A note on tonight’s post:
So I was pretty overwhelmed with emotion earlier; I got a letter back from my 10th grade English teacher, Mr. Gehrhardt, after I’d written him six months ago and wondered if I’d ever hear back from him. He inspired me to do what I do. I want to blog about him but feel I’m too exhausted to tell the story properly. Tomorrow night, me and Mr. G.
I love Shaquille O’Neal. Really. I find him endlessly entertaining, and I’m not 100 percent sure why.
But I have a good idea. The guy just seems to have fun in everything he does. He doesn’t seem to take life too seriously, or anybody else too seriously. He has a perpetual grin on his face, he loves children, and he goes through life, mostly, trying to make sure everyone has a good time.
People say he’s incredibly cocky, but I think it’s mostly for show. I think he’s got a lot of Muhammad Ali in him, bragging so much about himself with his tongue firmly in cheek, all to get a rise out of people.
Here’s the thing, though: I don’t really love watching Shaq play basketball. I’m bored with that. I like watching him do stuff on TV.
I actually watched several episodes last year of Shaq’s Big Challenge, which was a show about Shaquille trying to help overweight kids lose weight, by inspiring and working with them.
And I’ll admit that I tuned into ABC last night for the debut of “Shaq Vs.”
It’s a show where Shaq challenges some of the best athletes in all of sport in their respective fields (OK, so it’s not “Masterpiece Theatre.” Sue me.)
Shaq will swim against Michael Phelps. He’ll try to out-homer Albert Pujols. Last night he played quarterback against Ben Roethlisberger.
I was fairly riveted last night, only because of Shaq. The show is mostly terrible; the “announcers” for the challenge make me want to stick knives in my eyeballs, and there was more “padding” in that one hour of TV than in a hundred Sumo wrestling suits.
But Shaq was funny. He teased Ben, he harassed him, and he showed off some impressive athletic ability.
I don’t know, the guy just seems to get it: He was blessed with some incredible genetic gifts and tremendous ability, and he uses his privileged place in life for good.
So many athletes take themselves so seriously. Shaq seems to get that it’s all a big game. He’s the biggest real life cartoon character we’ve had in sports since, well, since Babe Ruth.
He says goofy stuff and makes crazy threats and says he wants to be sheriff one day.
And I love him for it.
As usual, the great Rick Reilly can sum up Shaq better than I could. Check out this terrific column on Shaq from SI in 2000.