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While TV ratings for sports events have been in a freefall for years, it seems that everyone is watching reality shows. Since sports obviously can't beat 'em, maybe it's time to join 'em. Here are some sports figures that we would like to see on reality programs:
1. Last Comic Standing, Shaquille O'Neal: If his post-NBA career in law enforcement doesn't work out, Shaq could turn to stand up. Fresh off earning his MBA at the on-line University of Phoenix (yes, somebody really does click on those ads), this week he referred to the Lakers new center, high schooler Andrew Bynum, as a "juvenile delinquent" while asking to be called Dr. Shaq. And who can ever forget his brilliant use of Godfather metaphors from last season, when he compared current and former sidekicks Dwayne Wade, Penny Hardaway and Kobe Bryant to Michael, Sonny and Fredo Corleone, respectively. (Kobe as Fredo = instant comedy.) Plus, who would have the nerve to boot the big fella off the stage?
2. Survivor, Phil Jackson: The key to winning on the granddaddy of primetime reality shows is the ability to play dirty when necessary but have the mud slide right off. That's perfect for the Zen Master. Consider that when Jackson was run off by the Lakers in 2004 he penned a book trashing Kobe Bryant and dishing all sorts of locker-room dirt, yet within a year the team rehired him for $30 million over three years. Even if this latest Lakers stint doesn't work out, expect Jackson to emerge with his torch still burning bright.
3. The Amazing Race, Tony Massenburg and Mike Morgan: As two of the three most traveled pro athletes of all time (former NBA forward Chucky Brown also played for 12 teams), this duo knows all about traveling light and adapting quickly to new settings. Massenburg, who won a ring this year with the Spurs despite playing just 28 minutes in the postseason, also logged three seasons overseas, which should help on this globetrotting show. Morgan, a right-handed pitcher who never quite lived up to his immense promise, should have the maturity to deal with any task that host Phil Keoghan throws out.
4. I'm a Celebrity -- Get Me Out of Here!, Lou Piniella: This certainly wasn't what Sweet Lou had in mind when he took his three World Series rings (one as a manager, two as a player) back home to Tampa Bay three seasons ago. Piniella thought that the Rays would open the checkbook and his young team would grow into a contender. If anything, though, the situation has gotten worse and Tampa is a majors-worst 29-61 this season. Piniella seemed to be begging to get fired recently when he blasted team ownership, but it seems he's stuck with the worst franchise in pro sports.
5. Wife Swap, Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson: The former Yankees left-handers, of course, have plenty of experience. During spring training in 1973, they swapped wives, kids and even dogs. Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn colored himself "appalled," though fortunately Congress didn't get into the act. The Kekiches quickly unraveled, while the last anyone heard the Peterson union has stayed strong.
6. The Apprentice, LaMont Jordan: The new Raiders feature back has waited patiently for his chance for the spotlight after averaging 4.9 yards a carry in four years as Curtis Martin's backup with the Jets. On the downside, Jordan never publicly demanded more carries or questioned his No. 2 position. Does he lack the back-biting skills necessary to outmaneuver his foes, or will he craftily move under the radar while waiting for his chance to shine like Kendra did in The Apprentice 3?
7. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, New York Mets: No team is more in need of new digs than the Mets, who play in decrepit Shea Stadium as thunderous jets from nearby LaGuardia Airport zoom by. Only four baseball stadiums -- Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium and Dodger Stadium -- are older, but Shea possesses none of the charm of those landmarks. Plans are in order for a new home ready for the 2009 season, but will they fall by the wayside once again now that New York didn't win its Olympic bid?
8. American Idol, Ron Artest: We don't envision him as a contestant; rather, his record-producing background makes him a natural fit as a judge. Given that nobody can predict what comes out of his mouth, Artest would provide must-see TV. Plus, he can keep Simon in line with a long-overdue forearm shiver if necessary. We'd also book track legend Carl Lewis for those early audition shows with the rest of those horrendous singers who actually believe they have talent.
9. Joe Millionaire, Dontrelle Willis: To work, this show needs a good-looking guy who can convincingly appear to be absolutely loaded. With two All-Star appearances, a famous high leg kick and frequent TV time, Willis comes across as a man who must be making millions. Actually, Willis takes home a comfortable though relatively modest $378,500. That's tip money for A-Rod.
10. The Benefactor, Mark Cuban: The Mavs owner deserves his own show on which he could hand the winner $1,000,000 after setting up absurd "challenges" such as playing jenga. On second thought, that's too unrealistic. Nobody would ever make a show like that.
NOTE: I will be on vacation next week. The 10 Spot will return on Monday, July 25. Have a great week