Social Studies: Super 70s Sports' Humor, Nostalgia & ... Sociology?
When Ricky Cobb started posting regularly from the Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) Twitter feed in '15, it was little more than a lark based on a bit of comedic instinct. After reading a book by Dan Epstein about baseball and American culture in the '70s -- “Big Hair and Plastic Grass” -- and seeing Epstein post related content on his Facebook page, Cobb thought, “What if I took this idea, expanded on it, and made it about more than just baseball? Maybe that would be a fun thing to do.” What it has become is an immensely popular, wildly funny (with its share of salty language) Twitter feed. Add to this a podcast and, most recently, a line of apparel that reflects Cobb’s pitch-perfect mix of irreverence and nostalgia, all while he balances a career as a sociology professor at Moraine Valley Community College near Chicago. And being a father of seven, five by birth and two by marriage.
TRUSTING THE PROCESS: The greatest mystery of this whole thing is the creative process. I used to wonder the first few years, what happens if I just wake up and can’t think of anything funny? Some days, if my life has been manageable, I’ll have six or seven tweets written when the day starts. Then there are days where I wake up in the morning and nothing’s written. When the alarm goes off, within five or 10 minutes, I’ve got to start writing material. I tweet 20 to 25 times a day, and I try to never go two or three hours without tweeting.
PHOTO FINISHING: Sometimes you think of a joke and have to find a visual to go with it. But more often, I dig through photos -- a time-consuming process -- and the photos will kind of let me know if there’s a joke there. The Howard Cosell-Bruce Jenner-O.J. Simpson tweet is my most well-known, I guess, my greatest hit. Somebody sent me that photo, so I get some assists. Every week, people send me pictures, which I’m always grateful for, even though I can’t use all of them.
COMEDY HEROES: Growing up, David Letterman was probably the biggest influence on me, especially “Late Night” on NBC in the '80s. As a teenage kid in small-town Kentucky at the time, it felt like he was doing something special. He was sort of at the vanguard. Now, everybody tries to be glib and too cool for school. But when David was doing it, that wasn’t really a thing quite yet. He was just such a smart-ass and so irreverent. I thought it was genius. As far as stand-ups, I was always a fan of Richard Pryor and George Carlin. And today, my favorites are Dave Chappelle and Bill Burr. Larry David would be on my short list as well. I tend to like observational comics. If you teach sociology for 16 years, you’re going to be a social observer.
CROSSOVER APPEAL: Unless someone comes to me and wants to talk about Super 70s Sports, I kind of view my work at the university as a separate life. When I go to campus, I’m there to teach, and I just put on that hat. But I have been known to send tweets between classes, because I can’t just shut it down entirely. So, if I’ve got 15 or 20 minutes of downtime, I’ll pull out my phone and sneak a tweet in.
GRAB YOUR GEAR: We launched the apparel brand around the end of September, and it’s been a great experience. I’m super proud of it, and we’re off to a great start. I had never seen myself as an entrepreneurial person. But as Super 70s grew and the audience started to get bigger, at first, it’s just disbelief. But eventually it’s like, ‘Wow, this is really something. And it is taking up a lot of my time, and I’m not being compensated.’ There’s no real playbook for stumbling into Twitter celebrity. For a while, I did some affiliate marketing for Fanatics, FansEdge, Topps and others. But a little over a year ago, a guy contacted me about selling my own shirts, and I said, 'Yeah, let’s talk.' It took another six months or so to get ready to open the online store. The feedback has been great, and it’s really gratifying. In addition to being a hobby, Super 70s Sports is definitely 100% a business now as well, and after five years, it feels good to be able to say that.If you know anyone who should be featured for their use of social media, send their name to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.