Melinda Doolittle is the Spurs
That was the first thing that popped into my head when Melinda was inexplicably booted last night: she's the Spurs. There's no reason not to like her. She smiles, she seems friendly enough, she clearly has the best combination of talent and polish, there's no reason America shouldn't have embraced her to the exclusion of those other two schlubs, and yet....
I dunno. I can't say I care that much that she's gone. When I look back on this season, I'll remember Sanjaya and Blake and the ridiculous Haley, but Melinda? I mean, she's got a great voice, and she's obviously a pro, but she might as well have been leaving the Idol stage and getting directly onto the tour bus every night. Remember that episode where she thanked her two best friends, her stylist and her vocal coach? That's not "American Idol." American Idol is some dorky little kid who looks like he came straight from his high school production of "Brigadoon," or some oddly round dude who makes everyone smile, or some gyrating fellow with gray hair, not a polished professional backup singer whose best friends are her stylist and her vocal coach. It's supposed to be captivating amateur entertainers, not polished professional singers.
Eugene Robinson nailed it in this morning's paper:
For all her talent and accomplishment, Melinda had little of the sparkle and fizz that people expect from a pop star....Television isn't about justice; it's about parking the right eyeballs in front of the flat-screen, preferably without a DVR attached.
A lot of people have been writing about the Spurs and their lack of likeability and what it all means. Not surprisingly, I come down exactly on the side of Bethlehem Shoals, writing longform on FanHaus:
Contrary to popular belief, what makes the Spurs so loathsome isn't the success, or the tempo you think we think they play at. Nor is it the lack of thugs, platinum and guns on their roster. Or even the poor fashion sense....
It's that they're too professional. Ever wonder why the Warriors and Suns sparked such nationwide interest? It's because both of these teams convinced us they were having a blast. On a fundamental level, the Spurs lack the outward intensity that make for a must-see team. Even that frustrated Horry foul, and the near-brawl that followed, were about as rote as those things get. The experience of watching the Spurs appeals only to Spurs fans, who get rewarded with a win.
He's exactly right, and it's exactly the same thing with Melinda: there just wasn't any reason to root for her. You knew she was good, she knew she was good, the judges knew she was good. "Bored" is the wrong word in both cases; the correct word is "indifference." Who cares? Blake is the Warriors; you never know exactly what he's going to do or why, often it'll make you cringe, but you're still curious. Jordin is the Cavs, or LeBron anyhow: so good, so young, such a lack of self-awareness, but so much potential. I'm not a huge fan of either Jordin or LeBron, but you can't help but wonder just how far their crazy talent will take them. And Melinda was the Spurs: perfect yet again, what's going on on VH1?
Michael Wilbon, you might recall, also tackled the issue of the Spurs a few days ago, noting that they were 21st in road attendance this year, behind the Bobcats. Wilbon didn't really express an opinion on our disinterest in the Spurs, but by quoting them at length he sort of drifted toward the moralistic view: you're bad if you don't appreciate the winning team, you're bad if you want celebrities and passion and something more than mere professionally achieved victory. Bruce Bowen was the one who laid this out in Wilbon's column:
We' re a blue-collar team, not one hyping itself up. We don't have anybody flashing three fingers when he makes a three-pointer. We don't have guys staring at opposing players after a dunk. The entertainment value has overtaken simple values. The whole sports culture increasingly values the wrong things.
Later, Wilbon concurs: "Basketball reached the point in too many subcultures where the show and the excitement it generated became more important than actually winning."
No, and no. Sorry guys. You can't tell us what we should care about, not with something that we all know doesn't really matter. This moralistic equation demands that there be some actual value in achieving basketball victory, in throwing a stupid ball into a stupid basket more frequently than some other bunch of tall people wearing funny clothes. I don't see that value. Maybe at a high school level, when we're molding great new minds and all that, but not for a bunch of 35-year-olds. I gave Gilbert a hard time for not supporting his teammates, because it was rude and distasteful, but he understands what we want better than anyone:
It's all entertainment. When we step inside that court and people come into those arenas and sit down, it's not about what they did that day, it's not about their rent, their jobs, how bad their day is going. It's about, "I'm going to forget about it for two hours."
We all know we should be paying attention to Iraq or the national debt or Obama's health care plan or whatever, but we're intellectually lazy, and we want to have fun instead. Entertain us, Spurs. Entertain us, Idol contestants. Otherwise we're just not going to vote for you.
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