BIG RISK, BIG REWARD; DANCING DODGER

August 6, 2010

Bob Ryan looked at the addition of Shaq to the Celtics’ roster for the Boston Globe.

“Shaq, too?

Let the jokes begin.
Instead of a bench, the Celtics will have a couch. No, make that easy chairs and hassocks. All team meals
will be Early Bird Specials. A typical player anecdote begins, “So I said to Dr. Naismith . . .’’
The 2010-11 Boston Celtics won’t be a basketball team. They will be a walking hoop museum. Among them,
Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Jermaine O’Neal have a combined total of 71
years of service, good for 5,655 regular-season and playoff games and 200,371 minutes. They have combined
for 51 All-Star Game appearances. They have 10 All-NBA third-team selections, eight second-team selections,
and 12 first-team selections. If honors and plaques were all that mattered, we could book the parade right
now, Miami Heat or no Miami Heat.
It goes without saying, of course, that they also lead the league in O’Neals.
But seriously, folks . . .
Danny Ainge certainly has guts and imagination. What if someone had told you at the conclusion of the
2006-07 season that, by the summer of 2010, among the people they’d have seen wearing a Celtics uniform
would be Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Sam Cassell, Rasheed Wallace, Jermaine O’Neal, Shaquille O’Neal, and
let’s not forget Nate Robinson? I know I would have said something like, “Sure, and the next thing you’ll
tell me is that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh will all be playing for the same team.’’
But how many times must I remind you that in the matter of Truth vs. Fiction, you’d always be wise to take
Truth, plus the points, every time? Those two highly unlikely scenarios have indeed come to pass.
Yup, Shaq is now ours for two seasons. If the Heat didn’t exist in their current form, the Celtics would be
the most talked-about team in the league.
What the Celtics are getting is a 38-year-old, 7-foot-1-inch, 300-and-whatever-pound guy who still commands
a great deal of attention once he is passed the basketball in the low post. That’s where he operates, and
don’t you forget it.
Shaq never got the memo that seems to have been passed around to just about every other big man, be he
domestic or foreign, during the past 20-some years, said memo informing those large fellows that it was no
longer necessary to perform with one’s back to the basket. Hence the onslaught of 7-foot jump shooters with
zero pivot moves.
Shaq is a pleasant exception. Here is a big man — no, a BIG man — who walks, struts, flexes, and generally
acts as a big man. Shaq’s idea of great fun always has been to plant that large posterior into the chest of
a defender, back the hapless foe in the direction of the basket as far as he could, and then dunk in the
guy’s face. That, plus a reasonably broad assortment of little banks and turnarounds, is how he has become
the second-best percentage shooter of all-time. That’s how Shaq came into the league and that’s how he will
leave it.
Even at his advanced age, Shaq is still an effective scorer. He averaged 12 points and 6.7 rebounds in 23
minutes a game last year for Cleveland. In the 24 games prior to Feb. 25, when he injured his thumb
against the Celtics and missed the remainder of the regular season, he scored in double figures 22 times.
In fact, he was coming off back-to-back 20-point games. He still knows what he’s doing in that low post.
The free throws? The free throws are the free throws; there’s nothing much you can do about that. You have
to live with Hack-a-Shaq tactics late in games.
The downside is when the ball changes hands. Things are fine if Shaq is guarding someone close to the
basket. The problem is that the NBA has become a pick-and-roll league, and it’s a common belief that Shaq
is the worst pick-and-roll defender there is. And that Kendrick Perkins is one of the very best. The
Celtics have been built on defense the past three years, and figuring out how to factor in Shaq is
something that will occupy a great deal of Lawrence Frank’s time now that he is inheriting the Tom
Thibodeau role.
So it’s a plus-minus/risk-reward situation. There will be a large element of Shaq giveth vs. Shaq taketh
away to the story, with the Celtics gambling that there will be an advantage leaning toward the giveth.
Remember, always, that so much of what transpires in team sport depends on context. By signing Shaq, the
implication on the part of the Celtics is that they have the proper mix of teammates to maximize Shaq’s
assets while minimizing his deficiencies.
Much will depend on Shaq’s attitude, naturally. It has to be humbling for him to know that not many teams
were interested in his services, just as it must be humbling for him to be playing for relative chump
change, i.e. the veteran’s exception, in the $1.4 million range.
He went to Cleveland billed as the final piece of the puzzle (leading him to proclaim that he had come in
to get “a ring for the king’’), but now he comes here as sort of an insurance policy. ’Tis said you can’t
have too many starting pitchers, nor can you have too many “bigs,’’ as Doc Rivers likes to say. Shaq is
here to be a generic “big,’’ albeit one with a glittering résumé.
Boston could be an ideal place for him to spend his sunset years. Surely Red Auerbach, who once upon a time
provided late-career employment for the likes of Clyde Lovellette and Wayne Embry, would have approved of
the idea.
Shaq should like it here. He undoubtedly will plug himself into the tradition, and he will get himself
around town. The “Names and Faces’’ folks will be on constant alert (the folks at Symphony Hall should book
him for a “Night Before Christmas’’ Pops reading right now).
All that aside, look at it this way: The Celtics find themselves in need of a big body. Should it be Semih
Erden? Or should it be Shaquille O’Neal? If you need to think it over, then perhaps you really don’t care
about the subject in the first place.”

Chris Erskine of the LA Times looked at an eighth inning performer at Dodgers’ games (it must be a
“La-La Land” thing).

“It is an improbable shtick the kid has created for himself, pantomiming to a run-of-the-mill Journey song
in the eighth inning of Dodgers games — a manic, bug-eyed performance that has captured the hearts of
Dodgers fans in this, the summer of their discontent.

Ladies and gentlemen, now batting … Jameson Moss.

“I started out big and bold at first,” he says. “Then this woman, this fan, came by and said, ‘I love what
you do, but you should start small and build to it.'”

So ever since, that’s what Moss has been doing, performing to “Don’t Stop Believin'” and becoming a
feel-good phenomenon in a season that has gone on and on and on and on.

The 19-year-old Santa Monica college student is not there for every game. But when he is, the DodgerVision
camera crew seeks him out, hooks him up with some ear buds so that he’s in sync with the three-second delay
on the big screen, and away they go.

Is he an actor? Of course.

Is he paid? No, but the Dodgers do throw some freebie tickets his way now and then.

Is he famous?

“I was at an In-N-Out Burger the other day and the guy goes, ‘Hey, aren’t you the dancing dude at the
Dodger games?’ ” Moss says.

Fame comes in some funny packages sometimes, and the fact that the camera discovered Moss in the loge
section, most often in season seats that his family splits three ways, seems sort of remarkable. At least
till you see the quivering, impossible-to-ignore performance in person — one part Belushi, one part rally
monkey.

“He’s really kind of shy,” his mother, Kelly, says.

Sure, Mom, whatever you say.

As noted, Moss starts small — almost reluctantly — looking at the camera skeptically with his puppy dog
eyes. As the song progresses, he becomes more animated, making the song (and the crowd) come alive through
a series of gestures and hand movements.

Part of what makes it so effective is that Moss plays it so straight, pretending to take the whole thing
very seriously.

Two minutes in, Moss is pleading to the baseball gods for help as the entire crowd laughs and applauds.

Don’t stop believin’,

Hold on to the feeeeeeeelin’ …

“I did it as an audition piece for a major casting call for Disney,” Moss says. “So when it happened to
come on one night at the stadium, I was ready.”

It all started late last summer and has been building since. Before and after his bit, spectators stop by
to shake his hand or get a picture taken. Moss is gracious with all of them.

“The guys who come up to him are the guys I grew up with — the cops, the firemen, the everyday people,” his
mother says. “The people who work hard, the family men, they’re the ones who appreciate him the most.”

In person, the wild-haired young man is well-spoken and polite. He is still trying to figure out exactly
where to go with his life and hopes to transfer to UCLA, USC or Cal State Northridge to pursue either
acting or the music business. It’ll be entertainment related, that’s a lock.

“I’m out here for the industry as a whole,” says Moss, who grew up in Atlanta and moved here with his
family four years ago. “Whether it’s behind the camera, or in front of the camera.

“I love making people happy. Whether it’s a smile, a hug or a laugh, I just love making people happy.”

Moss has done a fair bit of acting — a couple of national commercials, a ” Hannah Montana” appearance and a
role in the upcoming feature “Easy A.”

For now though, his biggest gig is this summer stock performance at Dodger Stadium, a jittery-wonderful
one-man show.

And though he has more going on than many 19-year-olds, including charity work for the Tug McGraw
Foundation, his greatest gift may be the desire to just be one of us — at least for now.

“I’m a die-hard fan,” he says. “I like to go out, have some nachos, a Dodger dog and just be a part of it
all.
“I’m an average Joe,” he says.

Yeah, kid. So was DiMaggio.?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: