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Monday, June 13, 2011

The Biggest Loser: LeBron James or Brooke Shields?

Last night we were flipping back and forth between The Tony Awards and Game #6 of the NBA finals. Oddly enough, even though The Tonys were celebrating an industry which is all about story-telling, the better story was over at the basketball game.

(sutton foster with the cast of "anything goes")

First, though, the Tonys. Let us just say, it was a hell of a show. It was funny, entertaining, self-deprecating and at times even dazzling. Whomever produced last night's show has their thumb on it; the formula for the show was near perfect. It was all about stars, but not too many, (the Broadway "no-names" were given their due as well); the humor was fast-paced and well-delivered, and when all else failed, the producers realized it was smart to just let the musical numbers do the talking. Come on, who isn't entertained by Sutton Foster singing and tap-dancing? Bitch, please! The difference between the Tony show and this year's Oscar show was like the difference between spending a day at the beach compared to spending a day at a funeral home.
(is it Whoopie Goldberg, or Hagrid from "Harry Potter"?)
There were low moments last night, though. The opening number of the show, sung by host Neil Patrick Harris, was very impressive, but it was the writing behind the song, ("Broadway's just not for gays anymore"), that was particularly clever, not Harris's delivery. Sorry, people, but Doogie Howser is just not nearly as talented, funny or entertaining as what CBS wants you to believe. Imagine how much funnier that song could have been if sung by someone with real comedic chops, such as a Billy Crystal, Harvey Fierstein or Robin Williams. The other two head-scratching moments of the show came when Whoopi Goldberg walked out, (seriously, what the fuck was she wearing?), and when that towering titan of talent, Brooke Shields flubbed her lines during the opening number. Later Shields explained that she was asked at the last moment to participate in the song, but it was two lines! Sometimes the smallest moments in life are the most telling, and that one moment was perfectly indicative of why Brooke Shields has no business doing anything in the entertainment business other than donning a pair of Calvin's and staring at a camera. Without speaking.

Just as we predicted, "The Book of Mormon" won everything in sight, and we were thrilled to see our old friend, John Benjamin Hickey, finally win his first Tony. The funniest moment of the show came when Chris Rock came out to give the award for Best Musical, which everyone knew would be "The Book of Mormon". At that moment in the show, Dallas had just beaten Miami to win the NBA Championship, and so Rock said, "If you had told me two years ago that I'd miss the best basketball game ever to hang out with Nathan Lane, I'd have told you you were crazy! But here I am." Rock is making his Broadway debut in "The Motherfucker With The Hat", which made his next line funny, "I can remember my first musical like it was yesterday. Because it was yesterday." And he topped off his segment by saying, "Okay, I'm here to give the Tony for Best Musical, but come on, we all know what the Best Musical is, (referring to reading the names of the nominees for suspense), this is like taking a hooker to dinner. It's a waste of time!" Very funny stuff.

So, yes, Oscar producers, we really hope you were watching last night and taking notes. The Tony show producers get it: when staging a show about Broadway shows, give your audience the most entertaining parts of those shows. Hey, what a concept! The Grammy show producers get it, too; their show has always been about the year's best music performed live by the year's hottest singers and bands. So Oscars, here's a hint, when staging a show about the year's best movies, show lots and lots of clips of the year's best movies. We know, it's a stretch, but if you want to attract ratings, instead of letting bug-eyed Anne Hathaway lead another pep rally from hell while her stoner boyfriend, James Franco, is passed out under the bleachers, show big, loud clips from one of the "Transformers" movies, or clips of movies with lots of bombs exploding and cars crashing. That's the Hollywood of today, and that's what the teen boys will tune in to see. But we digress.

(the 2011 nba champion dallas mavericks: dirk nowitzki is second from left, jason kidd in the center)

As we said earlier, the better story of the night was over at the basketball game. It was Game #6 of the NBA Championship, and in case you've been living in a cave this year, let us summarize the epic story-line for you. LeBron James is indisputedly the biggest basketball star on the planet. His talent is so massive that he went straight from high school in to the pros in 2003, and became a star overnight. His world-wide star wattage grew exponentially when he led the U.S. Olympic Basketball team to a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, but then, this past year, he up and quit his Cleveland team to move to Miami to play with his old pals, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. James was branded a "traitor" and a "sell-out" for leaving Cleveland, and in a milli-second, James went from being one of the most beloved athletes on the planet to being one of the most reviled. So when Miami won their way to meet Dallas in the NBA finals, a classic story was set; LeBron and company were the overwhelming favorites to easily beat the older, more "Bad News Bears" Dallas team of Dirk Nowitzkiand Jason Kidd. But then a funny thing happened on the way to the Sport Illustrated cover, Dallas put their heads down and played real, old-fashioned, gutsy basketball, and they beat Miami for the championship, four games to two.

The win was sweet redemption for Nowitzki, whom LeBron and others had actually made fun of earlier in the week when Nowitzki revealed that he was playing while sick with the flu, and it was especially sweet for 38 year-old Jason Kidd, who had been to the NBA finals twice before with the New Jersey Nets, but had never won the crown. But most of all, Dallas's win was unbelievably delicious for the people of Cleveland and all the other LeBron James haters out there. Just as we've said before, in sports, it's all about the story that people want to see played out; sports is a drama just like the best plays of Broadway, and the underdog Dallas Mavericks beating the much-vaunted Miami Heat was a dream story come true.

(lebron james with dirk nowitzki behind)
LeBron's collapse in the biggest moments of the six game series was all they could talk about today on ESPN radio. One commentator even suggested that James might have a mental defect which causes him to be afraid of the big moments in the games. That's funny. Listen, we've got a much more plausible theory, one that involves the big elephant in the room when it comes to NBA basketball. During the regular season, most NBA teams don't play real basketball; playing defense is non-existent. So all during the regular season, big guys like LeBron James are allowed to take the lane at will and dunk the ball without any resistance. It's what most NBA fans want to see; they don't want to see a real basketball game, they just want to see a "highlight reel" of dunk after dunk after dunk. But a funny thing happens during the NBA play-offs, and especially during the Finals. Most teams really want to win the NBA Championship, and so during the play-offs, they actually begin to play what we know as the game of basketball, complete with real defense. And thus, while watching the games between Dallas and Miami these past few days, it wasn't LeBron's collapse that we saw, but his inability to deal with a team that was really trying to guard him. And in that regard, LeBron is no different than any other basketball player; when you're double-teamed for the entire game, it's a little hard to be able to do whatever you want. What we saw was not LeBron's collapse, but a real human being who wasn't used to having to work so hard to play his normal game.
Just like a Brooke Shields who is asked to act and sing, LeBron James was stunned, and simply didn't know what to do.

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