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How Big Heads Became Big Deal

John W. McDonough/Sports Illustrated

Inspiration struck Conor Mongan in November 2002, while he was sitting on the purple, velour sofa in his apartment in the Mission Valley neighborhood of San Diego, Calif. He was watching a television news report about a court appearance by Michael Jackson when a close-up image of the pop star appeared on the screen. Mongan shuddered at Jackson's unsightliness, at his unnaturally pointy and scabby nose, his too-white skin and bug-eyed expression. Then he thought:

That's it! It's perfect!

His reaction requires some context. At the time, the 25-year-old Mongan was one of the ringleaders of the student section at San Diego State men's basketball games, a group later self-dubbed The Show. Though he stopped attending classes at San Diego State in 1999, Mongan...

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