Saturday, May 26, 2007

Phillippi, Idol, O'Donnell, Doolittle

The fellow there in the blue shirt and hat is Phillippi Sparks. Sparks used to be famous for one thing: He was the cornerback who played opposite Jason Sehorn with the New York Giants. In fact, his own daughter, on national television, explained who he was by saying he was the cornerback who played opposite Jason Sehorn with the New York Giants. She said that because, although her father was considered a fine defensive back, Sehorn was considered a star. Why?

Years in NFL 9 9
Games played115117
Interceptions27 19
Spouse College
Law & Order
Fun factOne of dozens
of African-American
NFL cornerbacks
The only white guy
playing cornerback
in the NFL

OK, that's not really fair. Sehorn did have more return touchdowns and more sacks, stats that wound up being trimmed from the chart. One can certainly make the case that Sehorn was a little better than Sparks. But only a little. What's clear, though, is that Sehorn was not one of the league's best corners. So why did he get so much publicity? Why did he get endorsement deals? Because of his race? Yes and no. Sehorn didn't have a high profile because he was white, per se. He had a high profile because he was a novelty -- a white guy playing corner in the NFL. The assumption that was made about him was that if a white guy was making it as cornerback, then he must be really good.

A newly released biography of Condoleezza Rice bears the title Twice as Good. It's a reference to the belief that for blacks (or women) to overcome prejudice and succeed in jobs long dominated by whites (or men), they must be "twice as good" as others who do the same work. The flip side is that sometimes, when a white person succeeds in what is considered a "black" job, many people will just assume that the white guy is twice as good. Bringing us back to Jason Sehorn.

Anyway, Phillippi Sparks has now become famous for something besides sharing the field with the Palest of Corners. That's because his daughter, Jordin Sparks, last week was crowned the winner of American Idol's sixth -- and by far its worst -- season.

Jordin's victory was especially sweet for many Americans, because it was just one more thing that Rosie O'Donnell was wrong about. O'Donnell, remember, created one of her regularly scheduled stinks earlier in the year when she charged that Idol was a thoroughly racist institution. Naturally, then, this year's final four included three African-American women. And this season made it three times out of six that the winner was of African-American descent (three and a half times, if you buy what Taylor Hicks is trying to sell).

O'Donnell based her claims of racism on the fact that one of this year's Idol contestants, Antonella Barba, was allowed to remain on the show after cheesecake photos of her popped up on the Internet. O'Donnell cited the case of Frenchie Davis, who was booted from the show a few years back after it came out that she had posed topless for a porn site. See, Barba is white, and Davis is black. So it's racism, QED.

But Barba's photos were meant to be seen only by a boyfriend and were never intended for public display, whereas Davis accepted money to pose for "Daddy's Little Girls." Barba was victimized by her dirtbag spiv of an ex. Davis signed on the dotted line of her own free will. O'Donnell glossed over that part, because when you're making a second career of being aggrieved by proxy, you can only afford to read the headlines.

It would have been nice to see Barba win, if only to make O'Donnell feel that much lonelier, but, alas, the girl couldn't sing. So the winner might as well be Jordin Sparks. God knows she was preferable to the competition.

Her stiffest competition, of course, came from Melinda Doolittle. No one in America cheered louder than I did when Doolittle finally got bounced in the season's penultimate week. She was the critics' and judges' consensus choice as the best singer Idol had ever seen, yet she was utterly devoid of charisma.

Plus, the fact that Doolittle was even on the show at all was absolutely detestable.

Think about it: The woman was a professional backup singer. That means she already had the kind of access to the music industry that amateurs and shower singers can only dream about. And yet she never did anything with that access. Instead, she chose to bigfoot the amateurs and shower singers on Idol. The best singer on the show? Well, of course she was. She's a professional.

Despite being a ringer, though, Doolittle lost. It seems America finally got fed up with her who-me? act every time the judges praised her singing. We like modesty in this country. We admire humility. But when you go to pieces week after week whenever anyone says anything nice about you, it gets tiresome. It comes across as fake. Just smile and say thank you. Idol, and the media, tried to pass off her departure as some sort of huge shock, like Chris Daughtry getting kicked off last year. Daughtry, however, was done in by his fans' complacency. Doolittle got the axe because people just got sick of her.

The judges may have loved Doolittle, but you can bet the marketers who would have had to push her album had she won are breathing easier now. They're already sitting on a hundred thousand copies of Taylor Hicks' stink bomb. There's no way they wanted to take out an ad in Rolling Stone for "Doolittle Sings Torch Songs" or whatever disaster will be forthcoming. When the Idol competition had been whittled down to three this year, the show sent the finalists to their hometowns. We saw thousands cheer Jordin Sparks in Arizona and Blake Lewis in Seattle. What of Doolittle? She had a small ceremony in the governor's office in Nashville. Ooh, buzz marketing.

After Doolittle, the competition was two-dozen shades of dreck:

Fellow finalist Lewis eventualy came to be known as simply "The Beat-Boxer" because he sure as hell wasn't much of a singer. Lewis' biggest Idol highlight was singing a song by his favorite band, 311, whom the judges had never heard of. What, did they sleep through the entire 1990s? Paula, you don't have to answer that.

Fourth-place finisher LaKisha Jones didn't have a chance. O'Donnell would probably say she was the victim of sizism, but Jordin's a big girl herself. And don't forget Ruben Studdard.

Phil Stacey was a nice singer but would have been a nightmare staring out from an album cover with those dead, dead eyes.

Chris Sligh started out well as a self-deprecating goofball but was quickly revealed as a self-aggrandizing douchebag.

Chris Richardson was supposed to look like Justin Timberlake but instead looked, as Television Without Pity so aptly put it, like a drug dealer. The kind who sells meth out of his Camaro in the 7-Eleven parking lot.

Barba and Haley Scarnato were nice to look at but impossible to listen to.

Plenty has already been written about Sanjaya Malakar, who really wasn't any worse than Sundance Head but got to stay around a lot longer because preteen girls thought Sanjaya was an androgynous cutie but Sundance was a bloated monster. The judges spent the middle third of the season bitching about how awful Sanjaya was and how he didn't belong on the show, but they were the ones who cast him in the first place. If you're going to put him on the ballot, don't blame us for voting for him.

Brandon Rogers was another professional backup who tried to use Idol to weasel his way to the front of the stage. He was completely invisible.

Gina Glocksen, the token "rocker," was a cliche sandwich. Leslie Hunt had lupus, poor thing. And there were 10 other people who made so little of an impression that their names don't even sound familiar. A.J. Tabaldo? WTF?

Then there's left-wing loon Rosie O'Donnell, who last week quit her latest job (helping destroy The View) after an on-air dustup with right-wing loon Elisabeth Hasselbeck, wife of another New York Giant, backup quarterback Tim Hasselbeck.

And with that, we're back to football!

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