Do you know that game you play with your significant other (when youāve gotten sick of the idle chit chat that dominates your relationship) ā āIf given the chance, with what three people would it be OK to have a fling?ā
This was inquired upon me by my girlfriend. She answered that her selections would be John Cusack, Dave Matthews, and George Stephanopoulos. (I know, right?) After careful musing, I responded the teller at my bank, the blonde spin instructor from my gym, and her sister Julie.
I did mention sheās now my ex girlfriend, right? Hey, she was the one who wasted her picks on people sheād never meet!
Then thereās a corresponding game as well in which you select one celebrity for an imaginary homosexual experience (or one of many; listen weāre not judging here, the days of not asking and/or telling are over). Iād always said George Clooney, though I know most of you readers would go with Ryan Reynolds or Matthew McConaghey, someone on whose abs you can scrub your laundry to get it clean. I canāt blame you. But my point is this ā- there is one big name that Iāve never heard mentioned in either of these games. I mean, one big name.
Letās consider for a moment this behemoth of a personality, this giant of a character, this Renaissance man (if the Renaissance was a period of time most remembered for a society beset with pituitary problems). At one time or another, heās been many things from āthe Big Aristotle,ā āthe Big Shamrock,ā āthe Diesel,ā āKazaam,ā Shaq-ules,ā a Shaq-odile eating up all comers, a practitioner of Shaq Fu on all unsuspecting nemeses; heās won a Nobel Prize for Shaq-onomics, heās been chiseled out of granite at the peak of Mount Shaqmore, heās the proprietor of the Love Shaq, plus, heās just an all around Shaq-tastic dude. He is the one and only Shaquille Rashaun OāNeal.
There is no greater, more recognizable figure in our society. So why do more people not choose him as their infidelity instigator? Granted it might be difficult to interact with him, er, physically. I imagine youād need mountain climbing gear, someone to help belay, and probably a sherpa, but itās not outside the realm of possibility. Heck, you need three people in a daisy chain just to give him a big hug.
That aside, letās take a long look at the 7-1, 325-pound, 15-time All-Star, and four-, perhaps soon-to-be five-, time champion.
The man has been an actor, a rapper, an endorser, a trained MMA-fighter, a duly-deputized officer of the law, and this year, a human statue in Harvard Square. Who else does that?! The latter escapade endeared him to fans in a city that are very careful about to which sports celebrities they throws their affections, something about being continually disappointed for 86 years.
And he very well may be super human. Sure, heās missed parts of most years to injuries, but he keeps coming back. The man pushes three spins on the scale and has played almost 20 years. Yao Ming is a bean pole compared to him and cannot stay healthy. Forget about Bill Walton and Greg Oden, two other No. 1 picks.
How has Shaq done it? Just by being Shaq. That and magic ... the team that drafted him. Coincidence?
The more I think about it, the more I conclude that it might just be better to be airlifted in and work from the top down. I mean, youād still have to be careful not to get āthe bendsā or some other form of altitude sickness, but ā- Iām sorry, I've digressed here, what was I talking about again?
Oh, right, Shaq. I love Shaq! Iām not ashamed to admit it. I mean, how could you not? In fact, Iād question you for not loving him. (Most of these people are Lakers fans and Iām questioning them already; I have been for years, so donāt sweat it.) What other sports celeb has the draw of Shaq?
Basketballers are frequently larger than life, but none rises to the stratosphere of the dominant center. What other hoopster is so engaging? That list begins and ends with Charles Barkley. Heās candid and hilarious and no one who is not a role model has been more fun to look up to than the Round Mound of Rebound. But heās only got two nicknames (Sir Charles being the other) and though youāve got to look up to him, you donāt have to climb up Barkley using Alpine ski poles and a carabiner just to rub his head for luck like you would on your very own personal Shaq-oline. (OK, Iām digressing again. This is really turning into something other than what Iād expected. But I donāt care, dammit!)
Even footballers such as Deion Sanders and Warren Sapp arenāt so engaging. Wacky? Yes, but not as uniquely original. Peyton Manning is self-effacing to the point of hilarity, but he can get lost in a crowd, even at a Manning Family Christmas. (Note to self: Contact NBC about airing āA Manning Family Christmasā next year.)
Olympians? Well, they come out every four years ... unless youāre Bruce Jenner and then we canāt get rid of you. Golfers? Though Tiger has been hilarious before, it was inadvertently so and heās not as funny when he doesnāt cheat on his wife. Extreme snowboarders? If we knew who you were, then Iām sure weād love you too.
Muhammed Ali could captivate a crowd too and has been the most popular athlete in the world along with āthe Greatest,ā but heās slowing down and is giving the proverbial alley-oop to Shaq. Though Shaq really hasnāt been known for his philanthropy work globally, he hits the masses.
Shaqās got it all ā- the crooked smile, the cross-eyed stare, the deep voice. Heās hilarious too. (Remember him sprawled out on Tracey Morganās lap, yawning as the comedian gave him a spanking on āSaturday Night Live?ā)
Letās not forget to mention that Shaq is open and honest too. None of that athlete rhetoric -- ātough opponent,ā āgive 110 percent,ā āno āIā in teamā stuff. When David Letterman asked him on āThe Late Showā recently if he thought it could be accurate to say Phil Jacksonās legacy was due only to having great players, more so than coaching, Shaq didnāt hesitate and responded, āI would say yes.ā Thatās what we love to hear.
He wasnāt always like this, mind you. Shaq would mock the team in Sacramento, calling them the āQueens.ā He would berate a certain Yugoslavian player as āFloppyā Divac, for the alleged overly demonstrative falls he would take, though letās be honest; Shaq had been guilty of doing the same from time to time. But that was the old Shaq. It just shows that heās interested in self improvement (in every aspect of his life except free throws).
Now he can do no wrong in my eyes. Heās the Robert Downey Jr. of sports. Or wait, maybe Robert Downey Jr. is the Shaquille OāNeal of acting. (Take a moment to discuss.) The kids love him, he can poke fun at himself, he doesnāt get in trouble with the law, (in fact, he is the law,) heās only sworn on national television once or twice after a game, and he wants to win. What more can you ask for?
Whatās more is heās larger than life. You know how everything looks so big to you when youāre a kid? Thatās how Shaq is. He makes you feel like a kid. Ooooh, if weāre marketing him as a toy, thereās a good start! Only youāll never rid yourself of that feeling. Except when he gets older and starts to shrink a little, but even then, heāll be 6-11.
Letās start thinking about Shaq as the person youād jeopardize your marriage for. Weāre lucky to have him. Heās a once in a half century type of personality, the perfect man to love. Ladies, heās single. What can your man do that Shaq canāt (outside of squeeze into a Mini Cooper)? And fellas, whenās the last bromance youāve had that didnāt leave you a little wanton? Humor, charm, goofiness, championships -- heāll give it to you.
Just one caveat, if youāre going to choose him, just make sure youāve got at least one spotter and your insurance is paid in full.