Tarik El-Bashir can’t remember exactly where, but someplace inside his house is a drawer that houses a T-shirt that reads, “YOU LIKE THAT!?”
El-Bashir, who was the Redskins insider for Comcast Sportsnet (now he covers the Capitals), was at the center of one of the world’s greatest memes: Kirk Cousins screaming, “YOU LIKE THAT!?” in his direction.
In the ensuing moments of reports that the Minnesota Vikings would make Cousins their new franchise quarterback on a three-year, $86 million contract, the internet unsurprisingly went back to the outburst on October 25, 2015. Hundreds of people instantly made reference to his famed wail.
ESPN dedicated a full paragraph to it in its Cousins-to-Minnesota story. The original video (on Vine) has more than 47 million loops (and Vine doesn’t even exist anymore). The YouTube video has 1.5 million views. There’s even a mashup of KC and The Sunshine Band’s That’s the way with Cousins’ screech. Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson paid homage to the meme after a home run in the World Series. And the Wolves used it after their win over the Wizards on Tuesday night.
Decent little Tuesday. pic.twitter.com/FNOHdna7LQ
— Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) March 14, 2018
And yes, Cousins trademarked his tagline.
On that fateful day, El-Bashir thought every player had left the field and passed by him in the hallway. He was looking at some notes and thinking what he might ask about Washington’s 31-30 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
There was nothing out of the ordinary about that afternoon’s postgame procedure. Following every home contest, he would stand in the same spot waiting to set up interviews and then chat them up on CSN’s postgame show in front of a makeshift set. The CSN cameras were set up to capture the whoops and hollers of victory or head-hanging of defeat. Instead, they caught a moment of pure emotion.
“I couldn’t see him coming and he kind of ambushed me,” El-Bashir said Tuesday, a few hours after news of Cousins’ new home was reported.
Cousins side stepped the CSN backdrop and shredded his vocal cords.
“It wasn’t, ‘Do you like that?’ It was, ‘YOU LIKE THAT!'” El-Bashir said. “He said it twice. I kind of looked up and giggled a little bit. It caught me totally by surprise. Imagine being in a hallway and all the players have gone, it’s quiet, the door has just slammed, the security guard is doing his thing and all the sudden there’s a grown man yelling at you.”
He may have been stunned, but the veteran reporter still mustered a response.
“There was an NFL Films camera that had a different view and I’m told that I turned and said, ‘actually Kirk, I did like that,’” El-Bashir said. “I don’t really remember saying that but I’ve been told by people who have seen it that I did say something to that effect.”
If you have been to Washington, D.C, you realize the traffic is nightmarish on a good day, so El-Bashir didn’t realize that madness going on on the interwebs until get home much later that night.
“My daughter, who is like anti-sports, she’s a cheerleader and artsy, she sits up on the couch and says, ‘Hey dad, that football player that yelled at you tonight, that Vine has already looped a few million times, you should come check it out,’” El-Bashir said.
ESPN called. The Washington Post called. Everyone wanted to know why Kirk Cousins screamed “YOU LIKE THAT!?” at Tarik.
“I was like, whoa, this is out of control,” he said.
A fan sent it to him the shirt a few days later. Unfortunately it was a medium. Maybe the CSN cameras subtract 10 pounds in D.C.
El-Bashir thought maybe it was comments leading up to the game questioning Cousins’ consistency that caused the shriek, but Cousins told him that wasn’t the case. In fact, he’s hardly the only person who the 29-year-old quarterback has yelled at over the years.
“For people who know Kirk, he does things like this all the time,” El-Bashir said. “He yells on the practice field. If he throws a bomb over the starting left cornerback he will sprint down the field and yell in that dude’s face and taunt him. For him it’s kind of fun. The defense gets kind of tired of it by week 12, they want to kill him, but he thinks it’s funny and the coaches think it’s funny.”
It might not have been directed at El-Bashir and it might not have been uncommon, but it probably wasn’t entirely random.
At the beginning of the 2015 season, there were plenty of folks in the D.C. media questioning whether he could be an effective starting quarterback. Washington was coming off a 4-12 season in which Robert Griffen III, Cousins and Colt McCoy all started at least four games and McCoy came away with the best numbers.
Nearly one year before flipping a lid in the hallway, Cousins was benched by head coach Jay Gruden in favor of McCoy. El-Bashir points out that Cousins would fly in a private QB coach to help him take reps after practice to ensure that he was never benched again.
But after winning the job out of camp in 2015, Cousins had a mediocre start to the season. El-Bashir and company had criticized his inconsistency on the station’s pregame show. In the first six games of the year, Cousins had six touchdowns, eight interceptions and an 77.4 rating.
In game seven, he was down 24-0 to the Buccaneers with 8:19 remaining in the second quarter. Pro-Football Reference estimated Washington’s win probability at 4.9 percent at that point.
And then Cousins found it. He rushed in an 8-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 24-7 before halftime, then opened the second half with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Reed. And then with 0:24 left in the game, he finished off the comeback with a 6-yard TD to Reed to win 31-30.
Cousins finished the game 33-of-40 with 317 yards, three touchdowns and a 124.7 rating.
“YOU LIKE THAT?!” wasn’t a question, it was an announcement that the franchise quarterback had arrived in D.C.
“It was certainly the moment where Cousins went from the backup quarterback in D.C… ‘is he the guy, is he not the guy?’ It elevated him to household name status in town and it really solidified him as the potential guy who could be the long-term starter in Washington.”
“It kind of became a rallying cry,” El-Bashir added.
Since a legendary meme was made, Cousins has looked much more like a franchise QB than a man battling to stay in the game. Including the win over Tampa Bay, Cousins threw 23 touchdowns and just three interceptions in the final 10 games of the year and went 7-3 down the stretch to earn Washington a playoff spot.
Overall there is an incredible difference in his numbers before and after “YOU LIKE THAT!?”
|Before ‘You like that’ game||After|
It would be fair to guess that most of the folks who were quoting him Tuesday afternoon didn’t realize they were referencing the turning point of Cousins’ career.
No matter his performance, Washington never fully bought in. At one point, Cousins yelled, “how you like me now?” in the direction of the team’s former GM Scot McLoughlan. They franchise tagged him twice and traded for Alex Smith this offseason.
The chip on his shoulder that El-Bashir saw from only a few feet away is pretty likely to be back when he arrives in Minnesota, no matter the money.
As for El-Bashir, he assumed Minnesota was checking in with him about Alex Ovechkin’s 600th goal, which he’d covered the night before. Lucky for him, the long-time reporter avoided too much online fame from the incident.
“Every once in awhile it comes up,” he said. “They will say, ‘hey, aren’t you?’ Yes, that was me.”
And there is no ill-will. In fact, El-Bashir and Cousins got along well and joked about it. After one game, Cousins was caught on camera jokingly repeating his memorable words, only much quieter and with a smile.
“A part of me is sorry to see him go because a part of my history is walking out of the door,” El-Bashir said. “But you know, good for him. That’s a lot of money, he deserves it. He’s a good dude.”