Everybody’s still talking about the Oscars — or, to be more precise, about how Will Smith stole the awards night. No, it wasn’t because he took home the Best Actor trophy for his affecting performance as the title character in King Richard. Rather, it was because, for some reason, he saw fit to walk from his seat to the stage and land a haymaker of a slap to presenter Chris Rock for what he deemed a poor joke at the expense of wife Jada. Never mind that he actually laughed at the joke, however tasteless, and seemingly changed his opinion of it only after seeing his better half’s reaction.
To be sure, the unfolding of what Rock himself described as “the greatest night in the history of television” proved shocking in both the unexpected display of violence and the utter absence of an immediate response from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. No doubt, the sudden turn of events left all and sundry dumbfounded. The silence that enveloped the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles right after Smith’s assault was deafening. Even members of the Williams family who attended the ceremony were stunned.
Sports is replete with instances of abhorrent behavior of marquee names. Occasionally, their transgressions are such that the actual purpose of their presence is overshadowed. It was certainly the case with Smith on Oscar night. He should have been basking in the glory of his first triumph after two previous nominations; instead, he used most of his acceptance speech rambling to explain away his subhuman conduct. The third time was most definitely not the charm for him.
Smith ruining his night would have been made in and of itself. Unfortunately, he dragged everybody else with him. Serena and Venus Williams were robbed of their moment. The other winners’ experience was likewise ruined, and not simply due to the questions that came their way. As if it wasn’t already bad enough that they couldn’t talk about their success. They were being asked to put in their two cents’ worth on a development anybody with a modicum of decency would need no dissecting to condemn.
All things considered, Rock did extremely well to keep his composure and move the proceedings along even after Smith demeaned him. That he wound up being the adult in the room speaks volumes about his true nature. In fact, everybody and his mother have their identities exposed in their most trying moments. And at the Oscars, no one painted a flattering picture.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.