In E.S. Glenn’s drawing, formally dressed servers carrying silver trays sit in or pass through a waiting area. One has a basketball on his tray. Another has what I first thought was a high-top sneaker but on closer inspection appears to be a boot—look at the sole. The other two have more traditional offerings (bottles of champagne; something under a silver dome). The waiter holding the basketball is speaking to the one with the silver dome.
Focusing on the basketball, I first thought this drawing was a comment on the extraordinary salaries earned by some players (e.g., The Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry): “How else can he spend $40,000,000 a year?”
I had no other thoughts, as this is one of the most challenging drawings I’ve ever seen. How is one supposed to address the servers, the basketball, and the boot? It’s almost like Glenn was trying to draw a caption-proof cartoon.
Now let’s see how you did.
Several of you commented solely on the difficulty of this week’s contest:
- “Do you have any idea what this cartoon is about?”
- “I think I’ll just sit out this week’s contest.”
- “I believe they are running out of ideas for this contest.”
For a few of you, the drawing suggested that top basketball players make too much money:
- “They literally expect us to hand them everything on a silver platter.”
- “I don’t see how you can connect all this with income inequality.”
- “I know it’s not my place, but I think the NBA should reconsider salary caps.”
That last caption is clever but too long. The first nine words only get in the way of a good joke.
This next entry suggests that basketball players receive not only too much money but too much adulation: “Hall-of-too-much-Fame if you ask me.”
The following captions all refer to the trick of spinning a basketball on one’s index finger:
- “But, can you spin it?”
- “Now just with your index finger.”
- “They have great finger rolls.”
That last caption doubles as the week’s best pun.
The week’s only sex joke is truly vulgar, but because it addresses both the basketball and waiters, I’m including it: “A customer wants to know if we have any ball sauce.”
These entries focus on the footwear:
- “Who’s getting the boot?”
- “Someone is about to get the boot.”
- “Looks like somebody’s about to get the boot.”
- “We’ll show them gamey and leathery, won’t we?”
- “There’s well done, and then there’s tough as leather.”
- “Gives an entirely new meaning to sole.”
One of you acknowledged the surreal nature of the drawing by including a reference to the Belgian painter whose bizarre paintings challenged perceptions of reality: “I feel like I’m in a painting by Rene Magritte.”
The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, a single-elimination event that’s held each spring in the United States, is commonly known by a name that captures the insanity of the scene depicted in this week’s cartoon: “It’s March Madness.”
This entry has the man who’s balancing a basketball on a silver tray counting his blessings: “Thank God he’s not a bowler.”
Each of the next four captions alludes to both basketball and fine dining:
- “It’s a Spalding ’72.”
- “Table 6 needs an icepack.”
- “The jock strap pairs well with blue Gatorade.”
- “A little secret. All the wine is actually Gatorade.”
I’d like that last caption better without the first sentence, which is unnecessary.
Finally, here are a couple of entries that don’t fit neatly into any category:
- “It’s not what we serve, it’s how we serve it.”
- “I hope I get the job. But then I kind of hope I don’t.”
- “I would like to put his head on one of these.”
In choosing this week’s winner, I almost went with the Magritte caption, but because it doesn’t refer in any specific way to what’s happening in the cartoon, I instead selected the beautifully concise and basketball-related, “It’s March Madness.”
Lawrence Wood has won The New Yorker’s Cartoon Caption Contest a record-setting seven times and been a finalist two other times. He has collaborated with New Yorker cartoonists Peter Kuper, Lila Ash, Felipe Galindo Gomez, and Harry Bliss (until Bliss tossed him aside, as anyone would, to collaborate with Steve Martin). Nine of his collaborations have appeared in The New Yorker, and one is included in the New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons.