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LET'S GET REAL Who needs reality television when we have the world of sports? Drama, sex, scandal, surprise finishes, heck, even violence. You keep your Paris, your Idol, your Trump, and your Survivor. I’ll take Paris tennis, Kobe Bryant, the Boss, and the NCAA. Let’s just review a few recent events that have displayed in all their glory how the sports world, to this day, has never followed a script. Birdstone edges Smarty Jones to (once again) prevent a Triple Crown. What-stone? Huh?? Smarty Jones was the greatest American hero on four legs since Benji. A wide-angle lens couldn’t find the place horse at the Preakness. And he loses to . . . Birdstone? A man named Gaston Gaudio wins the French Open. Ranked 44th in the world (unseeded even in this newly expanded world of 32-seed Grand Slam events). Whitewashed in the first set, 6-0. He now has as many Slam titles as last year’s number-one player in the world, Andy Roddick. The Detroit Pistons chew up the L.A. Lakers and Their Four Hall of Famers over the course of five games (all of which they should have won), and spit them out like expired mouthwash. The first NBA champion without a certified superstar since the 1979 Seattle SuperSonics (remember Jack Sikma, Dennis Johnson, Gus Williams?). At the U.S. Open, Phil Mickelson -- this year’s Great American Golfer -- has his second major victory of the year in his clutches, only to collapse on the tournament’s 71st hole and allow South Africa’s Retief Goosen -- Mr. Personality himself -- to earn his second career American championship. (And what about the continued decline of Tiger Woods, who finished 14 strokes off the pace, tied for 17th with Corey Pavin and a person named Skip Kendall? Has Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles ever looked more safe?) You see, there’s nothing more entertaining than suspense. (Alfred Hitchcock once defined suspense with the following: A couple is enjoying lunch at a sidewalk cafe. A bomb explodes under their table. This is shock. When a viewer KNOWS the bomb is under the table before it explodes . . . suspense.) Reality television will provide man-made suspense (don’t think there aren’t editors chopping and slicing film to give you what you want -- need -- in the last ten minutes of your favorite show). But with sports, the suspense is a natural, palm-sweating part of the package. Your baseball team has a two-run lead in the seventh inning, but you do the lineup math and realize the Big Guy (Arod? Bagwell? Pujols? Bonds?) will bat again, at least in the ninth. Suspense. Your favorite underdog has a three stroke lead entering play on Sunday, but you see three names within five shots who have won multiple majors. Suspense. Your precious NBA outfit has handled their inferior opponent for forty minutes, but your go-to guy fouls out with eight minutes to play . . . and only a 10-point lead. Suspense. Do you like scandal? Sex? For the first (each?), prime season is the fall, when college football seizes the weekend, and your next over-the-top, postgame fraternity party in which one quarterback or another finds his fist attacked by some over-served freshman’s face. Or the next booster care package arrives on the porch of a recruit just as the NCAA’s often sleepy watchdogs decide to pay attention. And if you think there’s no sex in sports, for the love of Pete, tune in. Kobe Bryant’s trial for sexual assault this summer is sure to be as lurid and I-can’t-turn-away titillating as any Paris Hilton video. And to think this trial is a peripheral story in Lakerland! Will Shaq be traded? Who’s wooing Kobe today? Will Karl Malone retire? Who’s their next coach? That Colorado jury’s verdict may well be a subhead. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has his own “reality” show this summer, so tune in if you must. I’ll assure you though, that series will present half the drama of Cuban’s day-job pursuit of Shaq Daddy and a championship for his basketball team. The remote control is all yours . . . just leave me the sports page.

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