When it comes to athletes, crazy ain't what it used to be.
Twenty years ago, if an All-Star had recorded a musical tribute to an entertainment icon and included the chorus, "Michael, Michael, Michael, you my n---- ," alongside lines like "I know you in heaven, I hope to see you next year," it would have been disturbing. We would have talked about it for weeks. Roy Firestone would have tried to schedule an intervention.
Now? Well, that's just another Tuesday with Ron Artest (and yes, those are real lyrics, sung by the Lakers forward in what could generously be called an R&B tenor, in an ode to Michael Jackson).
Time was when Artest's eccentricity would have stood out. These days, however, his tribute to Jacko must compete with the rest of the nutball performances pro athletes feel compelled to share with us. For example, this summer alone has already provided us with:
• Terrell Owens "starring" in a reality show called The T.O. Show in which he spends most of his time shirtless, buys himself a $100,000 pair of diamond earrings and hits on any woman in the vicinity. All of which is so very different from how I imagined T.O. spent his time.
• Stephon Marbury's surreal who-knows-what-the-hell-that-was on UStream.tv, in which he filmed himself for 24 hours. Monologue topics included, in no particular order: manicures, college teammates, whether he would perform oral sex on a man for $1 million ("hell no, no weenies!") and, of course, health care reform ("I think our system should be like Canada's system...But we not Canada, so we can't do that.") And, oh yeah, at one point we watch as the driver of Marbury's car appears to get into an accident while Marbury is talking to the camera. Not to worry, Steph reassures the viewer, "ain't nothin' but the devil."
• A John Daly reality show on the Golf Channel in which Daly is supposedly "normal" and "boring." Because, of course, normal, boring people invite cameras to follow them around.
• Delonte West, the gregarious guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers, freestyle rapping about KFC in his car, declaring his love for original recipe and strawberry parfait, among other menu items. Sample line: "Got the big jug, check my mug, check my swag, put the hot sauce in my bag."
• Chad Johnson releasing his own kooky UStream show in addition to a flood of tweets in an attempt to, well, I don't know. Upstage Marbury? Corner the market on crazy? In one tweet, he wrote that Michael Jackson's death was "just as sad as 9/11."
It doesn't end there. There's the Michael Irvin reality show, and Shaq's reality show and, well, you get the idea.
The end result is athlete overload. The more they share the less I want to know. Mainly because the ones doing all the sharing are not the ones I want to learn about. I don't care what Stephon Marbury has to say. Same goes for John Daly. You know what kind of reality show I'd watch? Put hidden cameras on Jonathan Papelbon and follow him as he prepares for a game, warms up and then pitches in a crucial save situation. I'd be glued to every twitching, vein-bulging, spittle-spewing second of it. Because Papelbon wouldn't be playing to the camera. And because I bet we'd see some real, grade-A, mother-effing intensity, the kind that can't be manufactured or queued up or scheduled into an 8:30 slot on some hinterland cable channel.
For that matter, give me a show following Kevin Garnett during practice and pregame and timeouts, when he gets all bug-eyed and starts barking like a histrionic Doberman and harassing his teammates and opponents alike because he wants to win so goddam bad that he can't control himself. Call it Kevin Garnett Has Your Motivational Speech Right Here! Now that's the kind of crazy I'd watch.
Give me a program called Jeff Kent Hates your f------ Reality Show. Each episode would be about three minutes long and cover yet another attempt to get Kent to go along with a proposed reality show, with predictable cameraman-thrashing results.
Or, better yet, give me crazy good. Give me Albert Pujols Hits the Ball (A Long, Long Way). All it would be is Pujols's preparation and at-bats with cut-away interviews from freaked-out pitchers about what they're thinking before every pitch, interspersed with commentary from analysts who treat the whole thing like Shark Week, discussing Pujols in hushed tones.
Give me Peyton Manning Has A Few Ideas for Some New Routes, in which we watch the famously football-nerdy Colts QB sit down with his coaches and obsessively break down potential plays, interspersed with footage from the following weekend's game and Manning's self-critical analysis. With a weekly cameo from Mike Vanderjagt to get Manning good and fired up.
Give me Ray Allen Shoots Jumpers, in which we watch the Celtics guard as -- you guessed it! -- he shoots jumpers. Mid-range, off the dribble, three-pointers, all with that floating, perfectly vertical, high-snap release. Some people find aquariums calming; I'll opt for a loop of Allen shooting Js on my flastcreen. Better yet, just provide a live feed from his pregame warm-ups. Catch. Flick. Swish.
But of course we won't get any of those. Instead we'll be forced to choose between Ochocinco's ranting, T.O.'s smirking and the inevitable Deion Sanders comeback show. Which, come to think of it, isn't really a choice at all.