In my mid-20s, my roommate Gary and I were devotees of ABC’s long-running reality show hit, Dancing with the Stars. The sequins. The shuffling from celebrities both minor (soaps actors like Ingo Rademacher – 2013) and major (Kim Kardashian, et al). The histrionics of Italian judge and walking stereotype, Bruno Tonioli. The weeknight ballroom experience channeled fond 1980s-era memories of watching Solid Gold and Dance Fever with my enthusiastic grandparents.
As I grew older, busier and television viewing options proliferated, I felt unable to justify the allotment of limited time to the rote and predictable. Judge Carrie Ann Inaba chastising people for doing illegal lifts. Her colleague Len Goodman admonishing contestants and dance pros for silly routines devoid of enough classical steps – in his words “too much messing about.” And because the votes of dedicated fans counterbalance disinterested judicial critique, the most talented performer sometimes goes home without the Mirror Ball trophy. I’m looking sadly at you Mario Lopez!
I hadn’t watched an episode of Dancing with the Stars in years. And I don’t suppose anything other than a member of the 2016 World Series Chicago Cubs accepting the challenge to compete would have enticed me to return. This is an abnormal moment in American history. The former host of The Apprentice is now Commander-in-Chief. And the spiritual leader of the greatest Cubs team in modern history is faithfully shaking his sequined moneymaker every week on live TV. How can I reasonably stay away?
I admit that when I first learned Rossy would take on ballroom dancing, the idea seemed to make as much sense as giving a thirsty person a glass of saltwater. After years spent in a crouched position racking up concussions, no way was David Ross a threat to flexible fellow contestants like Olympic Gold Medal gymnast Simon Biles. But the catcher is retired from baseball and always demonstrated a flair for the silly in the Cubs dugout (treat yourself to this video of Rossy playing air drums during Phil Collins classic “In the Air Tonight”). Why not try something scary and new?
To the surprise and delight of legions of Wrigleyville Nation residents however, Grandpa Rossy is bringing it to the Dancing with the Stars ballroom. Through a combination of discipline, charisma and humility, David Ross has become the Season 24 one to watch. Echoing the sentiments of many a slack-jawed Cubs fan, Judge Carrie Ann Inaba said this of the former catcher’s Week 1 performance: “I didn’t expect that from you. You came out of the gate and you were charming and smooth.” To watch Rossy strut his stuff in bedazzled outfits is nothing short of mesmerizing.
Don’t take it from me. Let’s hear it from Cubs All-Star first baseman, Antony Rizzo. After David Ross unleashed a Magic Mike tribute routine on America this week, taking it down to the ground more than once, Rizzo tweeted that he was “Speechless…and a bit horrified.”
The support and playful jabs David Ross receives from former teammates such as Rizzo and Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Jake Arrieta is completely endearing. It adds another layer of satisfaction to the spectacle of watching a mentor to so many young players grab a different moment in the national spotlight. The entire experience recalls all the best elements of the Chicago Cubs’ historic 2016 World Series run: the camaraderie, the work ethic and determination, the good-natured fun.
After avoiding a spot at the bottom of the DWTS leader board this week, David Ross lives to cha cha (or waltz, or samba, whatever) another day. Fans have an extended opportunity to forget the pressure of starting the 2017 MLB season as a ring-wearing target, and get down with the irreplaceable, irrepressible mentor of so many young Cubs. As long as Rossy’s wearing sequined boxers and rapping along to “Bust a Move,” November 2016 is now.
Image: Chicago Sun-Times