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Brian Wilson: Getting to Know 'The Machine' and Baseball's Personality

Oct 26, 2010 – 10:15 PM
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Tom Lorenzo

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Brian WilsonMaybe we don't have the sexiest World Series matchup this year, with the Yankees and Phillies both rolling over to the Rangers and Giants, respectively. But from a baseball perspective you can't deny the many storylines. You have the premier pitching matchup between Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee, the great Josh Hamilton "comeback" story, young talent like Buster Posey and Elvis Andrus, an unlikely hero in Cody Ross, and Bengie Molina being guaranteed a World Series ring regardless of the outcome.

Quite possibly the coolest story, however, is the emergence of Giants closer Brian Wilson as a mainstream cult figure. Giants fans know all too well just what a great personality Wilson possesses. He may be the most entertaining player in baseball. And with the Giants taking their game to the main stage, Wilson is starting to become popular among even the most casual of baseball fans.

Wilson remains as one of the top trending World Series topics on Google as we head into Game 1 on Wednesday night. It's not because fans want to know more about a closer who led the majors with 48 saves this season. People want to know more about the beard, the ninja lifestyle, and, of course, "The Machine."


FanHouse at the World Series: Krasovic | Price | Hickey
Scouting Report | Viewer's Guide

The Giants drafted Wilson in the 24th round of the 2003 amateur draft. He has been the team's primary closer since 2008, having saved 127 games for the team since then. Wilson's on-field performance has made him a household name among the most ardent of baseball fans. His antics off the field, however, have become legendary on YouTube, and in an era when most baseball players are void of mainstream recognition for their dynamic personality and full-bodied facial hair, Wilson has a chance to stand out as the most entertaining player in Major League Baseball.

Great YouTube Moments


'The Machine' interrupts an interview
This first clip comes from a "Cheap Seats" interview Wilson did with FOX Sports' Chris Rose. I don't think Rose really knew what he was getting into. Sure, he probably knew that Wilson was a fun interview which is why he started the segment by comparing Wilson to a llama with a mohawk. You could almost see that Wilson knew he had Rose hook, line and sinker. What followed is almost too good to be true.

At about the 41-second mark of this video we are informally introduced to "The Machine." I'd like to describe him for you, but you should probably just see him for yourself.

What's great about Wilson is that he plays it semi-cool, even as Rose amps up the seemingly faux outrage. He went from "you can't do that to me" to "that is like getting hit in the neck with a baseball" to "I need a medic" in a matter of minutes. Wilson still plays it as if he has no idea what Rose is talking about. On a comedic scale, he hit the right notes. Maybe he shouldn't have smiled so much, but still I appreciate the great effort put out by Wilson.

For those who are looking for a little background on "The Machine," his origins come from a Nicolas Cage film called "8MM" (Eight Millimeter). Without getting too in-depth into what the film is about, it can be summed up by this simple tagline: Some doors should never be opened.

One of the memorable quotes from "The Machine" character in this film almost seems to explain Wilson's actions succinctly. "There's no mystery. Things I do, I do them because I like them! Because I want to!"

This second video may be one of my favorite all-time interviews with a professional athlete. It portrays Wilson as, get this, human. He is who he is. We don't get any 'stock quotes' or any stale conversation. He's comfortable with who he is. It's quite refreshing. The conversation begins with Jim Rome asking him a simple introductory question, "What's up with you, man?" Wilson doesn't dive into talk about his performance on the field or simply answer "I'm great, Jim. Thanks for having me." His response, imagine this, is natural and true to who Wilson is.


Brian Wilson on 'Rome Is Burning'
"Just living another day, my man," he says to Rome. He then proceeds to tell Rome about how easy The New York Times crossword puzzle is for him and describes in detail the omelet he had for breakfast. There was some "weird sausage deal" with the omelet that Wilson "didn't even think about attacking."

Even when Wilson and Rome actually talk about baseball, Wilson still finds a way to make it sound entertaining. Why did he become a reliever? Because he didn't want to collect balls for an hour and a half after batting practice while playing in Low-A ball. Wilson then talks about his major-league debut in which he injured himself, yet remained in the game. "Red Bull time!" This is where he almost turns into your average baseball player and admits that he wanted to get back out there because you don't get many opportunities like this in your life.

Correct statement: Wilson is a certified ninja. He completed a lifetime of ninja courses in 12 minutes. It happened in a dream. I guess that's why he refers to himself as a "mental assassin." He even goes into talking about the fine he received from Major League Baseball for wearing orange cleats. The only explanation for the fine is that he had "too much awesome" on his feet. This interview is filled with way too much awesome for my ears.

It concludes with our second reference to "The Machine." Wilson takes out his vintage cellphone to take a call from his leather-clad friend. It's simply just another calculated effort on his part to add some personality to the game of baseball. A welcome addition.

After the Giants clinched the NLCS, Chris Rose turned up again and so too did a reference to the pain-inducing character in Rose's life, as Wilson promised another "Machine" appearance during the World Series (click to watch). Rose obviously doesn't want any part of this, saying that we don't need to take "The Machine" to national television. Wilson is once again composed, while Rose plays into his hands.


Life of Brian: Trying Room Service
This past June, Wilson debuted his own reality television show on the Bay Area's Comcast Sports Network. I'll admit that I've only watched clips of the show, but my initial reaction after watching him talk about ordering room service is that he might have "jumped the shark." A lot of the clips I watched seemed a little contrived. I did like his heartfelt goodnight and the way that he never seemed to drift off of character. But to me, this particular clip is indeed a character and not necessarily the real Brian Wilson. I would have preferred that his actions were caught on tape more organically and not him simply turning on and off the camera to rant about not being able to get food.

"Hello room service... lady," won me over a little. I'll have to admit that.

Wilson's show is no longer on the air and I believe that's a wise decision. To equate Wilson to Gilbert Arenas of the Washington Wizards (pre-gun-toting days) is a pretty fair analogy. What Wilson and Arenas do best is react and not self-edit. Arenas is a bit of a different situation because he is in a league with many visible personalities, while Wilson stands out amongst his peers. But if there is some advice that Wilson can take from Arenas, it's that sometimes less is more.


Best of Brian Wilson on 'Cheap Seats'
If you'd prefer a greatest hits all-encompassing YouTube clip, we have that for you as well. There are quite a few memorable moments, like when Wilson calls Rose a "foreign country" and when he breaks into some Billy Ocean while on the air. You might have to ignore Rose's performance on that one, but it's worth your time to get an idea of what Wilson is like on a regular basis.

He seems genuine and remains true to whatever you may believe he is. A genuine personality or a truly oddball act.

Memorable Quotes

Along with the many YouTube clips posted above, Wilson has had some memorable moments over the past year. One of which included getting a Twitter account for his beard. The account is described as the source for beard news and beard-related facts. For the most part, the account is rather tame, though it does make reference to some of the great quotes he's said over the years, such as referring to himself as the "mental assassin."

Wilson did manage to get himself into some trouble with a random tweet he posted while in Scottsdale, Arizona. He had posted on his account that he was encountering a few "overaggressive males at 1A.M. in the morning." His response to whatever the backlash was for the under-appreciated tweet was to shut down his Twitter account, which led to this quote:
"This Twitter crap, I've obviously got to stop because people are taking it too serious. My aspect of that is I write a bunch of stuff that's not true. It's made up. Obviously I'm not doing things like going toe-to-toe with a ninja. Find me a ninja, for one."
An act? Probably something he should have kept to himself.

Also on his reality television show we learned more about him being a ninja as he revealed five things we may or may not have known about him.
1. My IQ is 188. End of discussion. It's been proven. Certified genius.
2. Born originally in Massachusetts. Family's from south Boston, we're Irish. That's correct, Irish.
3. I enjoy Cholula hot sauce. That stuff is ridiculously good... pretty much the best hot sauce in the world.
4. Huge fan of the '80s. Was born in '82. Spent seven or eight years before the '90s ruined everything. So, big fan.
5. I'm a ninja.
After that list you may think we know more than enough about Wilson, but I think there's still a lot out there left to be learned. He's now taking his colorful personality from the Bay Area and thrusting it into the national spotlight. Should the Giants win or lose the World Series I'm sure we'll hear more from Wilson. He's not one to shy away from the microphone. Whether or not it's all an act means little to baseball. The good news is that Major League Baseball finally has a personality.

And that's all thanks to Brian Wilson.
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