Like most sports fans of my certain age, I owe a lot of my pop cultural understanding of sports to Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann. Their SportsCenters were literate, funny and surreal; they didn't just make sports seem cool … for a brief time, they actually made dorky, white broadcasters in ties seem cool. (A very brief time.) I was in college when they were in their heyday, and their show was so entertaining my roommate, who didn't even like sports, never missed it. Like all great innovations, it felt like they were getting away with something.
Their pairing didn't last nearly as long as I remember it lasting -- which will happen when you're in college -- but there isn't a moment, still, that seeing either guy doesn't bring it all back. (Watching Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole, the clear progeny of The Big Show, on Fox Sports Live does it sometimes, too.) They still get together sometimes, and they're both obviously doing terrific on their own (Olbermann's ESPN show is solid nightly, and Patrick might have the best national sports radio show ever), but those of us who never, ever skipped a Big Show will always have good feelings when we think about them. It was a high time -- for them, for ESPN.
One of my favorite byproducts of the Big Show era, though -- and one of the only real lasting impressions, considering the interchangeable talk bots on most highlight shows now -- is the inexplicable acting career of Dan Patrick. You see, among the throngs of people watching SportsCenter over and over back in 1994 was Adam Sandler. He was 28 years old back then and a cast member on Saturday Night Live but not near the movie star he would become and somehow remain for nearly two decades. And, as Patrick put it: "Sandler was just a fan on SportsCenter, and then I ran into him, and he just said he was gonna put me in Waterboy and after that I've been in [the] others."
And he's not kidding: With the release of Blended -- Sandler's new "movie" with Drew Barrymore opening tomorrow -- Patrick has now been in nine Adam Sandler movies. In The Waterboy he played himself, but since then, he has portrayed characters as diverse as "Cop," "NY Cop," "Officer Jack Pugh" and "Norby the Ride Guy." Sandler is famous for making movies with his friends sort of just so they can hang out -- and make millions of dollars -- but his constant casting of Patrick (who has only three other movie acting credits, in The House Bunny, The Benchwarmers and, depressingly, the upcoming Entourage movie) is the closest thing Sandler has to a directorial signature. Dan Patrick is to Adam Sandler, basically, what Alfred Hitchcock cameos were to Alfred Hitchcock.
I'll confess: I think Adam Sandler's movies, on the whole, are pretty terrible. (With the exception of Happy Gilmore, which makes me laugh like a loon every time. The ones he makes with his friends are just wretched on the whole, but it's worth noting that his occasional dabbles with legitimate directors like James L. Brooks, Judd Apatow and especially Paul Thomas Anderson have shown Sandler to be more talented -- and, most surprisingly, more ambitious -- than his slapdash comedies would imply. There are serious critics who disagree with me on this.) But I've seen all of them, and I'll see Blended, too. At this point, the Dan Patrick cameos are a private joke between Sandler and his most loyal audience. I have no idea what the joke is, but I chuckle to myself each time, anyway.
Now, just because I've seen all of Patrick's cameos doesn't mean I remember all of them, and there aren't clips for all of them. I'm going to do my best to rank them all, regardless. I'll leave out Blended -- in which I'm told Patrick plays the boyfriend of Drew Barrymore's best friend, and Sandler's boss -- and just go with the eight on the public record.
8. Jack and Jill. Role: "Party Guest."
For my money, the absolute worst of Adam Sandler's movies -- it is possible he made it because he lost a bet -- Patrick only shows up briefly and has no lines. Apparently he had a larger role that was trimmed from the film, which was amazing, because I had no idea anyone edited these movies.
7. The Waterboy. Role: "Dan Patrick."
His first gig for Sandler, he's just playing himself here. You could even argue Brent Musburger and Dan Fouts each have a bigger role. Sandler would not make that mistake again.
6. Grown Ups. Role: "Norby the Ride Guy."
I can't find any clips of this one -- just this still and I honestly don't remember his scene. It certainly can't compare with what Patrick would do in his cameo in the sequel to this film. (You've been warned.) Note: This is actually the movie Patrick was filming when he -- presumably to humiliate us … successfully -- had A.J. Daulerio and me fill in on his radio show five years ago.
5. Grown Ups 2. Role: "Gym Teacher."
He's dressed up as Larry Bird here and … something happens. This is probably more Dan Patrick than you ever thought to ask for.
4. I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry. Role: "Cop."
Sandler seems to like to cast Patrick with a mustache when he has him play cops. I'm not sure why: Maybe Sandler doesn't know mustaches are more for hipsters than cops now? Anyway, Patrick's cop is kind of a dick here. (Also: "Gayanese" sounds more like a condiment than a language.)
3. That's My Boy. Role: "Randall Morgan."
Patrick plays a sleazy television producer, something I'm certain was based on no one he had ever worked with in his entire life. This is probably the best Sandler movie Patrick has been in, which sort of lets you know how low we're setting the bar here.
2. The Longest Yard. Role: "Officer Jack Pugh."
This seems to be his meatiest role, with the most tender emoting. He also is the man who sets the whole plot into motion by sending Sandler to jail in the first place. Lots of dialogue here, Dan!
1. Just Go With It. Role: "Tanner Patrick."
Patrick's movie career never felt more surreal than when he was an emcee at a dance contest between Jennifer Aniston and Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman. I have no doubt that when Kidman receives her lifetime achievement award, they will show the scene when she grabs the microphone away from Dan Patrick and he makes her do a game that, in his house, they call "Coconut Smoochie." (That's some sort of house, Dan.)
All told: No matter how silly all of this may be, Patrick's clearly has a ball getting to do this, and why wouldn't he? We would all be delighted to do the same thing. (Olbermann's secretly jealous, no question.) So get out there and see Patrick as "Dick" in Blended. We as a society get the Hitchcock cameos we deserve.