September 1, 2010

The Men Behind The Myths

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Ryan Wittman was signed by the Boston Celtics to help show Ray Allen how to shoot a basketball. Ryan Wittman is unaffected by the sound of vuvuzuelas. If Ryan Wittman was piloting Flight 815, that whole Lost thing would’ve never happened.

While the validity of these statements remains to be seen, one thing that is no longer up for debate is the identity of the men behind –– a site featuring dozens of Chuck Norris-esque myths dedicated to the most decorated member of Cornell basketball’s class of 2010.

Craig Kilgo and Adam Goldsmith, both class of ’07, were friends throughout their time at Cornell and currently work for the same contracting company, Irving Burton Associates, down in Washington D.C.

Although the two CALS graduates were not far removed from the University’s athletics scene –– Kilgo rowed at Cornell for at least 1.5 years while Goldsmith was “pretty heavily involved with Intramurals” –– they weren’t always big Cornell basketball fans.

As Goldsmith, who majored in Biometry and Statistics with a business minor, put it: “They weren’t very good.”

“I probably went to as many women’s basketball games,” admitted Kilgo, an AEM major. “I think as [the men] got better we would start to pick up.”

As for where the inspiration for a website devoted to “Completely True Facts about Cornell’s Ryan Wittman” came from, it all started with something Cornell students know quite well –– a gchat status.

“Craig had his status as ‘When Ryan Wittman shoots the ball, he doesn’t make the ball go through the rim, he makes the rim go around the ball’,” Goldsmith explained. “I replied with one, then he came up with another one, and then I did another one, and then we were like ‘Okay let’s just make a site.’ So since Craig is technologically proficient as I am not, he was able to create the site in like three hours.”

The webpage has since been recognized by all sorts of national and international media alike. In fact, the Italian press release detailing Wittman’s signing with Fulgor Libertas Forli included a mention of Goldsmith’s and Kilgo’s creation, as did an blog about him joining the New York Knicks in Sin City for the Las Vegas Summer League this past July.

Continued Kilgo, “We opened up a Google document and just tried to brainstorm 10 or 15 of his facts like in the style of Chuck Norris facts, obviously. And then it was pretty easy because I just had this idea of making it look kind of like a Cornell website. … You can actually go and grab a Cornell header from or something like that, so I did that … spruced it up a little bit and then we just started entering them in.”

While Kilgo was doing that, Goldsmith kept coming up with more facts, so that they had 20-25 by the time the site “went live” at about 3 p.m. on the Wednesday before Cornell played Kentucky at the Carrier Dome.

Goldsmith explained that both he and Kilgo watch the show SportsNation on ESPN2 and knew that host Michelle Beadle was a big Cornell fan; thus, when the program’s producers tweeted “Are you excited about Cornell’s chances tonight?” the morning of the Sweet 16, Goldsmith responded “I am, and I’m sure the people @wittmanfacts are, too.”

Later that day around noon, was announced as the site of the day on SportsNation.

“We went from an idea to national television in about 20 hours,” Goldsmith said.

The site’s corresponding Twitter account currently has 166 followers –– among them Jon Jaques ’10, Louis Dale ’10 and current men’s basketball senior Aaron Osgood.

When asked if they know Ryan personally or have had any correspondence with him, Goldsmith replied “No, not at all, we’ve never met him … our senior year he was a freshman.”

As far as their personal favorite Wittman facts go, Kilgo said that his favorite that he came up with is “Ryan Wittman doesn’t shoot from Ghana. He shoots from the Sudan”  –– a reference to Ron Shelton’s 1992 seriocomedy White Men Can’t Jump, starring Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes.

“Partly because it was the one read on national T.V., I kind of like the Michael Jordan one,” Goldsmith said [see page 20].

“I still read them all from time to time and still find them all hilarious,” he added.

Many of the “facts” are topical –– to coincide with the passing of George Steinbrenner, “The Decision” or the Belmont Stakes, for instance. Goldsmith mentioned how at first they were just coming up with random stuff, but are now at the point that they will bounce ideas off each other while bored and try to brainstorm relevant events to center a specific fact around.

Kilgo said that the Belmont post shouted out on the blog [see page 20] represents a good example of their thought process.

“It was the week of the Belmont so Adam asked me if we should do something for [the race] and so we sat there and thought for a second, and then I had the idea that all the horses are three years old. So I [searched] what year Ryan Wittman would have been 3, and we just kind of made it up. … For some of the other ones, one guy will put out an idea and the other guy will say ‘Yea, but what if we tweak it just like that’ or we’ll kind of go back and forth on it three or four times and then get to what we consider a final version and put it up.”

“The whole process probably takes 10 minutes,” he added.

Although the two don’t have any immediate plans to take in a Cornell basketball game at Newman Arena this upcoming season, they are entertaining the idea of going to Richmond, Va., for the VCU Tournament on Dec. 29.

And while Goldsmith admitted not being too enthralled by the prospect of making the five-hour, monotonous drive to Ithaca from D.C., he did mention: “I mean if we were going to be a VIP guest then I suppose we could.”

Original Author: Alex Kuczynski-Brown