Thursday, November 8, 2012

CWebb > Shaq

TNT's Inside the NBA stands out as the superior pregame show for all sports. (If you doubt this attempt to follow a Shannon Sharpe-Dan Marino exchange or actually pay attention to what Terry Bradshaw says--that should mitigate any uncertainties.) Inside the NBA is the only pregame show perhaps ever that can be watched as entertainment in and of itself.

Since Mark Jackson left the analysis has been relatively superficial but that means little because an unscripted Charles Barkley is the star. Barkley creates a mock-narrative of the show's cast in such a way that they all devolve into a lot of unspectacular hybrid hoophead-fratbros of which Barkley situates himself as the least spectacular. The show has started to suffer however since TNT replaced Chris Webber with Shaq. See Webber along with the other hosts understood the most important thing about talent on a format, like Inside the NBA.  When there's talent, in this case Barkley, you don't get in the way. You simply provide bits of content in a comment, a color scheme to a suit, or even a run to the tele-screen in Kenny's case and let Barkley react.

Shaq destroys this flow and his ego impedes on Barkley during critical moments of comedy. It would be one thing if Barkley was the fellow egoist, whose shtick was based on belittling others. But it's not. Barkley gets comedy and recognizes that what makes him so likable and humorous is that no matter how much grief he gives Kenny or Ernie he's going to take it back over his weight, drinking,  gambling, or some other personal misstep. Shaq however takes every bit of jesting from Barkley as a personal affront and will often challenge Barkley directly on some insignificant matter that was really about developing off-the-cuff inane comedy.

Here are two examples from this season's TNT telecasts (NBA doesn't allow you to share content so the video isn't provided in the script). In the first, the group is making fun of Shaq and Barkley for a fight the two had as players where Barkley threw the ball of Shaq's head after a hard foul. There's a segment where Mike Tyson jokes that he will "kick Barkley's ass". The producers then bring up a tweet from sport writer, Jason Whitlock, in which Whitlock says he can take Shaq with a few months of training. Shaq goes alpha male and starts yelling over the other commentators about there being no training. With perfect timing Barkley comes in and says, "You need some training too big guy" to Shaq. If Webber were the recipient he would've known to shut-up, smile and let Barkley go for 20 seconds and at the end come back with a rejoinder about Barkley's weight. Instead Shaq abruptly ends the exchange, gets too serious and challenges, "I'll whoop your ass right now too." Everyone awkwardly laughs it off but Shaq has ruined any potential for the segment.

In the second segment, "Shirt Off Competition", Ernie cites a tweet by Jason Whitlock saying that Shaq is out of shape and that Barkley would win in a shirt-off competition. In response to the tweet, Barkley goes into a verbal stream of conscience where he tries to list the West Coast city that Whitlock,his friend, is from. (Ernie informs him that Kansas City is that West Coast city.) During this time the producers put up an image from the previous season of Barkley flexing with his shirt off. Kenny reprimands Barkley for the picture saying it looks like he has cornrows in his chest hair and just as he is preparing to let into Barkley, Shaq yells over the other commentators to reiterate the point that he can easily beat Whitlock, an overweight sports writer, in a boxing match. Fortunately, not even Shaq could ruin this . . .

1 comment:

  1. I've felt for a long time that Inside the NBA is the best pre/post game show in the history of sports. If the NHL lockout continues on much longer, I may be forced to not click away as soon as the game actually starts