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Friday, May 26, 2006
Updated: May 30, 11:37 AM ET
American Idle

By Skip Bayless
Page 2

I had settled in to watch the Yankees-Red Sox and Suns-Mavs games when I remembered this was the final night of "American Idol." I had checked out "Idol" here and there in its first couple of seasons. But mostly, I referred to it as "American I Don't." Because I just didn't -- watch it or get it.

But I kept hearing that the show's fifth season had attracted more voters than any presidential election ever, so I just had to see what the big deal was. I should have known better, but during the season finale, I flipped over to Fox.

Taylor Hicks
American would rather watch this goofball than the NBA playoffs?
And I flipped out.

The guy who won can't sing.

The girl who came in second wasn't bad. But the gray-haired "29-year-old" who supposedly received the runaway majority of the 64.3 million votes cast might as well have been singing karaoke in his hometown of Birmingham, Ala. He missed more notes than Jose Cortez misses field goals.

You could find a thousand guys singing in church choirs or even in showers with better voices. But I guess that's the point. Viewers want to make a star out of some goof who's no more talented than many of them are. America wants a "reality" show without all the backstabbing and undermining. Living-room America wants to rule, to make dreams come true.

Make that "American Idle." This is what people are wasting their time on?

My sincere wish is that no one reading this has ever watched a minute of "Idol."

During commercials, I kept checking in on Yankees-Red Sox and Suns-Mavs, and I kept thinking, "Why aren't a record 30 million viewers watching these games?"

For me, sports remains the ultimate reality TV because you cannot beat it for consistent unscripted and unpredictable drama.

You want real? I give you David Ortiz, Yankee killer, facing Kyle Farnsworth with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the eighth of a game his Red Sox were trailing 8-6 at Fenway Park. Here was Big Papi, baseball's most feared clutch hitter, against a guy with a reputation for throwing one of the most crushable 100 mph fastballs that has ever left a human's hand.

And with a packed park standing and hoping to explode with Yankees-hating joy at the sight of a baseball flying off Ortiz's bat and disappearing into the delirium in the right field stands, Farnsworth froze Ortiz with a backdoor breaking ball for Strike 3. Mighty Papi had struck out.

And America prefers Taylor "Loved by All the" Hicks?

The end is near.

Later, I had the unforgettable pleasure of watching the had-to-see-it-to-believe-it end of the Suns-Mavs Game 1. The Suns were getting mugged on the boards. They had lost their best defender and 3-point clutch shooter, Raja Bell, to what looked like the dreaded Achilles' tear (but it was said to be a calf injury). Shawn Marion was limping. And Phoenix came from nine down in the fourth quarter to win by three in Dallas.

That's because Steve Nash is doing things with a basketball that no human his size (listed at 6-foot-3) has ever done. The genius passes, trick shots, monumental 3s, contagious heart: Here's your American Idol, even if he's from Canada.

Wednesday's SportsNation poll asked ESPN voters to choose their Sports Idol. Tiger Woods won over Tom Brady, LeBron James, Albert Pujols and Dale Earnhardt Jr. But what does that competition have to do with "Idol"? Those sports stars (except for maybe Dale Jr.) are proven stars. They can sing.

"Idol" has one proven star -- Simon, the snippy English judge.

So if you want to tune in to the early rounds and watch Simon humiliate contestants who have been carefully chosen because they're so awful, fine. If you want to sit with family or friends and laugh as Simon knocks 'em out of the park with his witty disdain, God bless.

But if you want to listen to finalists attempt to sing great songs, I don't get it. If I want to listen to "Unchained Melody," very possibly the most beautiful song ever written, I'll listen to the Righteous Brothers.

Can someone explain how Randy Jackson got his job as an "Idol" judge? If he had been in the Jackson Five, I could understand. But like most of the contestants, he has no readily apparent talent.

I suppose Paula Abdul doesn't, either, other than gushing and acting like a dumb blond with dark hair. But this show has taken her career from washed-up to People covers. Am I missing something here? Is this show actually a spoof? A sitcom?

Is it just me, or are all the "Idol" winners either overweight or geeky? Please tell me the movie "American Dreamz" is a parody of a parody.

Please tell me former "Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson didn't win more Grammys than Mariah Carey.

Please tell me this year's losers aren't about to become big stars, too. I know an agent who's desperately trying to get in touch with one of the guys who was eliminated because he's "going to be big."

You are kidding.

Clay Aiken
Are we going to see a trend of 'Idol' winners infiltrating Yankee Stadium?
I first experienced the "Idol" phenomenon at the 2002 World Series. I mentioned -- merely mentioned -- in a column that it was too bad Fox insisted that "Idol" winner Clay Aiken sing the national anthem. After all, this was Game 1 at Yankee Stadium. This is where internationally acclaimed Irish tenor Ronan Tynan sings "God Bless America" and where they play Sinatra's "New York, New York" when the Yankees win.

The next day, my in-box was aflame with the most outraged e-mail I've ever received. And that's saying something. You would have thought Clay Aiken was Frank Sinatra.

What's this country coming to?

I wanted to get back to Yanks-Sox and Suns-Mavs, but I just couldn't quit watching "Idol." And all of a sudden, out comes the great Dionne Warwick. And accompanied by her old flame on the piano, the great Burt Bacharach, Dionne belts out "Walk On By" like she's still 24. Highlight of the night.

But was this to send the subliminal message that this year's "Idol" winner could reach Dionne-Burt heights? Or was this to distract the audience from just how ordinary Taylor Hicks really is?

Next came Prince, singing one of his new songs, which sounds vaguely like his old stuff, just not nearly as great. The old Prince wouldn't have stooped to selling out to appear on this kind of show. This is when doves cry.

When host Ryan Seacrest -- likeable, but inconsequential -- finally announced that Hicks had won the right to be America's hottest-selling singer, we got a glimpse of David Hasselhoff in the audience. Perfect: an obviously staged shot of one of the world's most overrated singers, except in Germany. He was applauding emotionally and appearing to tear up.

Was he truly happy for Hicks or sad this star-making vehicle wasn't around when he was younger?

That was it. I'd seen enough. Back to reality, to the beautiful music being made by a real star. Back to Nash.

Skip Bayless can be seen Monday through Friday on "Cold Pizza," ESPN2's morning show and at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN's "1st & 10." His column appears twice a week on Page 2. You can e-mail Skip here.