Viral sports videos started as ‘hobby,’ creator says
Great ideas are born in the carpool lane.
Marketing junior Wesam Hindi and his friends became the masterminds behind the comedic “Sports in Real Life” video series while on their daily commute to school. The videos feature Hindi’s crew making sports plays around campus and went viral after the first one.
“NBA in Real Life” was posted by ESPN Houston.
The four videos spoof the national basketball, football and hockey leagues, as well as the World Wrestling Entertainment. Combined they have more than 216,000 views on YouTube and were shared by ESPN’s website, sports news website Bleacher Report and content aggregate blog WorldStarHipHop.
“It was just a hobby at first,” Hindi said. “Then I realized I just want to come to campus and dunk on people.”
The native Houstonian attended George Bush High School in Fort Bend County and transferred to University of Houston from Houston Community College.
Hindi said the sports video series started out as a joke. He had experience making satirical skit videos from when he was younger, but his more than 7,000 Twitter followers wanted more.
“It seems like it would be an elaborate plan,” said Fadi Hedayet, an electrical engineering junior and sports video actor. “But we came up with it in carpool.”
The actors take turns filming, said pre-business freshman Mohamad Fatouh. All of the filming and some of the editing is done on an iPhone.
For the first video, the group worked with the resources they already had. Hindi compiled a list of NBA players from jerseys his friends already owned, and who would appear in the video. Hindi found sound bites with comical or especially loud commentary featuring those players. He then laid them over clips of him and his friends picking, guarding and blocking unsuspecting passersby on campus.
“Each of them I picked to reenact a play,” Hindi said. “Then we spice it up — throw in some weird facial expressions.”
The group’s only expense for the basketball video was a $30 basketball hoop from Target.
The hoop became the star attraction in the video. One member moves and swoops with the players to ensure a dunk every time.
The “it” factor of the videos is their candid nature, Hindi said. Students walking to class are caught on film while someone physically tries to get in between them and a tiny basketball hoop.
That’s not to say that it was well-received by unknowing participants.
The end of the NBA video shows Hindi portraying Houston Rockets guard James Harden. He bumps into a student at the M.D. Anderson Library and gets flipped off — uncut in the video, but censored of course, Fatouh said.
“Whatever,” Hindi said. “He was just mad he couldn’t guard.”
In another video, a student pretending to be former WWE competitor Stone Cold Steve Austin tackles and throws another “wrestler” to the ground in a seminar class. Hindi said it was particularly difficult to get professors to reply about filming in their classes.
After five or six tries, the group found a professor willing to let them film during his auditorium class, but he backed out at the last minute.
“He said, ‘You know what guys, I don’t feel like losing my job, I’m sorry,’” Hindi said. “I said you know, don’t worry about it, man. Then we went and did it in a random classroom anyway.”
“NBA in Real Life” has gotten more than 4 million views on ESPN Houston. Though the videos have gone viral, Hindi said he made only a little bit of money from advertising revenue. The money goes toward expenses for other videos — around $600 so far.
Hindi and Fatouh said they’re glad they’ve been able to put UH on the pop culture map, especially considering the University’s rising profile in academia and athletics.
Though this particular series is essentially finished — baseball is difficult to emulate, Hindi said — the group’s sports video days are not over; this is just the beginning. They have plans to create two more videos in the fall semester.
“I want to be great,” Hindi said. “I don’t want to settle for an okay video. I don’t want to be a one-hit wonder.”