Danc­ing with the Stars is still an ath­lete’s show

The Hamilton Spectator - - A & E - EMILY YAHR

NFL run­ning back Rashad Jen­nings won Sea­son 24 of “Danc­ing With the Stars” on Tues­day, a well-de­served vic­tory af­ter a sea­son of high scores and fan-favourite dances.

“I don’t know if you were nec­es­sar­ily born to win this com­pe­ti­tion,” judge Car­rie Ann In­aba told Jen­nings af­ter his last per­for­mance in the fi­nale. “But you cer­tainly have earned it.”

While that com­ment might sound lack­lus­tre, it came right af­ter In­aba fin­ished telling Fifth Har­mony singer Nor­mani Kordei — the clear judge favourite with the high­est scores of any­one — “You were born to win this com­pe­ti­tion.”

In­stead, Kordei landed in third place, to the ob­vi­ous shock of the au­di­ence and judges. In­aba cov­ered her mouth in dis­be­lief; Len Good­man shook his head in dis­ap­proval; Ju­lianne Hough mouthed, “Wow.” Even co­host Erin An­drews was speech­less. “No words, Tom,” she said, sadly, turn­ing to co­host Tom Bergeron.

Their dis­ap­proval may have been more di­rected to­ward for­mer Chicago Cubs catcher David Ross, who wound up in sec­ond place. Af­ter Ross’ fi­nal dance, the judges gushed over how joy­ful it is to watch him dance — with­out ac­tu­ally say­ing he has any real abil­ity. Hough called him “the heart of the show” while Good­man went with “critic-proof, block­bust­ing crowd pleaser.” Ouch.

Ross’ run­ner-up sta­tus over Kordei was con­tro­ver­sial for lots of her fans on so­cial media — although many peo­ple ac­knowl­edged that if Kordei couldn’t win the prize, Jen­nings de­served it.

Jen­nings’s vic­tory is a good re­minder: At the end of the day, pro­fes­sional ath­letes still reg­u­larly crush the “Danc­ing With the Stars” com­pe­ti­tion. Not only do they have nat­u­ral agility, which makes them fun to watch, but they have a com­peti­tor’s men­tal­ity that takes them far.

“(Ath­letes) are more likely to be less ego­fo­cused on be­ing crit­i­cized be­cause of their fa­mil­iar­ity with be­ing coached — they don’t take it per­son­ally as much,” Bergeron told The Wash­ing­ton Post in an in­ter­view last sum­mer. “If you’re deal­ing with per­form­ers who are used to hav­ing a lit­tle cadre of ‘yes peo­ple’ around them, the whole con­cept of ‘you’ve got to learn this be­cause it’s go­ing to be hard and you’ve got to prac­tice it’ can some­times be a lit­tle for­eign.”

Plus, they have very loyal fan bases; that clearly put Ross over the top with viewer votes, which are com­bined with judge scores.

Jen­nings is now the fourth pro­fes­sional foot­ball player to win the Mir­ror Ball Tro­phy, along with Don­ald Driver (Sea­son 14); Hines Ward (Sea­son 12) and Em­mitt Smith (Sea­son 3). Other NFL stars who have placed in the fi­nal three over the years in­clude Ja­son Tay­lor, Calvin John­son, Ja­coby Jones, War­ren Sapp and Jerry Rice.

While Jen­nings may not have been the No. 1 choice for the judges, they were still very pleased by his evo­lu­tion over the sea­son.


Emma Slater and Rashad Jen­nings cel­e­brate their win.

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