After an hour spent watching ABC’s newest foray into the world of sports entertainment, one thing is clear: Shaquille O’Neal is one of the funniest, most personable people ever to walk the earth. And his new show, “Shaq Vs.”, is the perfect blend of his athleticism and personality.
His show pits the four-time NBA Champion center and sure-fire Hall of Famer against all-stars from other sports, like Albert Pujols and Michael Phelps, in an effort to assert his sporting dominance. The series premiere set O’Neal against two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in a seven-on-seven drill at Ambridge High School in Western Pennsylvania to see who the better passer was. They both got three series—O’Neal from the 20-yard line, Big Ben from the 40—with the winner being whoever had the most points at the end of the day.
A couple of points were quite obvious from the show’s first hour. The first is Shaq’s unbelievable amount of raw talent and ability. The agility that the Cleveland Cavaliers’ behemoth showed during his shuttle runs was amazing, as was his open-field speed when he caught a halfback pass during the game. His show-stopping persona was on constant display during the show, making it funny despite ABC’s best attempts to make a mockery of things (including announcers Pat Tomasulo and Mike Goldberg, who would have been hard-pressed to get work on The Ocho with comments that sounded forced and unnatural). And the work done by both athletes for charity during the show, including a workout with kids from the Ronald McDonald House, put everything in a perspective that so often is lacking. They not only put on a good show, but did it in a responsible and fan-friendly manner.
After ABC’s last venture into sports entertainment, the “Superstars” revival, flopped like a fat man off a three-meter springboard, you have to hope that this show survives to at least run out the string of episodes. And, when you think about the prospect of Shaq diving in the pool head-to-head against Phelps or rolling around the sand against Misty May-Teanor and Kerri Walsh, I don’t see how it can’t succeed.
-Matthew De George ’10