Notre Dame sophomore quarterback Everett Golson will take the field for his 3rd game as the Irish starter at 8:00 pm Eastern on Saturday night. Three hours & thirty-five minutes later, Saturday Night Live’s Jay Pharoah will take the stage in his 3rd season at Studio 8H in New York City – his first playing President Barack Obama. The athlete and the comedian have shown flashes of brilliance in their young careers. Both replaced established veterans who had experienced success in their coveted roles and both benched players are still on the roster. The lights are about to get much brighter – are they both ready as prime time players?
We find Everett and Jay’s career trajectories sitting on a launch pad for September 15, 2012. Heisman’s, commercials, movies, ESPN appearances, relevancy, fame, fortune, and validation are some of the things awaiting one or both of these young men if success can be found with their performances tonight. Failure by any standards will result in second guessing of experienced leaders and likely prove a turning point in highly anticipated seasons for their entire teams. Does this make sense to anyone? Let me explain:
Jay Pharoah = Everett Golson.
Everett Golson = Jay Pharoah
Fred Armisen = Tommy Rees
Brian Kelly = Lorne Michaels
Playing against #10 Michigan State on the road in prime-time on ABC = Playing the President of the United States during Election Season on Saturday Night Live
Fred Armisen and Tommy Rees have helmed the marquee position at their respective institutions and both enjoyed measured success. Armisen’s Barack Obama impression has always been passable in the same vein of a Tommy Rees’s performances: More often than not it left fans wondering, “It can be better than this … right?” Tommy showed Irish fans during last week’s game-winning drive against Purdue where his value lies and Armisen will do the same for improv faithful week in and week out of SNL’s 38th season. Armisen may even close Saturday’s episode with the performance of the night and it shouldn’t surprise.
If Notre Dame loyalists perceived Brian Kelly suspending and benching junior-to-be Tommy Rees and his 12-4 career record a difficult task, just imagine Lorne Michaels ripping the most coveted role in Election Season from Armisen after a decade on the team. Tough times call for tough decision. This blogger has advocated the moves strongly and loudly for over a year. My first career post on any site ever detailed the need for Jay Pharoah to rise into POTUS on SNL with express written ways to make it happen. Notre Dame fans of mine likely tuned into a full five round debate in July of Everett Golson’s benefits over those of Tommy Rees. Did these moves make me happy? You’re damn right!
The room for error by both of these young men is small and not because the task daunting. For those claiming Golson faces more pressure and backlash if he doesn’t perform well I pose a question “Who played John Kerry on SNL during the 2004 Presidential Election Season and who played Sarah Palin in 2008?” You know you know who played Palin because Tina Fey drove some of the greatest ratings in show history and in some ways defined the election. Seth Meyers portrayed John Kerry back in 2004 against Will Forte’s George W. Bush in sketches few remember and fewer downloaded and e-mailed Sunday morning. Jay Pharoah’s rise as Obama will define SNL’s ratings and impact for the next 3 months. He cannot fail here or his job and future as a comic will be in serious jeopardy. Pharoah’s impression is fantastic. Will the writing and content be?
Everett Golson is the answer at quarterback in South Bend and Jay Pharoah is the answer as our fake hilarious President. Both roles have been filled by legends of the fall who springboarded that success towards transcendent careers. Joe Montana, Chevy Chase, Terry Hanratty, Dan Akroyd, Tony Rice, Dana Carvey, Paul Hornung, Darrell Hammond, Brady Quinn & Will Ferrell present a sampling of names you might recall. Tonight both players take another step towards adding their names to that distinguished list.
Finally – YES, this is a younger more talented black player passing an older more experienced white teammate in the name of progress.
Editor’s Note: If I’m to guess who is buzzing bigger Sunday morning after great performances I’d give a lean to Pharoah. Seth MacFarlane hosts the SNL Season Premiere and if there’s a human more tailored to blow this show out of the stratosphere it’s the creator of Family Guy. The assist in Week 1 by MacFarlane could lead to more SNL sketches in your e-mail Inboxes than you could ever remember and Pharaoh could ride that wave into the biggest year of his career. Golson and the Irish could win on Saturday without a banner game and this Notre Dame would be ecstatic. His future is bright now and later.
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