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Whilst I was giving my closet a much needed cleansing, (and no, that's not a metaphor) I found some old essays I had written; essays I thought were but a memory. After a feisty debate with myself, (Stop it! I'm speaking literally!) I decided to post these pieces as originally written. This pains me greatly being that I am the most critical of my work and some my old essays need an extraordinary amount of editing. Then again, I could pretty much do whatever the hell I wanted to them and you wouldn't have a clue. But I digress...

This first piece is dated October 14, 2003, and was written for the beautiful and brilliant Lori Heiges, one of my favorite high school teachers. Go Panthers! The assignment was a comparison/contrast essay. Enjoy.

The Greatest Man I Know

Americans have no class. They would rather guzzle Budweiser than sip on a fine chardonnay. They would rather devour greasy hamburgers than partake in an posh parfait. And Americans simply refuse to embrace a variety of fine sports such as polo, soccer, cricket, and sailing. Americans are ignorant, stubborn, inconsiderate, and close-minded. This is precisely why the American people have rejected the art of a unique talent such as Shaquille O'Neal.

There are many great actors who have won Academy Awards throughout the years. Cuba Gooding Jr. won for his role in the sports-related film Jerry Maguire. Dustin Hoffman has one for his role in the touching comedy Rain Man. And while not recognized by the Academy, Bruce Willis has other awards for his role as a superhero in the film Unbreakable. But where is Shaquille O'Neal on this list? He has been in the sports film Blue Chips, in the superhero film Steel, and starred in the most underrated comedy of all-time, Kazaam. Yet, for whatever reason, the American public and the film community have failed to recognize Shaquille O'Neal, Shaq, for his great thespian stylings.

Who could forget Shaq as Steel, the valiant superhero who will do whatever it takes to clean up the scum of the city? Who could forget Shaq in the grandest piece of cinematic brilliance, Kazaam? In Kazaam, Shaq plays a wise-cracking genie who gets the misfortune of having to grant the wishes of a smart-mouthed little white boy. This movie is full of fun adventures, great action sequences, and literally oozes hilarity. While Kazaam is probably the best movie ever made, it is more than great jokes and clever writing that make this movie so award-worthy. Yes, Kazaam stresses morals and life lessons that other comedies simply do not. Shaq and the little white boy show us that friends can be found in all shapes and sizes. Another main theme of the movie is that great bit of advice, "Be careful what you wish for." Yet, even with Steel and Kazaam, two flawless movies, under his belt, Shaq has been denied the coveted Oscar.

Cuba Gooding Jr. has been given an Oscar because of his ability to capture emotion. Shaq deals with so many emotions in Blue Chips that sometimes I don't know whether to laugh or cry! That's how good he is! Dustin Hoffman received his Oscar because of his ability to deliver a killer line at precisely the right moment. Shaq hasn't done this? In Kazaam, Shaq belts out the most memorable catchphrase since Arnold Jackson queried, "What chu talkin' bout, Willis?". When the little boy first rubs the genie's lamp, Shaq comes out in a roar of magic and bellows, "I...AM...KAZAAM!" Few, perhaps none, could deliver this line with the precision and impact that Shaquille O'Neal does. However, Shaq has never been recognized for his acting talent. In fact, he has been brutalized by the American public, being told to "stick to basketball."

It is a crying shame that a man with the thespian chops of Shaquille O'Neal has been told to stop acting. Shaq has more stage presence than any actor of the 20th century. The exactness of his delivery far surpasses Tom Hanks, but out of those two, who has the Oscar? Shaquille O'Neal's talents have gone unrecognized in America because the majority of moviegoers are too classless to see his shining cinematic mind. Americans would rather see Jack Black yell and strum on a guitar. They would rather see Will Ferrell running naked, shouting, "Come on, we're going streaking through the quads to the gymnasium!" And they would rather see Jar Jar Binks screeching, "Misa Jar Jar Binks!" It is appalling the way Shaq has been put aside to make way for the lunacy that we have recently been exposed to.

Shaquille O'Neal may never be recognized for his acting prowess. He is second to none when it comes to acting, but sadly, he was trounced into acting oblivion by the American people. Was it jealousy? No. Was it prejudice? No. It was just simple minds not comprehending the genius to which they were being exposed. We might never see another Shaquille O'Neal in our lifetime, and that is a lifetime not worth living.