Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Delusional - 8/17/2010

I have watched American Idol fairly faithfully since its debut. Well, up until this past season when it seems America ran out of talent in the under 30 demographic. The only person I saw that even remotely impressed me was a strange and exotic looking girl who was eliminated fairly early, Siobhan Magnus. The contestant that got all the attention was Crystal Bowersox, a very unmarketable, one-dimensional singer, and her name was about the only thing interesting about her. I liked her until I realized that every song she sung was going to sound the same. I couldn’t even tell you who won; it was such a boring season. I think Simon realized that when he bailed, thus for all practical purposes, ended the show’s run at the top of the ratings heap.

Realizing that it is primarily 12-year old girls and middle-aged women that actually call in their votes, I have never been too concerned about who wins. Often the winners end up performing at shopping malls (that gray-haired guy that’s name no one can recall) and also-rans end up with fame and fortune (Daughtry). I am also very skeptical that actual votes are tallied and results are not just determined by the producers. Surprisingly, there is no independent third party validation to assure legitimacy. I am not a conspiracy theory guy, but they do seem to end up with at least one major surprise towards the end of each season.

But I don’t want to discuss that aspect of the show. During the first few weeks of every season, they air the auditions, where thousands of hopefuls are gathered in a handful of cities across the country. These episodes tend to be freak shows and train wrecks that I cannot look away from. Many of the contestants know they are just there for the fun of it, national exposure, and to see just how obnoxious they can be. They realize they have no talent and as much chance of being the next American Idol as Rush Limbaugh keynoting the Democratic National Convention.

What I wish to discuss here are those poor souls that believe they are talented but are every bit as bad as those trying to be bad. They are totally delusional and heartbreak and tears result when they are told by the Simon Cowell that "If you sung like this 2,000 years ago, people would've stoned you." These young people are devastated by the rejection. My thoughts are always, “don’t they have parents and friends that love them enough to tell them the truth?” I don’t believe in dashing kid’s dreams, but at some point reality has to set in and somebody who loves them has to say, "you sounded like you were being strangled," before Simon does it in front of 30 million viewers (not verified). I was blessed with three very talented kids, but if one of them would have said, "Dad, I think I am going to go on "So You Think You Can Dance," I would have very tactfully produced a video of them dancing and squashed that notion immediately. A parent knows. I always thought that maybe some of these sad-sacks were actors that were paid to add that element to the show.

That was until my return trip from Spokane last Tuesday when I met one of these psychoneurotic youth. This is his story:

He told me his name, but I forgot it immediately, as I do most everything people tell me that I have no interest in. But almost everything else he informed me about was worth my time and attention, if only for entertainment value. He was traveling to Austin, Texas from Spokane to audition for American Idol. While that was not a shocking thing, as thousands of other hopefuls were simultaneously converging on that Texas City. What caught my attention was how certain he was that he would not only continue on to Los Angeles as a finalist, but would eventually win the title. The audition process was merely a formality. He was 17, a rising senior in high school, and traveling alone for the first time in his life. He was obviously very anxious about flying and stuck to me in the gate area like failure adheres to the LA Clippers. I was relieved to find that our seat assignments were half a plane apart.

However, plane was delayed just long enough for him to relate much more of his story to me.

(Side note: The plane left a half-hour late but arrived in Denver on time. How does that happen? Do they lie about how long it takes to give them some leeway? Why don’t they fly that fast all the time?)

I knew immediatly that he was blogworthy.

He had already secured a four year “free ride” to the University of Texas to play baseball, football, and basketball. The greatest athlete in my lifetime was Bo Jackson and he only played two sports.

So you might imagine this kid as 6’6” 250 pounds of solid muscle. Well, I estimated him at 5’8” 180 pounds, with the muscle tone of Marilyn Manson. I am 57 years old and barely ambulatory and I guarantee that I could push him around a football field like one of those inflatable Santas in my neighbor’s yard every Christmas. He would look more at home at a Magic the Gathering tournament than any athletic field. When I inquired as to why he was wearing a Texas A&M jersey (rival of UT), he said, “they wanted me too, but I chose Texas because I am majoring in Culinary Arts and Crime Scene Investigation.“ Who could argue with that logic? Everyone knows that the University of Texas has the best culinary arts/crime scene investigation program in the country.

Still wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt, I inquired as to his position on the Central Valley High School football squad. His reply was, “anywhere they need me.” Those of you that know my lack of ability to hold myself in check would have been very proud of my restraint. Though it raced to my tongue, I made no mention of Bobby Boucher. For those of you that are not football savvy, I can assure you that the University of Texas, one of the top football schools in the nation, does not give scholarships to a utility player unless he has mad size and skills that can be utilized throughout the program. His reply to a similar question about baseball was much the same, “catcher, pitcher, outfield, sometimes third base.“ Again, major colleges generally like their recruits to have a position. I am pretty sure that his position is “left out.”

Though I am not Dr. Paul Ekman, I have a pretty good feel for when someone is lying to me (except for women). I am certain that this young man believed everything he said. He could have passed a polygraph with flying colors. There was a certainty in his eyes that made me sad for him. I liked this kid. but will not be surprised if one day he is on a clock tower with a sniper rifle.

Before we parted, I asked if I could take his picture in case he won Idol and was famous. He said, “Sure, in fact a lot of people have already asked me for my autograph for when I win.” I did not listen to him sing, but I think he is very fortunate that Simon is no longer on the panel.