I am writing this about twelve hours removed from reading 17776 for the first time. To some, this may seem like Bois’s most definitive work, considering the scale of the work and the reception it garners to this day. I’ve watched his works for years, whether on the SB Nation website or Youtube, but never took the deep dive into this grand-scale tale until recently. Hard to say why—a desire to enjoy easy-going, non-challenging content, or the pressure of gripping onto something that will guarantee some soul-searching by the end. By video game logic, it’s like preferring a few games of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe to the entirety of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
My love affair with Jon’s content started with Breaking Madden, a series dating back to 2013(?) that I discovered in early 2015. At this point, I had been seriously watching football for about three years, and Madden 11 was still a go-to game for me, so to see someone dedicated to obliterating the Madden franchise for the sake of blissful chaos, I was a fan before I witnessed a thing. I consumed everything that looked interesting—the viewer response to trivial questions to be placed within each episode(?), the random conditions that oftentimes broke the game, and the chronicles of BEEFTANK. T’was a magical time on the internet. But something happened that would shake the one-sided relationship I had formed with Jon’s content.
In the second-to-last episode he would ever make (probably), Jon made his opinion on the Washington professional football team’s name (removed out of respect for him and to make my past self angry) very clear. He “cried racism,” something my then-22-year-old-self-righteous-self immediately retorted “Oh FuCk OfF wHy Do YoU hAvE tO bRiNg PoLiTiCs InTo EvErYtHiNg!!!” It was ruined, damaged irreparably. The creator of my favorite binge series at the time was a “liberal cuck.” Almost ironic that Jon would produce only one more episode of the series (that I watched anyway) before moving on to other things, making it easy to forget he existed at all.
We shall now take a step forward. This step isn’t of traditional length that we all, as human beings, are accustomed to. With this step, we time travel, as words on a white screen allow us to do with a little imagination. Late 2017, maybe October, I don’t know. I am attending college (again) after taking a year-long break, assuming my life would drift aimlessly into the world of dead ambitions. The class was essentially “Sci-Fi Works 101,” which I enjoyed greatly looking back on it. My instructor assigned pieces to read each week to discuss in class, ranging from a few pages to short novels. Take a guess on which ones I typically read.
One week in particular, a name shows up among the listed authors to read: Jon Bois. It was 17776. Almost two years removed from Breaking Madden, I barely recognized his name, with the sight only ringing a tiny bell in the back of my mind. It wasn’t until later in the day that I looked it up and, what do you know, it’s the guy who did Breaking Madden. I wouldn’t read 17776 for that class (I read the first chapter and saw the multiple following chapters and thought, “Ahh… work…”), but it would re-introduce me to the man that has provided countless hours of insight for my developing creative ambition.
Since then, there isn’t much that Jon has created that I haven’t watched, whether it be the Pretty Good series, Chart Party, Dorktown, or short written excerpts about random sports things. His signature style of taking the absurd or uncanny and providing residual captivation through relatable perspectives and humorous commentary is something that is rare to find in the everyday content creator. This isn’t to say humorous commentary or emotional captivation aren’t found in a number of people; the rarity is seeing it together… revolving around sports.
And this is from the viewpoint of someone who, prior to Bois-content-consumption, only cared about football. Jon has done videos on football, baseball, video games (Madden series), poker, TV shows (24), MMA, basketball, and included elements of track & field, the Olympic Games, golf, and all sorts of other sports Americans don’t care about. And he got me to care about all of them. Not in general (I don’t have that amount of time), but in those individual moments. In an isolated spectrum of time and space, lasting between mere seconds and hours-long, I am a bonafide, undisputed sports fan.
I was going to use this space to include a comment on a Jon Bois video that I think spectacularly explains what makes Jon’s content so engaging, but unfortunately, I can no longer find it. To paraphrase (the hell out of it), Jon has a way of creating importance to things otherwise seen as trivial. His generally benign and occasionally absurd subject matter is made to be an astounding, world-bending topic rich with intrigue. A knack for re-inventing the world into a scope where even the smallest, most inconsequential details matter on equal scale to all else. All to the tune of smooth jazz and shitty Google Maps aesthetic.
For me, personally, his videos satisfy a variety of different prompts which I tend to gravitate towards in forms of entertainment. Empowering, informative, analytic, emotional, and unforgettable. These are all adjectives I would use to describe Jon’s work, especially in the past couple years. Since his days on Breaking Madden, I sense that his craft has evolved to be more structured and sentimental. In reading 17776, I could see similar word usage and sentence structure as during The Bob Emergency videos, his latest work (as of typing this). Humor was always a key component, but more than that, his videos have become more empathetic and inspiring from a humanistic standpoint. I can guarantee that I will never forget the name “Bob Beamon” thanks to Jon Bois.
The temptation to make multiple joke-references to Jon’s works was enormous throughout this post, but I think beyond the desire for humor is the gratitude of showcasing thorough talent and stories for the world to see. My motivation to create ebbs ferociously depending on my mood, an issue with lacking self-discipline. Watching his work—no matter what it is—inspires me. It makes me want to create, to tell stories that are buried within my subconscious that I could mold into something interesting and unique. That is the type of content which is well worth my time, your time, and the universe’s time. With all else said, the only thing left is my gratitude:
Thank you for your time. Have a great day.