September 20, 2011
The NBA is lacking for stories right now. To help fill the void, BDL's Eric Freeman is watching and analyzing each performance by Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace(notes) (neé Ron Artest) on the ABC hit "Dancing with the Stars." He had never watched a single episode of the series before this season.
"Dancing with the Stars" has no idea what to do with Metta World Peace. For one thing, they won't even call him by his real name, instead opting for "Ron Artest" in the hope that he'll provide some sort of name recognition for sports fans who don't usually watch a dancing competition geared towards middle-aged and elderly women.
This tactic completely misunderstands the appeal of MWP -- he's less a man's man than a giant goofball who has overcome a history of violent outbursts to become a happier person without sacrificing the best aspects of his personality. He's a success story and a curiosity at once, not a symbol of pure masculine swagger. If Artest sticks around for a while, the show's producers will need to understand why he's fascinating if they want to turn his presence into the spectacle it deserves to be.
The dance: The cha-cha-cha. Of Cuban origin. Contestants also had the option of the Viennese waltz, which World Peace wisely avoided.
The outfit: Red velvet pants, a sparkly vest, a bedazzled fedora, and a blond hairdo with "World Peace" on the back of his head in purple Hebrew.
The song: Like most songs on "DWTS," it was a cover of a popular song I couldn't place performed by Western Indiana's best wedding band.
Analysis: MWP danced with more energy than all but one competitor, "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" star and stylist Carson Kressley, who looked so happy that he must now be able to cross several dozen items off his Bucket List. World Peace's dance was energetic in movement, if also wildly imprecise, and he genuinely seemed to be enjoying himself. However, MWP's cha-cha-cha less resembled a competitive dance routine than a two-minute ecstatic spasm of mugging and occasional playful butt-smacking with a very pretty woman. For the most part, World Peace mirrored the movements of his partner -- "DWTS" rookie Peta Murgatroyd, who can best be described as a Victoria's Secret model with the flexibility of Laffy Taffy -- a split second too early or late to achieve acceptable symmetry. No one led -- it was as if the goal of their cha-cha-cha was to do nothing more than wild-out like Nick Cannon in front of a national audience. Still, it was fun and featured the kind of energy that such a conservative show needs.
Basketball relevance: Dancers are effectively athletes, mixing grace and power to achieve an aesthetically pleasing result. Unfortunately for this competition, that comparison doesn't quite apply to World Peace: Defense depends on lateral quickness, but he's past his prime and has never been especially reliant on fluid movement. If you've ever seen Metta-Metta run a fast break or on an isolation, you know that dancing is probably not going to come to him as naturally as it did for NFL greats like Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith. He's a different sort of player.
That said, his skills as a showman -- remember, this man loves to kiss his biceps on the court -- served him well. The performance was a lot of fun in a way that can only be accomplished when the performer knows his technique isn't aesthetically pleasing. That instinct was honed during years on the basketball court as a rough-and-tumble, brutish defender.
Judges' comments and scores: MWP had the ill fortune of going first, which deprived him of other poor performances to make him seem comparatively impressive. Len Goodman -- the Simon Cowell of "DWTS," just older and less prissy -- rightfully said the dance "lacked cha-cha-cha content" and condescended that it was "entertaining in its way." Bruno Toniolo -- Paula Abdul if she were an extremely flamboyant Italian man fond of meth instead of alcohol -- referred to World Peace as "Dance-a-tron" and noted that his "length of bone" can make technique difficult to master. Carrie Ann Inaba -- the dull, professional Randy Jackson stand-in -- anointed Metta "the wild one" of this season and said the "fun factor was high" while the dance itself was "sort of wrong for all the technical reasons."
In all, World Peace earned a 14 out of 30, the lowest scores of the night. However, it would be wrong to say he was the worst of the night -- his score likely would have reached 15 or 16 if he'd performed a little later in the night. Erstwhile George Clooney paramour Elisabetta Canalis was downright awful technically and cheesy in the most awkward way possible, and activist Chaz Bono appeared out of shape and ill-suited for any kind of high-stress dance. MWP will be on the chopping block for Tuesday night's elimination, but he deserves to come back. Hopefully the audience callers will appreciate the sort of pizzazz he knows best. With his athletic background and innate energy, there's potential for serious improvement.
Miscellany: Lamar Odom(notes) was in attendance with what seemed like the entire extended Kardashian family, presumably to cheer on brother-in-law Rob. Odom was not identified as a teammate of World Peace. He is now part of the family Borg. ... In his post-dance interview, World Peace kept his arm around co-host Brooke Burke's shoulder and said "It's fun to be standing next to you." She did not appear very comfortable. ... If Metta is eliminated on Tuesday, we will cover the story on Wednesday. If he stays, BDL will be without "DWTS" coverage until next Tuesday.
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