The Journey Begins—Antonio Brown on Dancing With the Stars

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 12.41.39 AMAs I noted the preview article, I will be not only reporting on how Antonio Brown is doing on Dancing With The Stars, but how it compares to Hines Ward’s appearance on the show five years before. So let’s get right to it. First, let’s see what I had to say about the whole idea, all those years ago:

When it was announced that Hines Ward would appear on Season 12 of Dancing With The Stars, the reaction from Steeler Nation was conflicted. On one hand, it would be great to let the world see Hines Ward the philanthropist, the untiring worker, the guy who loves his job so much that he pops up from even the most brutal hit—given or received—with a big smile on his face. But come on, it’s Dancing With The Stars. Steeler Nation had already moved on from and buried the memory of Lynn Swann taking ballet classes. We didn’t need any more of this dancing nonsense.

Ward ultimately decided to participate, and Steeler Nation was supportive because that’s what Steelers fans do. But it was with considerable trepidation that we watched the first show—those of us who could bring ourselves to watch, that is. Would Hines wear an outrageous costume? Was he going to forget his routine and look like an idiot? Would he remember his routine but look really uncomfortable…?

Happily, the answer to all of the above was a resounding “heck, no!” His costume was about as dignified as dancing costumes get. He certainly didn’t forget his routine. Most important, Ward looked like he was having a great time. Steeler Nation heaved a collective sigh of relief and settled in for the long haul, because by Week 2 it was obvious that Ward had what it took to last deep into the competition.

Considering how long it has been since Ward was on the show—five years, to be precise—it amazed me to discover that the exact same set of judges will be judging this season. (One of the judges is back after a one-year hiatus.) So here’s who they are:

  • Carrie Ann Inaba: Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, she was first known as a singer in Japan, but later became known for her dancing, particularly because of the show In Living Color, and as a dancer in several artists’ tours, including David Bowie and Madonna. She is also a choreographer.
  • Bruno Tonioli: Co-creator of the British talent show DanceX, Tonioli spent many years as a freelance dancer based in Paris. He has choreographed shows and music videos for numerous artists, and his film credits are lengthy and impressive. He has also worked extensively in television in addition to his dance shows.
  • Head judge Len Goodman: As a professional British ballroom dancer, Goodman won the British Championships in his late 20s and retired from dancing. Besides his work on this and numerous other dance shows, he runs a dance school in Kent. He is an enthusiastic soccer and cricket fan.

The first show doesn’t eliminate any contestants. Hines’ first attempt on the dance floor was enthusiastically received by the judges:

Carrie Ann: “It was the sparkliest cha-cha I’ve ever seen – you are just exuberant and your smile lights up the whole stage. You were in control out there – normally we don’t see that until the third show.”

Len: “It was clean, it was crisp, you were confident. I thoroughly enjoyed it, well done.”

Bruno: “So nimble, so light-footed, the timing was excellent.”

The comments weren’t all positive, though. Len said “You’ve got to work on your posture, you’ve got to get cleaner foot work.” Bruno really nailed him on it— “You really have to work on the posture – you lean forward. I know you can have a much better hip action.” They also told him he had a lot of potential.

But Len Goodman also warned the contestants “On Dancing with the Stars you either grow or you go.”

The scoring was a 7 (out of 10) from each judge, for a total of 21.

Hines had already discovered that dancing was a lot harder than it looked. He admitted that he had watched the earlier seasons of the show and thought “I can do that.” The reality of the grueling rehearsal schedule and the tricky routines made him realize that he had seriously underestimated the challenge.

One of the things he was criticized for in his first dance was his “frame”—the upheld arms that frame the woman.

“Due to playing football, and having a separated shoulder, a sprained AC joint, a rotator cuff surgery, my shoulders are very weak,” he explained. “So to be in that posture for over a minute is very difficult. But I’m not going to make excuses for it.” He told his partner, Kym Johnson, “No one can outwork us.”

In the preview video released on Steelers.com I noted Antonio Brown also mentioned the posture issue, and how much difficulty he was having with this aspect of dancing. And we all know that no one outworks AB. So let’s see how he did.

There was a little surprise waiting in the opening montage of the show. One of the other contestants is Doug Flutie, and he threw a pass to Antonio Brown, who, surprise surprise, caught it, and danced with it. I guess they are really going to go with the whole football theme! Because Von Miller is also a contestant, geeky glasses and all. And Head Judge Len Goodman came on in, guess what—a referree’s outfit. Nice touch. Furthermore, Erin Andrews is serving as one of the hostesses or whatever they call them. I think they are trying to tap into the NFL audience, somehow.

I can see I’m going to have to include the other football players in these. Doug Flutie was the first football player (and the first amateur man) to dance, and honestly, I wasn’t impressed. Neither were the judges, although they tried to be encouraging.

But the big NFL matchup was, not surprisingly, saved for the end of the program—it was Antonio Brown vs. Von Miller.

Antonio went first. His introduction included the information that he was the Steelers’ MVP three times and AFC Offensive Player of the Year. They then played some of the Heinz Field intro video, which naturally included his front flip into the end zone. (Not, however, the goal post celebration, which is just as well.) In the pre-dance montage Brown noted it was “definitely hard taking orders from a little Australian.” He also told his partner “Welcome to greatness.” Here’s hoping he can deliver…

Now that I’ve watched the dance, I think he can. It began with a little bit of his touchdown dance and quickly devolved (or, I suppose, evolved) into a classic quickstep. There were moments where he looked a bit awkward, but he’s mostly very graceful, and of course he sparkles. (Although there was also a moment or two where his signature smile faded as he, I presume, concentrated extra hard on some tricky move.) So what did the judges say? (The audience went wild, of course!)

Bruno: Antonio! You will have a megawatt charm and energy. You remind me a little bit of Emmit Smith, one of my favorite champions here. You’ve got so much talent, but you have to channel it correctly. Don’t fall forward in the frame (While he was saying this they showed a bit of the dance where AB stuck his butt out.) Keep the frame right up and erect at all times. And a bit cleaner with your feet. You’re charging so much that we lose the definition, and in Quickstep it has to be very very defined and precise. But the amount of talent you have really is out? (the rest of the word or phrase was covered by the audience, but I think it might have been “outrageous.”)

Carrie Ann: (shouting:) Boomin’!  You are like, I don’t know, like a beast. There’s something fantastic about you. I was watching and you’re magic. You know exactly what expression to put with what move, and that is something so exciting. And you came right up and did your little touchdown dance and then you turned it into our dance for the night…I’m loving this season! (more covered up shouting, and the camera cut to Lawrence Timmons, Robert Golden, and I think a couple of other teammates in the audience, but one was so hatted and dark glassed I couldn’t work out who it was, and one I just didn’t recognize.)

Len: This is a tough dance for the male. [It’s interesting to see how much more the women dancers have to work to cover the inadequacies of their partners than the male ones, or at least so it seems to me.] And you know, you’ve got to get those elbows out, flat back. [Len is always the toughest about posture.] There’s a lot going on. You’ve got to work on the footwork, and okay, there was a few incidents where you struggled a little bit, but for a dance that is so difficult I thought you did well, and it had the right amount of speed. It lost control a little bit. You sort of got into the moment and then you really got it going.

Scoring:

  • Carrie Ann: 8
  • Len: 6
  • Bruno: 7

Erin Andrews comforted Antonio with the observation that Len is like one of those position coaches that you just can’t make happy no matter what.

Finally, Von Miller danced. The professional dance partners are also the choreographers for the dances, and Miller’s partner obviously didn’t have quite as much faith in him as AB’s partner did, because his dance was a great deal less complex and interesting. However, his cheering section was even better than AB’s, starting a chant of “MVP” after his dance. I don’t think so, though. Let’s see what the judges thought:

Carrie Ann: Antonio is fiery and wild—you’re soft and silky.

Len: You could have taken the easy option…but you went for it in a proper way. Well done.

Bruno: The hip hop moves are mighty hot. Now work on the ? (his accent sometimes obscures the words) because you have bucketloads of charisma.

I’ve edited these remarks, unlike AB’s, which are essentially complete, but not as much as it would appear. The judges spent at least three times as long on AB, which I suspect is because they see more potential in him. Miller may turn out to be great, but it certainly doesn’t look particularly natural at the moment.

Interestingly, however, they gave Miller and his partner exactly the same scores as AB. The scoring matters, as it is cumulative through the show, but as I said, there are no eliminations tonight.

So far the total scores are, in the order they danced:

  • Kim and Sasha: 7/6/7
  • Paige and Mark 7/7/7
  • Doug and Karina: 5/5/5
  • Jodie and Keo: 7/6/7
  • Geraldo and Edyta: 5/4/4
  • Marla and Tony: 7/7/7
  • Wanya and Lindsay: 8/7/8
  • Ginger and Val: 8/7/8
  • Mischa and Artem: 5/5/6
  • Myle and Peta: 8/7/8
  • Antonio and Sharna: 8/6/7
  • Von and Witney: 8/6/7

This breaks down to the following cumulative scores:

  • 23: Wanya and Lindsay; Genger and Val; Nyle and Peta
  • 21: Von and Witney; AB and Sharna; Marla and Tony; Paige and Mark
  • 20: Kim and Sasha; Jodie and Keo
  • 16: Mischa and Artem
  • 15: Doug and Karina
  • 13: Geraldo and Edyta

I think it is probably good that AB didn’t get a top score tonight. That will make him mad, and he will work even harder.

And if you are so inclined you can vote for him here: You’ll have to sign up for an account, although if you are on Facebook you can use that login. It only takes a minute, and it’s all much faster than Pro Bowl voting. You have until this evening—24 hours after the end of the show—to vote this week.

UPDATE: Quote of the day, from Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, via the Tribune-Review

AB GETS TOMLIN’S VOTE

Tomlin doesn’t anticipate Antonio Brown’s affiliation with Dancing With the Stars will conflict with any offseason workouts with the team.

Tomlin, however, is figuring Brown will be tied up in the dancing contest for some time.

“He’s going to win, isn’t he? We all know how that story ends,” Tomlin said. “He’s a sick competitor, he’s a hard worker and he’s got a winning smile. I’d vote for him.”

To be continued

 

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