Dec 2, 2004

Not a Pulitzer Moment

A slow news week at the Times, I guess: Tomorrow's paper has the Calendar section weighing in on... this weekend's USC/UCLA football game. A breathless introduction explains the whimsical concept: "We asked The Times' arts, entertainment and style critics to handicap the game by looking at it through the filters of their respective fields of expertise. Who should win if fashion dictated? What do the fight songs tell us? Which quarterback has the grace of a ballerina?"

The critics respond with varying degrees of passion to this off-the-beat assignment. It's mostly disposable local-color twaddle, but I must commend dance critic Lewis Segal for taking up the challenge with vigorous exegetic exertions beyond the call of duty. To wit:
Ringed with Trojan muscle, [USC quarterback Matt] Leinart takes his time to calmly decide who deserves the ball on each play. "I've always kind of liked pressure situations," he told FSN West earlier this season, and he almost always exudes confident self-control. Indeed, he moves no more than necessary, all his power kept in reserve. If he were a dancer, he'd be an aristocratic ballet prince — maybe Apollo, majestically driving the horses of the sun.

Wow! I can feel the warm draft wafting my way (and I'm not talking about the rays of that mythical sun). But there's more:
In contrast, [UCLA quarterback Drew] Olson would be a twitchy, twisty, impulsive Twyla Tharp virtuoso. His style is dangerously unpredictable. UCLA's defense has been, shall we say, inconsistent this season, so Olson's mastery of the running/dodging fake-out may count as adaptive behavior. But it's great fun to watch him improvise: five steps back, pause, then two steps for a phony handoff, a shuffle into a new position and finally a lunge into a pass.

It's a slight exaggeration to label Leinart a poised classical quarterback and Olson an edgy modernist — but only slightly. As Martha Graham definitively observed, movement never lies.

You just can't make this stuff up.

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