More fame please coach

Pseudo-editor’s note: With Jeremy out of town he has given his friends the keys to his blog. Silly Jeremy. Today’s entry comes from Bert Foley, the guy who didn’t walk right for a week after trying a Dukes of Hazzard exit from Jeremy’s car.

As someone who follows sports more than pop culture, I’m intrigued by the athletes who try to cross over. It seems the rule of direct disproportion applies - the more an athlete wants to be famous for a non-sporting talent, the bigger the failure. Shaquille O’Neal is a good example. From the time he entered the NBA in 1992, Shaq spent his off seasons recording rap albums and convincing studios to let him star in feature presentations such as Blue Chips, Shazaam, and Steel (where he’s also credited as an executive producer. What, exactly, does this say about studios?).

You could argue that professional sports are so widely known that athletes are already part of the pop culture universe. Fair enough. But even then, sometimes they do things that catapult them beyond their own sport.

OJ Simpson is the example of course. Quick quiz for anyone born after 1980 – why was OJ famous before he (ok, allegedly) killed his wife? Football. Good on you – Fox News must still mention that he played. Now name the most prestigious record he set in the NFL. You see, this is what he used to be known for in the public consciousness. He set a single-season rushing record in 1973 with 2003 yards. Oh, and he used to have an acting career that included roles in a Hertz commercial, The Towering Inferno, Roots, and the Naked Gun movies. Take that Shaq. And OJ was considered for the lead role in The Terminator but was thought of as too nice. Go figure.

Which brings us to the latest instalment of Athletes Who Wished They Were Still Known Just As An Athlete.

Bienvenue Zinedine Zidane. Mr. Zidane, of course, is the captain of the French soccer team who head butted an opponent in the chest with minutes left in the final of the World Cup. He is a brilliant player who was having a tremendous tournament until the moment he snapped. In fact, despite his WWE manoeuvre, he was still named the best player of the World Cup. Apparently the Italian captain’s suplex was sub-par even though his futbol was otherworldly.

Given soccer’s lack of status in North America I was keen to see how Zidane’s actions would rank on our pop-culture-o-meter. Turns out it was really high. Not only was it front-page news across North America the day after the final, but the continuing soap opera about who said what and who’s sorry for what was said has continued to get massive ink. Within a day of the final I received this game, which lacks flair, but kills a minute quite nicely. And Zidane has been the water cooler fodder du jour with people actually having an opinion about a soccer match. Or at least the head butting part. Bravo soccer, you finally got the average North American to notice.

As a fan of the sport I feel sorry for the place Zidane has now secured in pop culture, but he brought it on himself. It’s well known that he’s very proud of his family and that the Italian head buttee called his mother and/or sister (ok, allegedly) a whore. Zidane played in the Italian league, so the Italian players are well aware of his pride. They decided to attack it and he should have been prepared and known better. Failing to do so has given Zidane the level of fame in North America that David Beckham only dreams of, but with it comes a shame even worse than being a former Spice Girl.

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