Monday, March 14, 2005

Now the what-ifs will begin

As sad as it is that Mario's early exit will break the hearts of fans nationwide, his withdrawal will, unfortunately, forever cast a pall on this season's competition. It's not that Nikko is any less deserving of a top 12 spot. Remember George? He was a last-minute insertion into the top 32 last year and quickly endeared himself to the judges and the voters, finishing fifth, albeit in a less-talanted field.

Season four will always have the shadow of what might have been, identically to the speculation still cast upon season two -- the year of Frenchie.Season two was arguably the best of the previous three competitions, the game in which the top three truly deserved their spots, unlike season one and three, where there was one clear victor. No one seriously doubted that Kelly would emerge the winner over Justin and Nikki, just as everyone knew Fantasia would outvote both Jasmine and Diana. And in both seasons there was a woman who should have been -- Tamyra in season one, and Latoya in season three. And there were lingering questions of what would have been, had either of the two been standing on the finale stage.

But in season two, the three finalists -- Ruben, Clay and Kimberley -- earned the right to call themselves the finalists. None of them had reached that level by default. And, when it was time to reveal the eventual winner, the air of uncertainty was real, because either Ruben or Clay would have been a deserving champion, as would have Kim.

But, as exciting and as memorable as season two played out, we still ask what would have been, had Frenchie Davis not been booted before the semi-finals. We do not know that she would have reached the top three. In all likelihood she would have, but the same was said for Tamyra and Latoya. So we have been left with the speculation. And while that speculation doesn't dimish the extraordinary talents of Ruben, Clay and Kim, it does, and will always, color the season two commentary.

The Mario what ifs will follow season four in the same way. The one thing this season has that the others have not, at least the indications are thus far, is a depth of talent like none of the others. All of the other seasons' top 12 contained a handful of true contenders and then, the rest of the field, some of whom would not have passed a talent test at Six Flags Over Akron. This year, for the large part, the game is anyone's to win. Or to lose.

But that depth has taken a huge hit with the loss of Mario. And it's not that he's being substituted with a poor man's leftovers, but that, no matter who comes out victorious, the what-might-have-beens will always haunt the outcome.

And that's the shame.


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Thanks Rob for the awesome image!