Babe Ruth, James Dean, Misty Copeland?

There were two loud groans originating from world headquarters Tuesday night:

  1. New Jeep Commercial

A new Jeep vehicle television commercial has a theme of “Legends aren’t born — they’re made” as video shows Jeep vehicles rampaging through deserts, fire, snow, and raging rivers. Between clips of the Jeeps are people they portray as real life legends: Babe Ruth, James Dean, and Misty Copeland, who is doing barre and floor work while The Babe runs the bases and James Dean is…well James Dean. Portrayal of The Babe and Dean as legends is not controversial given their place in American culture; Dean was number 18 among men on the American Film Institute list of 50 greatest screen legends while The Babe is a baseball and American icon, making Smithsonian’s list of 100 most significant Americans.

But Misty Copeland?

As I noted in previous articles (YouTube video of her fouetteés in Swan LakeDon Quixote, Ballerina of Our Generation?), Misty’s technique is not at the highest level relative to dancers at major companies. On the other hand, she is at the top of the list of prominent dancers in the world; she is the subject of numerous articles in the popular press, including Time Magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People of 2015 and the focus of a 60 Minutes profile. Her product endorsements include popular brands American Express, COACH, Dannon yogurt, Dr. Pepper, Seiko watches, and Under Armor athletic apparel, in addition to a Barbie Misty doll. The divide between her press and the level of her performances generates wildly divergent views among ballet fans. A commercial that places her in the same category as two of the greatest names in American athletics/entertainment adds further fuel to the debate.

Update: An interesting email from a reader: “Perhaps a better term for Misty is influencer rather than legend?  If the overall effect is a larger, more aware audience for ballet, than that is good.  The unconverted will only see “beautiful” dancing by a recognizable personality which bridges the gap between a rarefied art form and a more popular attraction. The cognoscenti will always know the difference, but will be guaranteed that their future will be filled with performances because there will be new audiences to fill the seats, pay for lessons, and support ballet companies?  As for the Giants (see below), well they’re hopeless.”

2. Odell Beckham Traded

The second reason for consternation in the Becker household Tuesday was later news that the New York Giants traded wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns. Given the pass-oriented NFL offenses, the Giants have a big problem: they don’t have any decent wide receivers. The days of the three yards and a cloud of dust philosophy fell by the wayside decades ago. Sure, Odell can be a pain off the field with controversial comments. However, he is an exciting player full of passion and competitive drive as he energizes his team and fans. He will be missed. See Bill Barnwell of ESPN for his take on how badly the Giants fared in this lopsided trade.

My advice to Giants fans: give up football and support the ballet. If that is not appealing: Go Jets!