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March 9, 2006

Idol Runaway

After you watch enough professional track meets, you develop a casual familiarity with most of the runners in the field, and their relative chances of winning the race.

As runners are lining up or getting introduced on camera, you’ll find yourself thinking things like, “That guy’s pretty fast…that one ran a strong race a few weeks ago…there’s the guy who faded in the stretch last month…that guy is a bit over the hill…” and so on.

Then sometimes a name or face will stand out, and you’ll think, “Whoa - that’s the guy. He’s going to win.” Some racers are immediately recognizable for their enormous talent, and you know they are in a whole different category than the rest of the field.

For example, this response occurs whenever I see Alan Webb or Bernard Lagat in a field of U.S. milers, or Kenenisa Bekele in any 10K. (For you triathletes, think of seeing Peter Reid lined up against a bunch of unknowns at Ironman New Zealand – it’s more or less the same feeling.)

As the race unfolds, the other runners may hang close for a while, but there’s never a moment when the outcome is truly uncertain. Unless something completely unexpected happens, the race is really just an opportunity for the also-rans to see how they compare to the best in their business.

I mention all of this because I’ve been getting the same feeling while watching American Idol for the past few weeks. Is there any doubt that Chris Daughtry is going to win this thing by a mile?

I almost never get excited about these star-in-the-making type stories, but I’ve got to say, this guy is amazing. Every time he’s taken the microphone, he’s knocked the song right out of the park. I can’t recall one negative comment he’s received from any judge after any performance.

To be sure, there are other strong performers in the group who have earned our casual recognition. There’s the Aretha Franklin-looking girl who sang the Oprah theme song (not much of a stretch, really), the cute Southern pixie who can’t pronounce “calamari”, and the gray-haired dude who is a soulful cross between Joe Cocker and Ray Charles (I LOVE this guy, by the way. He’s just not going to win.).

But they’re all blown away whenever Daughtry sings. And as soon as he finishes, my wife and I say, “Whoa - that’s the guy.”

Some of the others will hang with him for a while, but I get the same sense when watching these AI episodes that I do when watching two or three Kenyans in a large lead pack at the Boston Marathon: the near-absolute certainty that it’s only a matter of time before they pull away and win decisively.

My money's on Mandisa to hang with Daughtry until the last mile, then watch in awe as he pulls away in the final lap. (I recognize the irony of using marathon and track analogies with a woman who looks like Mandisa does, but honestly, that's pretty much all I can relate to).

The outcome isn’t in doubt. The only real question is how close any of the other competitors will get. And whether you're talking about athletes or singers, that's the sign of true greatness.


Stacey Teague 3/9/06, 7:00 PM  

I love the gray haired dude....BUT, does he have Tourettes Syndrom or something????

olga 3/10/06, 7:57 AM  

I am for Mandisa here:) Talant. Though America votes...

backofpack 3/10/06, 8:43 AM  

I like a lot of them this year. The thing that always gets me is the teeny bopper vote and the "cute" factor - I think they'll be voting for Ace. You gotta wonder how many people over 30 vote. For instance me - I watch every week, but never vote...

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