Monday, April 11, 2011

Nixon's Head vs. Van Buren

Nixon's Head
Served as President of Earth (?*) in Futurama
Age: 1019?**

[NOTE FROM THE CHIEF: We are bending the rules of the Arena ever-so-slightly this week, and allowing Nixon's Head to fight alongside his stalwart companion, the headless body of Spiro Agnew. We feel this splits the difference between his having no support, thus being ridiculously disadvantaged, and his using a the body of a bending robot, thus being ridiculously advantaged. Now, let's talk Pros and Cons!]

PROS: Conniving — When we first met Nixon's Head, he was but another in a vast hall of past presidents. Little did anyone know what ambitions he harbored! After securing a robotic body for himself in a pawn shop, Nixon's Head proceeded to enter that year's presidential race, having safely bypassed the provision that noBODY could hold the office more than twice.
We see what you did there, Nixon's Head.
Nixon's Head eventually trades his pitiful bending unit in for a more powerful robotic body, and wins the presidency. At some point, he must have either enacted some new laws, or just decided to say "screw it," because he is later seen running the country/planet bodyless. Now, just think about all that. It takes some serious mental agility to figure out how to get elected when you're originally ineligible to run, how to trade in your original robot body for a better robot body, and to eventually decide you don't need a body at all. Nixon's Head has all the creativity and panache that a Presidential Gladiatorial Arena winner needs.

Brute Strength — Listen, Nixon's no fool. He knows that as a head, he needs some muscle around. And what better muscle than the Headless Body of Spiro Agnew? HBSA's got brute strength to spare.
And he looks good in a suit.
HBSA is full of surprises. After all, he can still growl, even though he lacks a head, and therefore, a mouth. You don't want to sleep on this guy.

CONS: Vulnerable — He's just a head in a jar, folks. If Van Buren manages to get around Agnew, all he has to do is execute a good punt, and Nixon's Head will be vanquished. I mean, seriously... does Nixon's Head have any defenses of its own? No. Could be a problem. Also, it should be pointed out that Agnew's Body was eventually struck down by a rogue golf cart, so it's not like he's invulnerable, either.

Communication — In order to win in the Arena, Nixon's Head must communicate flawlessly with Agnew's Body, and what's more, Agnew's Body has to accept his commands without question. The latter part might be harder than the former; Agnew's body seems many times to have a mind of its own. Which, again, due to the lack-of-head issue, is rather remarkable. Either way, if Van Buren can exploit the communication differences between his split opponents, he could walk away the victor. 

*- And you can bet we're going to get into this on Wednesday. Stay tuned!
**- Okay, tehnically, Nixon's head would be 1019 years of age when he first ascends to the presidency, presumably in the year 3002. Now, of course, we don't know how much time transpired between Nixon's death in 1994 and his head's revivification, so his "real" age might be significantly less. But... whatever. Head's old.

Martin Van Buren
8th President of the United States
Served: 1837-1841
Ages in Office: 54-58

PROS: Little Magician — Martin Van Buren was a pretty shrewd politician. He and a few others pretty much created the Democratic Party — the first nationwide political party. Also, you know that “political machine” chock full of corruption and the spoils system that the presidents of the late-19th century worked so hard to dismantle? Van Buren got in on the ground floor of that as well. Moral? Probably not. Powerful? Darn tootin’!

When the Election of 1824 came and went with no clear winner, Van Buren — who had supported William H. Crawford, who had come in third place — kind hung to the back while John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson duked it out for House votes. Van Buren saw potential in Jackson and knew that if Adams did walk away with the win, it wouldn’t be the end of Jackson.

Adams did end up becoming president, and Van Buren did his best to unite Jackson supporters with Crawford supporters to take Adams down in ‘28, which they did. Jackson made Van Buren his secretary of state. While serving that post, he made sure not to get involved with any tensions between Jackson and Vice President John C. Calhoun. Jackson named Van Buren his running mate in '32, and towards the end of Jackson’s second term, he hand-picked Van Buren to take the Democratic Party’s torch. Americans voted Van Buren in in ‘36 because Jackson told them to.
"It's cool, guys, he's with me."
Point is, Van Buren had influence and he was shrewd. What he lacked in physicality, he made up for in cunning. Let’s face it, he was a weird looking little dude with a Dutch accent and he got elected president.

Street cred — Van Buren apparently lends his name to a rough street gang that roams the streets of New York City, or at least they did as late as 1997. In the Seinfeld episode “The Van Buren Boys,” Kramer had a run-in with them at a pizza place. Kramer explained that the gang is just as mean as the man himself. Luckily, Kramer accidentally threw up the gang signs and the gang backed off.
Lucky Number Eight
George, wasn’t as fortunate.

Ask yourself this, how bad ass is this guy if a gang bearing his name is still terrorizing Manhattan 135 years after his death? I wouldn’t want to meet up with in the Presidential Gladiatorial Arena, I can tell you that.

Theodore Roosevelt was from New York, why can't I be hassled by his street gang? Oh, I forgot. That gang doesn't exist. That's why.

CONS: Not an Actual Magician — The nickname wasn’t literal. Oh, he was 5’6”, so he was little. But he didn’t go to Hogwarts or anything like that. Political savvy is good for a long-term goal, not in a fistfight of death.

He quietly hitched his wagon to the Andrew Jackson star in 1824 and it paid off 12 years later with a vote into the White House. This isn’t a game of chess. He can’t test the waters and slowly figure out where he goes from there. Van Buren has to come out swinging, which he doesn’t have much of a history doing. Which brings me to...

Mr. Olive Branch McMuttonchops — Van Buren’s not a fighter and never served in the military. You think being chosen as Jackson’s running mate in ‘32 is a sign of toughness? It’s not. He picked Van Buren to balance out the ticket. And what complements a hot-headed duelist from the frontier?
A muttonchopped career politician from New York.

Even after getting carried into the Oval Office by Jackson, he popped Jackson’s “Yee-haw” policy into reverse and called for peace... everywhere. For example, instead of annexing Texas, Van Buren thought it would be best to work on patching up the rift that was forming between the states. Why add more to the family when the existing members can't get along?

Then there was the Aroostook War. In 1838, a border conflict between Maine and British North America — now known as Canada — bubbled over leading to thousands of armed troops on each side lining the disputed border. The fighting was so intense, they just decided to just make the wall of bodies the new border.

No, not really. The conflict was resolved without a single fire being shot. Don’t get me wrong, anytime war can be avoided, that’s a good thing. But for the purposes of this blog, it could have helped Van Buren to show the slightest bit of muscle.

Who knows? We could have even gotten New Brunswick out of the deal.
 Probably not, but if we did, we almost have the North American monopoly on
states/provinces that begin with the world "New."
Technically, Mexico's Nuevo León would count.

The Fight

Doug: I feel like Whoopi Goldberg's character in Soapdish. "How am I supposed to write for a guy that doesn't have a head?"

I shouldn't say that, Van Buren has this locked up. Granted, he's not much of a fighter. He's much more tactical. Fortunately for him, this fight works to his advantage. Normally, I'd say he'd get bogged down overthinking a fight, but he doesn't have to overthink that much when he's fighting someone without a head — and thus, no brain. Agnew's taking orders from Nixon's Head, but there's no guarantee that Agnew will follow orders that well.

It's quite possible that the crafty Van Buren could trick Agnew into either helping his cause, kicking over Nixon's Head jar or any of the other ways you can trick someone without a brain.

Tony: Here's what Van Buren doesn't have going for him — he can't be in two places at once in the arena. So, while Van Buren and Agnew are tussling, Nixon's Head is going to be kicking back, expending little energy. I mean, he's going to be expending little energy no matter what, because he's a head, but... you know what I mean.

Doug: I'm sorry, you lost me. Nixon's Head will be kicking back? Do you mean figuratively? Because I'm unsure how a head in a jar (read: legless) can kick anyone. In fact, I'm unsure how a head in a jar has any kind of attacking power or defense. Though, I can't really see how figuraratively kicking someone means anything.

Tony: I'm really, very troubled that you spent the energy trying to un-knot a fairly basic saying. Maybe if I dropped some obscure 18th-century colloquialism on you, then I could understand your being a bit confused. But this? Get a hold of yourself, man!

Doug: Whoa. Yes. For some reason, I read "kicking back" and I read it as "striking back in some way" and not, you know, what people normally mean when "kicking back" is uttered. Ahh geez, sorry. That one's on me.

Tony: It's all right, man. Walk it off. Walk it off.

But seriously, what is Van Buren going to do? Is he going to go for Nixon's Head straight away? Agnew's got that covered. Is he going to try to take Agnew down? Good luck with that. Van Buren's a shrimp, and he can't possibly hope to compete with the rage that can only come from a body missing its head. That's science.

Doug: And yes, Van Buren is on the short side. How tall do you think a headless body is? Judging from pictures, Agnew was a few inches taller than Nixon (who was just under 6'). Let's say Agnew is 6'3", it's reasonable that Headless Agnew would be at least a foot shorter, making Van Buren the tallest one in the ring. Granted, Agnew still has the reach of a 6'3" man, but he also has the legs of a 6'3" man, which means Van Buren can do that thing where he dodges a swing and goes between Agnew's legs.

Tony: Diving between Agnew's legs? Really? I think, if anything, freeing himself of the dead weight that was his head would make Agnew the most agile man... or part-man... in the ring. And, to use a phrase coined by the Brothers Magliozzi, Agnew will be unencumbered by the thought process. He's going to be all reactions, quick-twitching limbs and hard fists. Van Buren's going to attempt to dive between Agnew's legs, only to find his head being crushed by Agnew's thighs.

I sort of don't want to think about that too much, though.

Doug: Well, if it's as simple as avoiding Agnew and breaking Nixon's Head's jar, I think Van Buren could handle that. He could lob the jar towards Agnew and while it hangs in the air, Van Buren could rush him. Agnew wouldn't be able fight back because he has to concentrate on catching the jar, or else it will break.

Little Van is a resourceful guy.

Tony: Wait, really? You think the body of a former bronze star recipient wouldn't be able to handle a simple catch-and-pummel? I find that scenario extremely hard to believe.

Doug: Is that what that's called?

Tony: To clarify, the "catch and pummel" I'm referring to is when you catch something someone has thrown at you, and then you pummel him.

Doug: This isn't a normal situation of that. I remember one time, when I was little, my brother got me with that. He lobbed a ball at me and as I went to catch it, he chucked another ball at me. I ended up not catching the ball he lobbed at me. But who cares? It was just a ball. In this situation, it's Nixon's Head. Agnew must catch this jar, but he's got this tenacious little dude smacking him.

Tony: I like how you acknowledge the best Van Buren is going to be able to do is some "smacking" of Agnew. One good stiff arm will take care of that.

Doug: Look, maybe someone with a brain would be able to problem-solve the hell out of this — give Van Buren a good shove, and make the catch with no problem. Agnew, however, has no brain. It's a cheap and simple move, but Van Buren knows he's got to be crafty, so he does what he can.

With this lob-and-smack approach, The Little Magician will make Nixon's Head's 2nd round appearance disappear without so much of a hocus or a pocus. But that's for our readers to decide!

Polls are now open! As always, they will close 9am MDT on Friday. Let the voting and commenting on said votes commence!

Nixon's Head vs. Van Buren


  1. This is a tough one, both seem so likely to lose. I'm going with Nixon by a pun.

  2. MVB! You don't grow facial hair like that unless you have major sack.

  3. Having worked with Dick Nixon prior his having lost his head, (Never thought it'd be literally!) I know the kind of man he is. Is a crafty devil, but he hits like a girl and his brain is that of a wuss. Despite the Spiro Agnew body asistance, he relies on the Nixon mind, and his mind thought, "You know, maybe I shouldn't shave before my televised debate with that handsome Kennedy fella." Sorry Dick, but your head cannot penetrate the patented (or at least it should be) Van Buren Cervical Defense, or in other words, Van Buren will out-pussy you on his way to vistory. If that makes any sense at all? Then again, it is a mn vs. cryogenically frozen/reanimated head death match we're talking about afterall.

  4. Van Buren Boy 4 life!