I love The Bob Emergency. The premise of the two-part series by Secret Base sounds ridiculous on the surface. Why would anyone spend ninety-four minutes watching two videos that are essentially an abbreviated survey of all the Bobs who have ever played a sport?

Trying to describe the series to other people has not been easy. It’s too reductive. It’s about all the Bobs who played sports, but that doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of what it’s actually about.

One thing it’s actually not is a survey. Jon Bois, the creative behind the project, who is behind other brilliant series like Pretty Good, 17776, Dorktown, and other Chart Parties like this one, doesn’t monotonously list off every single Bob who played a sport like a graduation list. 

Sometimes, the Bob in focus is of no importance. Bois spends the first minute introducing Bob Hamelin, whose main appeal is his lack of appeal.

Other times, Bois draws attention to Bobs with coinciding stories, like pitchers and teammates Feller and Lemon who had ascents to stardom that couldn’t have differed more. 

​​“What did we learn? Absolutely nothing, less than nothing. That’s just the way I like it,” Bois says after spending a minute and a half on Feller’s fastball. In a way, this could act as the thesis of the series. 

And after watching The Bob Emergency Part I, I’d almost agree with it. Up until the final story of Part I, all we’ve learned is that the name itself has dramatically declined in sports, with only nine left at the time of its release, and that the only commonality Bobs share is the name itself. While the former is interesting trivia, people have a fundamental understanding that shared names don’t necessitate shared traits. 

The final Bob of Part I, Bob Gibson, begins to move the needle. Gibson overcame childhood illness, poverty, and racist coaches in multiple sports who did everything they could to prevent him from succeeding to have a season so incredible in 1968 that Major League Baseball had to change its rules. 

Gibson’s a pitching legend, whose statistical legacy I understood far before I could even begin to grasp the depth of what he overcame to get there. 

But Gibson’s story is just the segue to what I think makes The Bob Emergency so potent. It’s a story from the same year I’d never heard of, in a sport I’ve never paid attention to. 

After an encore of sorts to begin Part II, which tells of Gibson’s final act of 1968—a record-holding World Series performance—we move to the long jump.

I know nothing about the long jump. When trying to explain the story to my housemate a few months after watching it for the first time, I incorrectly said the record was 8.9 feet, which makes no sense at all. 

I had never heard of Bob Beamon before, either.

I think Bois knew this would be most of his audience. Instead of explaining the intricacies of the sport, he merely lays out a measuring stick, introduces the first recording of the sport, and each subsequent record, plotted on the stick. 

It’s not the fact that Bob Beamon, the subject Bob for this story, shatters the world record by over a foot and a half (spoiler) that makes this story compelling. It’s not the mind-blowing reveal accompanied by the song “Zero Gravity” by Richard Philip Birdsall, either. It’s everything that happens to get him there.

I’ve spoiled the ending, but I don’t want to spoil the middle. I highly recommend you experience that bit for yourself. 

 

The reason I love The Bob Emergency, especially the second part, is not just because of the wacky Google Earth animated visuals or the stupid stories in between, like Bob Sura’s failed quest for three straight triple-doubles. It’s the Bobs themselves.

It’s Beamon writing “How must I be lonely? / Why can’t you love and want me / Until the end of time?” the same year he smashes a world record that lasts for decades. 

As Bois draws the curtains to the video, revealing the final nine remaining Bobs, I almost feel a sadness that is akin to the loss of a loved one, which is strange. The sports still exist. Names trend up and down all the time. It’s weird to mourn the loss of a name. The only person mourning the name Rosebud is Charles Foster Kane.

But it’s the stories that are attached to the name that make me feel sad they’re fading. Bob Beamon’s still alive, but Lemon, Feller, Gibson, Armstrong have completed stories now.  

Perhaps the reason I love The Bob Emergency is because, in the strangest way, it reminds me to appreciate the things we have while they’re still here.

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