season of NBC’s The Biggest Loser premieres Thursday at 8 p.m. ET and orbits around a storied sports trope: The ex-athlete gone to seed. Included in the cast of 20 contestants who will compete to lose the most weight are mostly former high school and semi-pro athletes you probably won’t recognize.
Then there are the big names: Zina Garrison, who won a gold medal in tennis at the 1988 Olympics and made the 1990 Wimbledon singles final; Lori Harrigan-Mack, owner of three Olympic gold medals and the first softball player in Olympic history to pitch a no-hitter; Damien Woody, a two-time Super Bowl champ and 12-year NFL veteran; and Scott Mitchell, who played 12 years as an NFL quarterback and used to hand the ball off to Barry Sanders.
Appropriately enough, NBC calls the season “Glory Days,” which brings us to the Bruce Springsteen interlude portion of this post. We’ll now let the Boss take it away with his 1984 hit.
Now there’s a video that’s aged well. Here are a few particularly notable moments:
When Bruce dusts off home plate at 0:15 and you know it’s about to go down.
When Steven Van Zandt does his weirdo wiggle-dance at 0:45 while looking like Keith Richards and Johnny Depp’s long-lost pirate brother.
That old-school TV set at 1:31. The way we once lived, right? So primitive.
The part at 2:20 with Bruce ruminatin’ about the ole glory days on the ole construction job site while pensively grippin’ an orange as if it’s a baseball.
Patti Scialfa’s inspired tambourine playing on the backbeat from about 2:43 to 2:55.
That money shot of Little Steven’s zebra-print guitar — that’s right, zebra-print guitar — at 4:18.
During the coda, The Boss’ teeth-clenched patois and workin’-man swag-walk. Such Bruce, very Springsteen.
Anyway, back to the matter at hand: The Biggest Loser, Season 16! Here’s Scott Mitchell in his playing days, wearing his number 19 jersey for the Miami Dolphins.
Miami Dolphins Scott Mitchell (19) gets the ball away from linebacker Darryl Talley (56) of the Buffalo Bills defense, Dec. 19, 1993, at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami.
Image: Jeffrey Boan/Associated Press
Now here’s Scott Mitchell wearing his number 366 jersey for The Biggest Loser.
Mitchell is up about 130 pounds since his playing day, according to this interview, while Woody has put on nearly 50 pounds. Woody, it must be noted, also once sported his New York Jets jersey and a kilt in a fashion show for charity, leading to this amazing photo that looks like the byproduct of some weird ménage à trois between Braveheart, Run DMC and NFL football.
NFL player Damien Woody attends the 7th Annual ‘Dressed To Kilt’ charity fashion show to kick off Tartan Week in 2009 in New York.
Image: Evan Agostini/Associated Press
Both Mitchell and Woody mention in their show bios that a primary motivation to shed pounds is becoming healthier for their kids. Other overweight contestants on the show have similarly poignant stories about gaining pounds and wanting to lose them. They’ll be guided along on the show by host Allison Sweeney and a quartet of trainers.
Given the stakes for many of the show’s once-athletic contestants — happiness, even life and death — expect some inspiring moments.
It might even be entertaining at times. It might get inspiring, it might get depressing. It will definitely get weird. You might find yourself on the couch saying, “What am I doing here?” The people being beamed into your living room will probably be asking themselves the same thing.
Then again, all of the above applies to most of reality TV in general. And Hashtag-America, too. What a time to be alive!