>>> Bang for Your Buck
By staff writer David Nelson
March 17, 2008


Essential New Word of the Week: crabdance (definition hint: Dance, Dance Humiliation)

The average guy has only two things to distract him from his troubles: sports and entertainment. Lately, those two worlds have started to coalesce to an alarming degree, and I’m not talking about the heady mixture of baby oil and horse steroids that passes for “sports entertainment” in the WWE. Actors are seeking minor league baseball contracts, while pro athletes are cutting the worst rap albums since Hammer lost his MC status.

Of course, fans are the ones who suffer for the delusional fantasies of these crossover prima donnas. If you have something you’re good at, I say learn to love it rather than set your sights elsewhere. Where would we as a society be if Albert Einstein wanted to give physics a rest in order to try, say, mixed martial arts?

If the game Guitar Hero taught me anything, it’s that being a musician is hard. Some of those notes fly at you pretty fast, even on the easy level. The only sure path to musical success these days is through American Idol, and I imagine you have to do unspeakable things to Ryan Seacrest to even make it on the air.

“It’s even worse when athletes decide to step in front of a camera or microphone.”

Acting isn’t much easier, and if you don’t believe me, just ask my probation officer. Actors spend years learning their craft, and even more time working the deep fryer at Hollywood restaurants. Sure, the greats make it look easy. But do you think Sharon Stone got as far as she did just by letting her vagina flap around onscreen? Performances like Catwoman don’t just happen.

Pro athletes, likewise, are finely-tuned machines, capable of bodyslamming you or me into a smoking crater. It takes years of practice to be able to catch a football or slap a hooker just right. I don’t know what makes celebrities think they can just waltz in and gain a spot on a starting roster, but it has to stop.

As I write this, 60-year-old actor Billy Crystal just wrapped up a plate appearance with the Yankees against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a spring training game. I fully realize that this was just a publicity stunt, but in a way, it’s an insult to every ballplayer who ever worked to earn those pinstripes.

Babe Ruth hit a million home runs with a bat in one hand and a hoagie in the other. Lou Gehrig won fans’ hearts by catching a disease called something or other. Billy Crystal’s contribution to sports, on the other hand, consists of the basketball “movie” My Giant, co-starring yet another mushmouthed athlete in place of an actor.

I realize that Crystal is responsible for some of the finest catchphrases 1975 had to offer, but that doesn’t qualify him as a starting player. Last time I checked, the Yankees haven’t even appeared in the World Series since 2003. Aren’t there, you know, some actual players who should be fighting for that spot?

It’s not hard to imagine why entertainers want to break into sports. In Hollywood, your performance is measured by critics, whose opinions are entirely subjective, and who hand out awards according to which production company handed out the best bag of tacky crap. But in sports, it’s all very cut and dry. If you score the most goals, you win the “Most Goals” Award.

Of course any sport that’s worth taking seriously doesn’t give a crap about spoiled actors like Billy Crystal and their delusions of grandeur. That’s why a lot of stars on the low end of the celebrity totem pole wind up on Fox Celebrity Boxing™. I don’t know who came up with the term “The Sweet Science,” but I bet he never expected to see the kid from Diff’rent Strokes kidney-punching a strung-out Vanilla Ice.

And before that, actors like Blair Underwood, William Shatner, and Ed Asner were squaring off in kayaking, tennis, and cycling on Battle of the Network Stars. It’s hard to believe these thespians were willing to participate in such a spectacle. It’s all fine and well to get caught snorting coke with underage Thai transsexuals, but true stars don’t willingly mortgage their dignity, unless they belong to the Baldwin family.

I suppose I shouldn’t be too angry with Billy Crystal and the Yankees. This kind of stunt is nothing new. Back in 1999, when Crystal was Analyzing This, the Padres were welcoming a new player by the name of Garth Brooks. At least Garth has the beefy physique of your typical first baseman. But more importantly, his participation in spring training was for charity.

Garth Brooks has had to sing a lot of awful songs and wear a lot of stupid hats to earn his fortune, and if he wants to donate some of it to sick children, I say give the man a glove and let him rename the team The San Diego Chris Gaines Was a Good Idea and Totally Didn’t Suck.

Actor/Ghostbuster Emeritus Bill Murray fancies himself a golfer, but he’s a lot easier to forgive. For one thing, every slob who’s ever swung a club thinks he could hack it on the pro tour with a little luck. Also, his movies are a whole lot more watchable then those of Billy Crystal. Every time a pizza-faced wiseass gets laid, Bill Murray is owed a debt of gratitude. For that, I say let him have his golf fantasies.

But as horrifying as it is to see actors try their hands at sports, it’s even worse when athletes decide to step in front of a camera or microphone. Call me demanding, but I prefer my entertainment dollar to go to entertaining people as opposed to egotistical, inarticulate douchebags who happen to have great agents.

I could write pages and pages about all the athletes who never should have tried acting. Dennis Rodman, for example, was a pretty good rebounder who enjoyed creative hairstyling and transvestism. And that should have been enough. But when he teamed up with Jean-Claude Van Damme in Double Team, Belgium and America were temporarily united in grief.

Rodman played a kung-fu master with a tendency to make comedic basketball metaphors. For example, he’d kick a villain in the groin and say “Oops. Air ball!” Needless to say, Rodman’s lethargic performance fails to give this kind of snappy dialogue the weight it deserves. I’d almost rather look at Van Damme do the splits for twenty minutes, and by the way, the movie kind of makes that decision for me.

Bo Jackson was a multisport star before a hip injury took him out like an elderly shut-in without a Medic Alert bracelet. But for a brief time, his popularity was off the scale, and his ego followed suit. Trying to place his entertainment career in context would require me to personally travel around the country, singing gospels about Bo arm wrestling Jesus and winning.

The crown jewel of Bo’s film career is the biopic Bo Knows Bo, starring himself several times over. The conceit is, he’s good at everything, so by the end, the audience is confronted with multiple Bo Jacksons wearing every sports uniform you can think of. The five people who saw this movie are now petitioning to have narcissism reclassified as Bo-tulism.

George Forman was a hell of a boxer, and…I’ll admit it…his grill makes a delicious hamburger that’s not too greasy. Also, you have to love a guy who’s been punched in the head so many times that he named each of his five sons “George,” just to make it easy on his memory. But as great as Foreman is, ABC should never have given him a sitcom. That’s like forcing an adorable puppy to jump through flaming hoops at the circus.

But there’s a special spot in Dante’s “Overreaching Athlete” level of hell reserved for Shaquille O’Neal. Using valuable time that could have been spent practicing free throws, Shaq has put out five rap albums. This seems very suspicious to me. I don’t know much about rap, but how many times can you rhyme “dunk” and “funk”?

His second album, Shaq Fu – Da Return, is named after the greatest NBA star-inspired fictional martial art since Tae Kwon Pippen. Also, the liner notes are loaded with pictures of Shaq dressed like a ninja, proving the music industry is somehow stealing my thoughts. As for the music itself, I imagine it’s being used by alien lawyers as Exhibit A in the intergalactic case of Earth Must Be Vaporized.

And if Shaq’s full-court press on the eardrums isn’t enough, the big guy has also applied his unique brand of sasquatch charm to the silver screen. In Kazaam he demonstrated that even bruthaz with magical genie powers are slaves to be exploited by white children. Mind you, I might be reading more into the movie than the director intended.

A year later, Shaq would bring his acting chops to Steel, the story of a hero who builds a futuristic set of armor to fight crime. Now, it’s an actor’s job to convey emotions. So, if you suspect putting the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in a head-to-toe metal suit might prevent that, you’re already smarter than the producers of Steel. Tin can or not, Shaq makes Robocop look like Sir Laurence Olivier.

This has only been a small sample of the crossover bullshit we’re expected to tolerate. Tom Selleck once took an at-bat for the Detroit Tigers, thanks probably to some kind of sinister moustache influence. Boxer Roy Jones Jr.’s debut album, Round One is so godawful, you begin to wonder if there’s any way a referee can step in and put a stop to it. You get the idea.

Maybe this phenomenon is our own fault. Celebrities are no longer individuals who are good at something, they’re brands. In other words, skills as an actor, musician or athlete are much less important than a mere name. And if we don’t stop buying into it, soon we’ll be seeing Jack Nicholson take the opening tip-off for the Lakers while Tiger Woods stars as “Shaft: The Next Generation,” with a soundtrack by Yao Ming.

Essential New Word of the Week:

crabdance n/v [“kræb‘dæns]

Sometimes, if I’m at a club, half-bored and drunk, I’ll take it out on those around me. One way to do this is through the use of creative dance—and by creative, I mean totally humiliating. With a partner in crime who is more than willing to participate, we’ll surround whoever looks the most serious and dignified, and we’ll crabdance that person. This involves rocking back and forth in unison, while making clawing motions with our hands. No, seriously.

Now, you might say this is a pointless, mean-spirited, and kind of gay thing to do. And, now that I think about it, you’d be absolutely right. Still, saps who take themselves too seriously have been hit with cream pies for decades. And even though we don’t happen to have pie with us at a club, that’s no reason not to lighten the mood. Other creative moves include the Canoe of Death, the Zombie Dance, and the Bus Driver. But the less said about those, the better.

Follow Points in Case on Twitter.

Join The Second City writing classes on satire, sketch, and TV - 10% off with code PIC.

Check out events at The Satire and Humor Festival in NYC March 22-24.