The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Musical parody celebrates Iowa’s ‘B-Ball Wizard’ Caitlin Clark

University of Iowa alum Rob Merritt’s musical parody of “Pinball Wizard” went viral on YouTube after its debut on March 19. The song celebrates the achievements of Iowa basketball star Caitlin Clark.
Ayrton Breckenridge
A Nike advertisement of Iowa guard Caitlin Clark is seen on The Edge building on East Burlington Street in downtown Iowa City on Saturday, March 2, 2024. The poster was put up in the early morning. (Ayrton Breckenridge/The Daily Iowan)

Ever since her Iowa debut, Caitlin Clark has transformed women’s basketball and brought a wave of new attention to women’s sports. With her signature logo-threes, Clark seems to break a new record every other game.

Her talent is so impressive that one could even call her a “B-Ball Wizard” — or at least University of Iowa alum Rob Merritt would.

Under the username madreindeer on YouTube, Merritt posted a parody music video adapting “Pinball Wizard” by The Who to spotlight Clark’s basketball abilities. The video has garnered just over 120,000 views in the nine days since it was posted.

A lifelong Hawkeye basketball fan, Merritt graduated from the UI in 1998 and went on to become an award-winning journalist, writer, editor, and videographer.

In 2020, he first gained YouTube popularity when he parodied Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” in his three-part “Dumpster Fire” series, which premiered throughout that year and collectively garnered over one million views.

After the series wrapped up, however, Merritt did not plan to return to parody-making. When his co-worker at the New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative, Alex Taylor, contacted him about an idea, his inspiration was reignited.

Taylor, who also works as an adjunct instructor in the UI’s Tippie College of Business, was grading papers a few weeks ago. In his office, both the Iowa women’s basketball game and “Pinball Wizard” were playing in the background.

“I looked up and watched Caitlin drain a three-point shot. I just shook my head thinking, ‘That girl plays a mean basketball.’ Then, the light bulb went on, and I thought Rob Merritt would be perfect to do a video on this,” Taylor said.

Merritt agreed on the condition that Taylor would make a cameo appearance in the video. He agreed and, on March 19, they filmed the parody in downtown Iowa City.

“Rob is very creative and talented. With the right team around him, he could probably have a side gig just doing deals like this. He’s sort of a contemporary version of Al Yankovic,” Taylor said.

Despite making the audio and video recordings on his own, Merritt did enlist the help of recording artist and audio engineer Tim King to ensure all the words and harmonies flowed together in a way that made sense and fit the style of the song.

Merritt described King’s remixing talents as “incredible,” and credited him with a lot of the parody’s fine tuning. Together, the team created a viral video with a view count that has doubled this past week.

“It’s neat how Rob and I work, because he’s definitely in the video area, so there’s a little bit of mystique behind what he does. And I’m in the audio area, so he treats it in the same way, where there’s a little mystique behind what I do.” King said. “It keeps the relationship
fresh and fun.”

Alongside his considerable talent, Merritt gives much of the credit for his parodies to the writers of the original song.

“The thing I’ve always thought about parodies — and the reason that Weird Al is so good at them — is that the parodies people remember are ones that can preserve the original song as much as possible.” Merritt said. “You’re paying tribute to the original song and the humor comes from the tiny changes that you make.”

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About the Contributors
Riley Dunn
Riley Dunn, Arts Reporter
Riley Dunn is a first-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in English and Creative Writing and Journalism and Mass Communications. Prior to her time at the DI, Riley interned for Swimming World Magazine.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Ayrton Breckenridge, Managing Visuals Editor
Ayrton Breckenridge is the Managing Visuals Editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema. This is his fourth year working for the DI.