An Appreciation of Shaqness

February 25, 2009

I officially became a Twitter-guy in early January for one reason and one reason alone. That is, to follow Shaquille O’Neal, or as he is known on Twitter, The_Real_Shaq. I use the word “follow” with a certain amount of reservation. I think “become friends with” is a more appropriate way to describe what I ideally wanted out of the situation. I didn’t specifically know what to expect out of a Twitter-happy N.B.A legend, but there was buzz, and I wanted in.

I can safely say I am thoroughly impressed with the mutually beneficial relationship that The Diesel and I have developed via Twitter. I get to keep up with Shaq’s whereabouts (Alcatraz, The LeBron James Party, the diner), and he gets to have the honor of a follower that goes by the alias EyBaumerAlright. The way I see it is a win-win situation for both parties involved.

For the record, Shaq has 169,409 followers but only follows 407 users — the lucky few include teammates Steve Nash, Lance Armstrong, and the Phoenix Suns stats guy. Maybe if this BeingBaumbastic post finds its way to Shaq, I could become #408.

I should divulge that I have a slight obsession with The Big Aristotle. Before he came to the Lakers, I assumed that there was a 55% chance I might make it in the N.B.A. Keep in mind that was 1996 and I was 11, but his arrival in my hometown of Los Angeles changed my expectations.

Athletic, dominating, and intimidating, he was everything a multi-million dollar basketball star was supposed to represent. In some sort of sub-conscious way, my lanky uncoordinated 5’9, 130 pound self watched Shaq on a day-to-day basis over the next few years and realized that my future was not to be found on the hardwood.

And that’s OKAY. I had to get on with my own life (which at the time mainly consisted of going to the orthodontist and practicing for my Bar Mitzvah) and Shaq had four N.B.A. championships to claim. Unlike most celebrity athletes, his ascent to Most Dominant Ever somehow included a place for fans like myself.

A decade before Twitter entered the cultural lexicon, Shaq and his playful persona provided legions of basketball admirers with inside information on what it’s like to be Shaq. The raps were sloppy and sophomoric and the movies were laughable; yet his smack-talking, championship-winning, back-board breaking, college degree-achieving, law-enforcement living career somehow exuded a element of high-brow cleverness.

Cynics might write all this off as just an extension of Shaq’s overblown ego, but I always decoded this as an invitation to live vicariously through him. Shaq made sure that his fans could connect with his through numerous venues; Shaqness became something everyone could attain even if they couldn’t dunk.

Through a certain lens, the Shaq-tweetin’ experience represents the apex of this mission. O’Neal describes The_Real_Shaq as a way to capture “random acts of Shaqness”, which makes complete sense in some coherently-incoherent way.

Shaq’s newfound medium for interaction allows for a constant unfiltered relationship between Shaq and his followers. Some of his Tweets are pedestrian (“La traffic sucks, aaaaaaaagh”), while others tweets scream Shaq-tastic (“Ok i admit it i at performance enhancing frosted flakes 2 yrs ago, lol”). The big guy even initiated a game of tag at the mall.

Now in the twilight of his basketball career, there is a strong chance that Shaq might not make the playoffs for the first time since his rookie season in 1993, but off-court this is his M.V.P. season. Now if he could just start following my twitter account……..

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3 Responses to “An Appreciation of Shaqness”

  1. Arthur Says:

    Maximus,

    I was going to say, “I seriously doubt that Shaq actually sends those twitters himself,” thinking that someone of his fame and stature would not bother. Do you think he drives himself around, for example, or Clive Owen (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKWVFAEiV6Y). But I think Shaq enjoys the pleasures of twitters now.
    I’m glad Kazaam got into this entry. It’s an important footnote. I saw this movie and wanted to have a genie of mine own, which is of course a tribute to Shaq’s acting (method).

  2. Leonard Maltin Says:

    Arthur, Maximus, et al,

    I’m glad to have this opportunity to correct a few misunderstandings about the fine actor and athlete, Shaquille O’Neal. Little is known about the man beyond this pop triumphs of today’s age. Arthur yearns of “hav[ing] a genie of mine own (sic)”, and does indeed pay a fine tribute to the Shaq, the actor.

    But we musn’t forget O’Neal’s plentiful other contributions. As Assistant Editor of ‘Oceanica’ for most of the 1980’s, O’Neal contributed much to the study of deep-sea marine life. Indeed, it was his groundbreaking analysis of coral pH levels in his 1987 “Effect of calcium carbonate saturation of seawater on coral calcification” (Oceanica 42:121-139, 1987). Although his findings have now been proven wrong, and his methods are simply outdated, his field work and scholarship were accomplishments that shall go down in history.

    Best Regards,

    Leonard Maltin
    Chino, CA

  3. Arthur Says:

    To Leonard:

    Hi Leonard. Nice of you to contribute to this conversation. Your insight and opinion matter.

    But I have to say that I’m a little insulted that you would bring up that chapter in Shaq’s life, because as you say yourself, all his work in marine biology has become obsolete.

    In case you didn’t realize, this is a post celebrating Shaq and his successful basketball, Hollywood and Twitter careers, not about digging back up his disgraceful past from a former life.

    So if you want to be a downer, that’s okay. But I’m going to vote that the administrator bans your fucking ass from this forum.

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