As a writer, you often feel like you are writing into an abyss. That is no indictment on our incredible readership here at Brew Hoop. Rather, it manifests as a moment of doubt every time you click Publish. What if this is the article that no one comments on? What if this is the article that reveals that I actually know diddly squat about basketball? And so on.
But sometimes the opposite happens. It turns out that the abyss is actually accessible to the whole damn world. You throw your scribblings about halftime shows into it and it talks back.
Long story short, I’ll never wash my keyboard again after receiving the following comment as well as Facebook message from the one and only SteveMax, the Master of Simon Sez:
Enjoy reading your stuff, but have to take umbrage with your description of The Amazing Sladek’s act. Is he old ... YES! Is his act dangerous .. YES! Does he fully entertain the crowd ... UNDENIABLY! But does he use gimmicked chairs ... ABSOLUTELY NOT!
As a fellow performer and friend, I can tell you first hand that the bottoms of the legs on those chairs are as smooth as a silk. In fact, last year, we were both booked at the Horizon League’s March Championships in Indy, and as a lark, I volunteered to be his ‘chair guy.’ I even squeezed into one of his puffy shirts to take things to the next level. And after personally handling the chairs, I can swear on a stack of bibles ... NO GIMMICKS.
Are there acts out there that use gimmicked chairs ... yes. But the Amazing Sladek is not one of them ... and prides himself on that fact. He brings showmanship, danger, professionalism and over 40 years of experience to every halftime. So as his friend and fellow halftime performer, I think a retraction and apology are in order. :) Thx!
There’s a lot to unpack here.
I’ll be honest: my first thought was the Alliance of Magicians. One halftime performer came out of the woodwork to defend another. Although my initial reaction was laughter, I appreciate the camaraderie that seems to pervade the profession. From the outside, I might have assumed that halftime performers aren’t all that chummy since there are a finite number of halftime shows to perform at. But from this small window into that world, they seem to have a supportive community. That’s cool to see.
Next, let’s unpack the charge. In my piece, I wrote the following:
Our runner-up is the Amazing Sladek, otherwise known (by me and my family at least) as Chair Guy. There have been others that have climbed atop a pile of chairs, but no one does it like Gary. He is a unique talent that can be appreciated from all vantages (including from two, high-out-of-their-mind guys in front of my family at a Bucks game a few years back).
My only quibble is how much skill it really involves. He latches the chairs together as he climbs. That’s understandable, but somehow feels disingenuous. Moreover, he’s an old dude and climbs on a lot of chairs - he very well might die if he fell. That could indicate that he is so skilled that falling is a negligible risk that he is willing to take for his livelihood - or that it’s not as impressive as it looks.
The key phrase here is, “He latches the chairs together as he climbs.” Having seen him perform in person, I did not make this accusation without grounds - I could have sworn I saw his hands engaged in latching motion. However, if the “bottoms of the legs on those chairs are as smooth as silk,” as Steve Max suggests - on the basis of being his “Chair Guy” at the Horizon League Championships, no less - it seems that I misstepped. I would like to formally retract my statement and apologize to The Amazing Sladek.
But, me being me, I want to ruminate a little bit.
In the absence of chair latches, I’m left with a lingering uncertainty with The Amazing Sladek’s performance. In line with my general aversion to magic, I simply have no idea how he does it. He simply stacks so many chairs on top of each other. That’s not how chairs are supposed to work! I would be taken aback by the stack of chairs alone, let alone him clambering on top of them.
In contrast, consider the Red Panda, who uses a towering unicycle and throws stacks of bowls on her head. I know that I could never do what she does, but I can at least understand what she is doing. Unicycles are meant to be cycled; bowls are meant to be stacked (albeit not often on heads). These feats are not typically coupled - that’s what makes her great - but they are individually understandable.
As a final foil, consider Giannis. I similarly know that I could never do what he does. I don’t quite know what he does, exactly (beyond my surface-level knowledge of basketball). But, at the end of the day, it involves his body putting a ball into a hoop, which doesn’t foster the same confusion as watching someone do a handstand atop a stack of chairs.
Ultimately, I think that my uncertainty with The Amazing Sladek rests on the potential that he might be manipulating his external environment to accomplish his act. Even if the chairs aren’t latched onto each other, I am so discombobulated as to how he can do what he does that I feel the need to latch onto another explanation (magnetic chair bottoms?). Conversely, the Red Panda uses the external environment in (relatively) conventional ways and Giannis is using the same tools as everyone else: their bodies and the basketball.
I don’t like card tricks because of the manipulation of the cards. I don’t like doping because of the manipulation of the body. My jury of one is still out on The Amazing Sladek; I remain unsure about the manipulation of those chairs (or lack thereof).
Until then, I’ve got to admit: he’s pretty darn impressive.