Stephen A. Smith has made a nice television career out of yelling at ESPN viewers, but what happens when viewers yell at him? That’s what happened at the 2006 NBA Draft, when Martin Bell, Brian Hughes and Pat Stango (along with some of their other friends) decided to heckle Smith, film it, post it to YouTube, and submit it to Deadspin (where founding editor Will Leitch loved it), and the Stephen A. Smith Heckling Society of Gentlemen was born. 10 years later, it’s worth looking back at how they got there, how Smith got there, and where things went for both afterwards, but let’s start with the signature part of that year’s first heckling, something that would eventually be referenced by everyone from Tony Kornheiser to Kevin Love: Stephen A.’s decision to eat mid-draft Cheez Doodles.

Martin Bell: Everyone was sort of trying to stretch for time. The big important people had already gotten drafted and SAS was just going at these Cheez Doodles during a commercial break.

Pat Stango: At that point, we’re not getting any response from him. It’s not like he is talking to us, so any time we could latch onto anything specific that felt so funny to us. And he did it a few times… It would be one thing if he just was eating like a little thing of nuts or something less “big.” Cheez Doodles just seemed like such a ridiculous thing to keep going to all the time. It’s just a crazy color and disgusting, and you’re all watching him having to constantly wipe his hands, because that is what Cheez Doodles do. It’s a snack you can’t really hide very well. And he was trying to do it in such a sly way, like, “No one is going to notice I’m eating this gross food and my hands are getting dirty every time I touch it.”

Brian Hughes: The Cheez Doodles thing really took off. I mean, it’s soooo ridiculous and mundane. These human beings, they are onstage for like four hours. Jay Bilas is talking about upside and length like nobody’s business…people need things to do during commercial breaks while they are doing their makeup…and SAS really likes Cheez Doodles. And that shouldn’t be funny. And yet, it’s hilarious! To watch this ridiculous caricature of a person pop bright orange snack food into his mouth. The 60 seconds between analyzing NBA draft picks. There would be times when he would acknowledge us or other people in the crowd, there would be small interactions there. The Cheez Doodles thing was definitely what was the highlight in terms of his non-commentary performance.

Will Leitch: To see them pick up on him just eating these really disgusting… I assume that he eats better now. Because he hasn’t gained like 400 pounds in the last eight years.  I assume he’s taking better care of himself than eating the Cheez Doodles. Also, how awful must that have been on set?! Because someone has to clean this up! Some poor production assistant has to wipe off the tables and SAS’s hands. …Since then, I’ve done TV myself and I can’t imagine a more inconvenient food to have on a TV set than Cheez Doodles! You generally don’t want to be eating on set anyway, but you definitely don’t want to be eating a thing that leaves a lingering refuse, not only all over everywhere, but on your hands. Dealing with your makeup and your need to move places! The idea to be eating that…

How did we get to a point where NBA fans were yelling at Smith about his Cheez Doodles and, quite frankly, turning him into a meme? It all started in 2002, when a group of guys who had been friends since high school decided to go to the NBA Draft for the first time…

Part I: Why not heckle Tom Tolbert? >>>


About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.

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