By Dan Shanoff
Special to Page 3
Yes, yes: It's a lot easier to mock Dream Job contestants from the comfort of my couch than to step up and recognize the level of difficulty involved in pulling off a live, nationally televised audition to be a SportsCenter anchor. But, hey, they put themselves out there ...
This week's challenge: Top 5 Lists, and the criteria includes Writing, Creativity, Knowledge and Delivery --- and, from their performances, apparently Cheesiness, Unfamiliarity with Numbers and just a touch of Arrogance.
As usual, the contestants will be judged by the Fab Four: Woody Paige, Kit Hoover, Stephen A. Smith (SAS) and My Main Man, Al Jaffe. What will be tonight's "We Think Alike!" moment? Let's find out.
On the stage tonight: The second half the 12 finalists (the other six went last week).
First up: JASON H.
The Good: Solid writing, with perhaps the line of the night (certainly setting the high bar), doing a highlight about fishing: "Talk dirty to that bass." You had me at the innuendo, my friend.
The Bad: He was a little too "Smooth Jazz Jason" for me; flawless delivery, but no real energy.
The Ugh-ly: Dude, I know John Kerry still wears one, but those yellow Lance rubber bands are so over.
The Judges: Woody wants to see more excitement. Kit liked his information. (Wait, where's the rip? Ah! Here comes SAS!) Stephen A. "couldn't find a mistake." Hunh? Wow, this guy is good. Al bats cleanup with "Another week, another Syracuse person, another home run."
My verdict: Having not seen any of the other contestants tonight, I think we could very well see a Syracuse-Syracuse final pairing.
The Good: Someone was watching the Emmys, where green was the new black.
The Bad: Didn't provide enough information during the highlights, just describing the clips.
The Ugh-ly: She got to call the Stanford-Arizona ending (which was one of the best college hoops endings ever), and she just didn't bring the enthusiasm.
The Judges: Kit thought she looked good. SAS noted "not enough energy" and said "the lead just didn't move me." Al called it "solid," but nicked her for letting the camera catch her with her head down, instead of looking at the prompter. Woody called it an "exceptionally good performance." And host Stuart Scott offered the value-add comment of the night: When you're doing a Top 5, "build it" -- meaning the drama over the five highlights. No one really did this well.
My verdict: There's room for improvement certainly. Stick with the colors in the outfits.
The Good: One of the lines of the night, employing Dick Chaney's arteries in an analogy for a Tayshaun Prince blocked shot. Nicely done!
The Bad: At the end, when he signed off as "I'm SportsCenter," instead of "I'm David."
The Ugh-ly: Three words: Find a tailor. Swimming in his suit.
The Judges: Al liked his intro and called it "overall good job." Kit thought the writing was clever. Woody "wasn't as impressed as Al" and would have liked to see a little better writing. Loved the Dick Cheney analogy, as did SAS, who also wanted more energy. Now, this was huge, because apparently, this poor schlub wrote on his application that his leastfavorite ESPN guy was Stephen A. Yikes!
My verdict: Solid -- if unspectacular -- delivery, plus that great Chaney analogy, probably is enough to push him to the next round.
Where host Stuart Scott pairs up the players, then gives them a sports issue to debate, "Fact or Fiction" style.
Suffice to say, they all made pretty weak, thin arguments. (Hint, same as last week! Simply repeating the claim three times over 20 seconds does not make for "argument.")
Jason H won kudos from the judges for a solid performance. Stephanie (who we have yet to see tonight, so this is her first impression) got blitzed from all sides. An inauspicious start.
The Good: This is not going to be a good ending for her tonight.
The Bad: Read a little bit too slowly.
The Ugh-ly: Called "Johns Hopkins" the wrong name ("St. John's") in a lacrosse highlight. Let's just go to the judges ...
The Judges: Kit commented on the slowness. SAS: "I didn't understand anything you were saying in your lead." And he pointed out, rightly, that she sounded like she was reading, not talking. Al agreed, noting that she didn't sound conversational enough. Woody showed a tremendous amount of compassion at the end, trying to find the silver lining in the experience for her.
My verdict: She seems like a very nice person, who unfortunately had an off-night -- compounded when she had to do the halftime task, then immediately do her own segment. I don't think she'll be moving on to the next round.
Next: JASON A.
The Good: Super-high energy. So much energy, in fact ...
The Bad: His delivery, at times, sounded like he was trying to pass a stone -- something between a grunt and a groan.
The Ugh-ly: His lead-in started with the old "Webster's dictionary defines...," which is pretty much the worst, lamest opening ever.
The Judges: Al hated the Webster's reference (Aha! Our "We Think Alike" moment of the night!), but thought Jason "sold" his enthusiasm. Woody chided him for his weak facts. Kit said he looked like he was having fun. And SAS put it all together: "Style without substance doesn't mean a damn thing." Amen.
My verdict: He might think he's finalist material, but I think ultimately his vibe will grate on the judges (and, sooner than that, America). He may make it through the next few rounds, simply because the first week talent was so weak, but he's not a Top 2 finalist.
The Good: Despite the fact that he's humorless, I kind of dug his vibe up there. Maybe it's his voice.
The Bad: He had a hockey concussion highlight to do, and he really made fun of the player. That's just not cool. The rest of us manage to hold back when considering making comments about someone's appearance ... hear me?
The Ugh-ly: Worst. Cosell. Ever. He was doing a boxing highlight and broke out the "Down goes ... !" line, and you could feel the national wince.
The Judges: Woody liked his writing at the start and finish, but thought the middle sagged. Kit pointed out the bordering-on-non-funny concussion description. SAS, ironically, said Winston needed to smile more (correctly pointing out that as a commentator, SAS is paid to be scowly, but as an anchor, Winston should be inviting.) Al hated the Cosell impression (right on, Al!) and was really put off by Winston's closing, which added zero value.
My verdict: Winston may be the Zach Selwyn of this season -- the character who seems interesting enough that you want to keep him around as long as possible.
So long, Stephanie, in a sweep. She was in a tough draw; in last week's group, she might have made it through. This group of five advancing is much better than last week's five (as almost all the judges pointed out).
Ranking Tuesday's six contenders:
1. Jason H.
Next week: The Final 10! For now, Anish and Jason H. (The Syracuse Boys) are at the top of the leaderboard. When they all come together next week, expect some drama.