Bill Laimbeer…TinyTuna…William Hung -- Each are masters. They have perfected the single move that speaks volumes without words. The move itself seems simplistic, yet must be crafted and executed in such a way that it not only demonstrates the appropriate unspeakable tragedy at hand, but also elicits the desired response as a reward for a job well done. It is THE FLOP.
Bill Laimbeer was a master of the professional basketball flop. As a former center for Detroit Pistons, he could execute the flop like no other. At the slightest nudge or bump (real or imaginary), he would send himself flying to the floor in an effort to draw a foul. More often than not, it worked. With a flop-flop here and a flop-flop there, Laimbeer helped the Piston’s win back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990. Although he may have been the poster child for “White Men Can’t Jump”, Laimbeer was the Floppermeister Meisterburger and performed to adoring and abhorring crowds (home court doesn’t necessarily have all the advantages) on a nightly basis.
TinyTuna is the world champion flopper, Junior Division. She had this thing mastered by the age of three, and without benefit of instruction from older siblings. The pint-sized version of the flop does not require flailing on the floor. In fact, points would be deducted, as this move would be misconstrued as either a temper tantrum or a klutzy accident. The first would gain no rewards whatsoever, and would most likely earn the flopper a lengthy stay in the parental doghouse. And while the second might reap a cursory “Are you all right?” it would undoubtedly be followed by a giggle and a “Walk much?”
Juvenile flopping consists of the ability to instantaneously lose all bone structure from the ribcage up. At the moment of execution, the chest collapses, the shoulders drop and the head droops. It must appear as if the air was suddenly sucked out of the body, much like a helium balloon taken outside on a frigid day. All that is left is a half-deflated shell of a former self. Once the body has reached its appropriate posture of pathetic ness, the next critical movement involves the head. At its current drooped position, the flopper must possess an innate sense of timing to know when to raise it. Do it too soon, and the entire flop is marked as insincere. Floppus interruptus, as it were. Do it too late, and the flop becomes nothing more than melodramatic tripe, making successful flops that much more difficult to achieve down the road.
The head must be raised only partway – just enough for the “look” to be activated. The look varies, depending on the meaning of the flop. First there is the classic “pleading” look. Here, a flop has the potential of being successful, because the pleading look is just that -- a look -- which is silent. Begging, on the other hand, seems to require audible, torturous whining which unfortunately for the flopper, is a deal-breaker. The second “look” associated with the flop is more of a “oh the injustice, oh the humanity” kind of look. Never successful, but often executed, because hey, you have to try, right?
TinyTuna’s flops are legendary and still work on many adults today. I, however, am nearly immune to the whole process now, and have gone so far as to tell her in advance of a decision I know she isn't going to like not to bother flopping, because it won’t do her any good. The mere denial of flopping can occasionally garner a flop, either out of forgetfulness or just for fun.
William Hung executed a perfect humble-but-loveable flop on American Idol in front of 80 bazillion people. Hung, the Civil Engineering student who auditioned on American Idol with the now infamous Ricky Martin hit (?) “She Bang” was untrained and unskilled, and it was obvious he wasn’t going to make it any farther (You can right-click and download the clip HERE). But because he had such a great attitude (“I already gave my best. I have no regrets at all”) he has become something of a Pop-Culture legend, enjoying his well-deserved 15 minutes of fame.
But what does this have to do with The Flop? At the end of his song, as he was being cut off by Randy, Simon and Paula, he performed a rarely attempted flop. It is one more often performed by puppies that forgot to go on the paper or by young children just caught inserting a peanut butter and jelly sandwich into the VCR. It says “Oh no, I’m in trouble” and is actually more of a slight head droop than a full-scale flop. The important element here is the eyes, which must always remain trained on the other person. Outwardly the eyes must be innocently pathetic, as if to say, “Please don’t hit me with that rolled up newspaper”, or, “Isn’t this the Post Office? I was going to mail my Sammich to Grandma!” Inwardly the eyes are trying to determine the best time to beat feet out of the room before Corporal Punishment comes to call.
Because Hung performed such an outstanding flop, I believe he was spared the tongue-lashing inflicted on some of the more belligerent contestants. Even Jimmy Fallon paid homage to Hung, doing the “She Bang” flop on Saturday Night Live (Right-click and download the clip HERE)
To be a successful flopper, one must be either so innocent that it would inconceivable to consider the flop any sort of ploy, or so devious that it transcends oily acting and comes across as being sincere. Although I don’t often cave to the pressure of a flop, every now and again it is nice to see one rewarded. A flop-free world would be a little less manipulative, a little less creative, and a whole lot whinier.
And that would be enough to make me flop.
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