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It's easy to figure out why "American Idol" is crushing the Olympics in our great nation's TV ratings race.
"Idol" stole the Olympic story line -- and dumbed it down to a no-brainer format.
That is to say, "Idol" tells the tale of a young person chasing a dream, either reaching the mountaintop or not, all in 60 short minutes -- and you don't have to sit through a Croatian luger's second qualifying heat to get there.
And, in the most galling development of all if you're an Olympics fan, Simon Cowell pickpocketed Dick Button's act and is making untold millions off of it while shagging a beautiful Hollywood girlfriend and living in a mansion. Button? While he broke ground decades ago as the color commentator who oozes disdain for a shoddy performance, he's not living Cowell's absurdly fortunate life. Button is lucky if the International Broadcast Center commissary is serving something other than a pale green meat loaf that day.
Dick Button's daily lament: If only I had a British accent.
It's sad that "Idol" is dropping the proverbial curling stone on the foot of the Olympics. But to any veteran observer of the American pop culture scene, it's no surprise.
As my buddy T.C. always reminds me: "Don't forget -- the Backstreet Boys sold millions of albums in this country."
Don't get me wrong. I like "Idol," even if that one dude with the gray hair is trying to do Jamie Foxx doing Ray Charles -- not necessarily a good idea, unless you're Jamie Foxx or Ray Charles.
It's just a sad day when our attention spans can't stretch beyond our own borders, or beyond our own sports comfort zones. The Olympics bring the world's varied flavors and stories and emotions to you, from brilliantly exotic locales, and deliver the unexpected and the historic. The Olympics mark the time. They introduced us to the globe when we were young, and they will carry us into old age, still inducing goose bumps with those timpani drums.
But here at The Cooler, we're in the minority, obviously. Nearly twice as many of my countrymen would rather watch a Dick Button rip-off tell a singer better suited for the Kansas City Ramada Inn's regular act "Four Jacks and a Jill" that she's through to the next round.
I'll stick with the Olympics this week. Even if it means sitting through a Croatian luger's second qualifying heat. 'Cause you never know -- that Croatian luger might ferociously wipe out at any time.
No, not all Olympic-watching is born of noble ideals.
On, then, to the Weekend List of Five:
1. Lindsey Jacobellis
The word came Friday morning that 20-year-old American snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis was cruising to a massive victory, then showboated her penultimate jump, ate it, and lost the race.
In simpler terms: One of the greatest sports story lines of this year, or any year.
Immediately, on our radio show on KNBR in San Francisco, we began furiously compiling Greatest and Most Embarrassing Choke/Showboat Jobs in History:
1. Leon Lett chased down by Don Beebe.
2. And that's pretty much it, putting the Jacobellis Moment, given its variables (gold medal at stake, world audience, eating it, unnecessary showboat), at the top of the list.
Legendary gaffes like "Wrong Way" Riegels, Merkle's Boner (still the best "Beavis and Butthead" name for an historical sports moment) and Jean Van de Velde don't count. None of them was showboating -- flaunting at the moment of his downfall.
Imagine the reaction of the Swiss snowboarder who wound up winning the gold. She had lost sight of the leader, so dominant was Jacobellis. For all the Swiss snowboarder knew, Jacobellis had finished her run, popped off her board, done the mixed zone media interviews and was getting a rubdown by the time the Swiss boarder came into her final stretch.
But there she was! Lindsey Jacobellis, having eaten it! On her backside!
The Swiss boarder could only flash back to the Playboy-reading youth from "Animal House," who shrieked "THANK YOU, GOD" in utter joy when the coed vaults through his window and lands on his bed.
"THANK YOU, LINDSEY!"
2. Barry Being Barry
So Barry Bonds says 2006 will be his final year. Maybe.
It might very well be. Hell, he'll be 42 in July, on bad knees. It should be his last year. It's just that there is no human way any veteran Bonds observer can take anything he says seriously. The least reliable source on anything Bonds-related is, in all reality, Bonds.
He's bluffed more times than Roberto Duran. You could probably string together a series of Bonds quotes, all from the last two years, in which every statement he made can be refuted by another statement he made. It's the Newtonian Law of Bonds: For any comment he makes, he's just as likely to make the opposite comment shortly thereafter. Just give him time.
You could chalk it up to "Barry Being Barry," but that phrase "Blank Being Blank" has joined the phrase "Throwing Blank Under the Bus" as our most tired phrases of the mid-'00s. They're the "Up Your Nose With a Rubber Hose" of our modern-day society, our "Where's the Beef?" of the wireless age. Retire 'em!
Besides, "Barry Being Barry" or "Manny Being Manny" or, as I heard this week from Torino, "Bode Being Bode" is essentially giving somebody an excuse for acting like a complete tool. I don't know about you, but tools shouldn't be cut a break or given an excuse. They should get what's coming to them: That is, to be called a tool.
Imagine how different history would be if the "Blank Being Blank" excuse existed. We'd have built-in excuses for all of history's greatest tools. Just "Attila Being Attila." Just "Stalin Being Stalin." And, of course, "Just OJ Being OJ."
3. All-Star Intros
I didn't catch any of the All-Star Game, because of a hectic travel schedule, the outstanding wedding of my buddy Doc Coz in Seattle, a very unfortunate UCLA-USC basketball game and my appointed date with the Olympics. But I did go to NBA.com and was treated to the video of the All-Star introductions.
What a show! What a production! What an embarrassment!
If you didn't see it, you missed an elaborate, constructed set that must have cost the NBA millions of dollars. The end product looked like the old "Solid Gold" stage, melded with a touch of the control room of the Star Trek Enterprise, all garnished with a liberal dose of wretched excess.
An entire orchestra -- the Houston Symphony -- filled a pit, and played throughout the introductions. I could only look at all the violin players, cello players and viola players and think: This wasn't the dream, was it? All those years practicing, all those years thinking about Carnegie Hall, and your lot in life is to play an orchestral version of Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" while Shawn Marion busts a few moves standing on a giant, lit panel left over from the set of "The Weakest Link."
Life sucks sometimes.
4. Gorilla Suits
Speaking of my buddy Doc Coz's wedding, I should share with you a bit of advice. Looking to kick your next wedding to the next level?
Bring a gorilla suit.
Find someone to wear it.
Have that person in the gorilla suit make an appearance during the dance portion of the evening.
Presto -- instant classic.
At these nuptials, a stylish affair in the Emerald City, the gorilla suit made an appearance about four songs into the DJ's set. The timing was exquisite: Guests were at essentially the peak of their food/alcohol/emotional experience, and the gorilla pounced.
He took the dance floor with authority, isolated himself to a one-on-one with the lovely bride, Karen, let the guests form a natural circle and proceeded to break out his 'A' game to the remixed version of the Four Seasons' "December 1963 (Oh, What a Night)."
Like I said, I'd recommend a capable dancer in a gorilla suit at your next wedding.
Final Olympic thought: Please, if you do nothing else, embrace the too-frequently overlooked sport of curling. It's on every morning, early, early, early on the West Coast, and if insomnia is your problem, I prescribe to you some television gold.
I don't know if it's the mesmerizing, slow rhythm of the match. I don't know if it's the comforting feeling that you're watching a sport that is the ice version of what Morty Seinfeld plays with Klompus down at Del Boca Vista.
Actually, I think I know what it is. It's the brilliant notion an Olympic exec had to mike every curler. What has ensued is the raw, unedited, primal screams of the curlers as they try to sweep their way to Olympic gold.
Who knew curling was such a vocal sport? Now, we do. And it's TV gold.
A few recent quotes, heard loud and clear from curlers in action:
Swedish men's team (furiously sweeping): "AAHHH! AAAAAAHHHH! GLACKNOT! DONK! DONK! AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!"
Italian Women's Team (furiously sweeping): "AAAAHHH! AAAAAAAHHHHH! SINESTRA! DERECHA! UNO! DUO! DUO! UNO! SINESTRA! AAAAAAHHH! AAAAAAAHHHH!"
U.S. women's team (furiously sweeping): "AAAAAAAHHHH! AAAAAAAAHHHH! NO! NO! YES! YES! LEFT, LEFT, NONONONONONONO! AAAAAAAAHHHHH!"
Man, who writes their stuff? It's damn good. Just another Olympic moment.
E-mail Brian Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org.