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Dunks, Tarps, and Meaningless Awards

by Walter Burns

There was a strange confluence of entertainment on Sunday evening -- the NBA All-Star Game took place at the same time as the Academy Awards, giving us a glance at two extremely different events that suffer from some very similar problems and story lines.

Sadly, the Daytona 500 was scheduled to also go on that this time, which would have yielded a bizarre trifecta of demographics. And, in case you missed it, some of the writers for The Inclusive had a live chat of the Academy Awards. Check it out here.

With that schilling out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the recurring themes.

The wily veterans gunning for glory

Kobe Bryant and Meryl Streep have evolved to have weirdly similar and polarizing careers. Both have plenty of fans. Both are incredibly talented. Both inspire a great amount of hatred. Whereas Kobe’s “Black Mamba” turn happened a couple years back, Meryl’s took a bit longer -- culminating with her win, after which she declared that she didn’t care about the haters out there.

Kobe, meanwhile, jacked up a bunch of terrible jump shots in his quest to score enough points to supplant Michael Jordan as the All-Star Game’s leading all-time point scorer. He didn’t earn it. He took it.

I can’t imagine there were too many people who were all that genuinely happy to see either of these people win. It’s not a surprise to watch them win. It’s not particularly fun to watch them win. But they do demand respect as a couple of the all-time greats, even if you did wish they would get smacked in the face. Speaking of....

The moment of Schadenfreude pleased just about everyone

The Academy Awards’ most interesting event happened before the show when Sacha Baron Cohen, dressed as his character from the upcoming The Dictator, spilled the fake ashes of Kim Jong-Il all over Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet. Seacrest proceeded to act like a petulant shit about it, solidifying everyone’s assumption that he probably takes himself as serious as cancer.

Meanwhile, in what is usually a game that sees almost no contact, Dwayne Wade hacked Kobe Bryant on a drive, breaking his nose and giving him a slight concussion. In Bryant’s defense, he handled it pretty well. Perhaps next year we can get Wade to hit Seacrest in the face, just for comparison’s sake.

The guys that just can’t quite make it happen

LeBron is having an unbelievable season. Clooney might have made his best movie yet with The Descendants. But on Sunday night, they both came up short (not counting the fact that Clooney got to take Stacy Kiebler and I’m assuming a few of the Cirque de Soleil performers home).

Now, in all honesty, I haven’t seen The Descendants, nor have I seen more than six quarters of LeBron’s season, but both of them have been talked about incessantly. LeBron is the front runner for MVP and The Descendants was viewed as at least a strong competitor for best picture.

But when the fourth quarter of the game came around and the fourth hour of the Academy Awards slogged on, Clooney and LeBron both found themselves without a win. LeBron’s great performance couldn’t bring the East back, and Clooney’s great performance couldn’t overcome an old, white voting base that probably still wishes most movies were silent and black and white.

The awkward event that made people slightly embarrassed

White, awkward, out of place -- that was Angelina’s leg at the Oscars and Chase Budinger in the dunk contest. Both of them perform at a slightly above-average level. Neither of them really needed to be there, aside from being a curiosity. Both of them stuck out in an unnecessary and uncomfortable way.

The bald and the boring

Billy Crystal and Pitbull with two tired renditions of tired songs.

The bad news - executives editions

The Grammys’ ratings beat the Oscars, even though ratings were up over last year's iteration. The All-Star Game’s ratings narrowly beat the rainout of the Daytona 500. Between the popularity of country music and cars sitting under tarps, it is now understandable why President Barack Obama is barely beating Rick Santorum in the polls.

What does this all mean? Well, tough to say really. The Grammys courted mainstream popularity. NASCAR...has fiery car crashes. Solution? NBA Jam-style basketballs on fire and lots more nominations for Transformers 4.

The moral of the story

Plenty has been written about “fixing” both the All-Star Game and the Academy Awards. But really, what’s to fix? Both events are known for being more interesting in the build up, disappointing in execution, and generally do not waver far from mediocre in a good or bad way.

They’re the type of events that always seem like they should be better. They are remembered fondly and make for good montages. The lesson for us, as always, is don’t get your hopes up and try to enjoy the inanity of it all.

The winners

First, Kevin Durant. Durant hasn’t exactly been under the radar since he joined the league, but he’s a soft-spoken guy who doesn’t generate Blake Griffin-style highlights. Instead, he just puts up great numbers nearly every night on an extremely young and talented team. Non-NBA fans might not be all that aware of Durant, but he’s quickly coming into his own and has to be considered one of the top five players in the league.

And lastly, Woody Allen - the night’s biggest winner. Woody Allen was supposedly watching the All-Star Game WHILE he won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Because he is a boss. Midnight in Paris does not reflect his best work, but an above-average Woody Allen is going to beat just about everybody during awards season.

Image courtesy of Bitten and Bound, which is not a bondage site, oddly enough


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Walter Burns is one half of The Inclusive's intrepid News Team! Every other week, he will get you up to date on the goings on in that you should probably be aware of. No, this not actually Cary Grant. He's dead. Contact the News Team! at