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If Sanjaya wins …

Submitted by on Sunday, 1 June 2008 No Comment

When Ruben “Motown Mojo” Porras, one of my Bee “American Idol” partners, emailed me about KHOP deejay Geno Knight’s If Sanjaya Wins Web site, my first reaction was a throw-away line.

If Sanjaya wins, I’ll let the kids eat birthday cake for breakfast. No chance of either happening, of course.

I checked out the site after I got home and was laughing so hard my husband actually quit watching ESPN for a few minutes.

“If Sanjaya wins, I will pack up my children’s bag and send them to Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch for blanket’s surprise b-day slumber party,” wrote Michael from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

“If Sanjaya wins, I will sit and watch ‘Glitter’ everyday for a year,” pledged Rick from California.

“If Sanjaya wins, I will join the Sunnis and Shiites in holding hands and singing kumbaya,” vowed Mike from Des Moines, Iowa.

And then I stopped. Because I remembered that the tall, gangly pony-hawk wearing butt of everyone’s jokes is somebody’s little boy. What if that were my kid? Could he take it? Could I take it?

Love him or hate him, you have to admit Sanjaya Malakar is one gutsy 17-year-old. How else could he stand up and smile, week in and week out, in the face withering criticism? Unless he’s completely oblivious or totally obtuse, he has to have some idea of the world’s take on him.

Granted, Sanjaya is no ordinary teen, and clearly this was something he wanted and sought. He quit high school and pursued a GED, in part to focus on music. And it’s not as if “Idol” debuted this season – he’d no doubt seen it before and knew what he was getting into.

I wondered, though, if 17 is just too young. I guess I really don’t think so, because the age issue has never crossed my mind with “Idol” contestant Jordin Sparks, also 17 but a legitimate contender who’s decades better than Sanjaya.

I wondered what I would do if my kids wanted to try something like this. How could I stop them and how could I let them? How could I keep them from pursuing their dreams when my career in journalism started at age 15?

But that was a long time ago, and writing sports for a hometown newspaper is a lot easier than “American Idol.” I only had to face a dad ticked off because he thought my stories should focus more on his kids. I didn’t have to worry about Simon Cowell.

Back to the original question, though: If Sanjaya wins, I will …

· Tell my kids that the son of an immigrant – which they are as well – can get the chance to succeed in this country. No guarantee of success, though, because getting a chance doesn’t get you all the way there.

Success also takes determination and talent. Say this much about Sanjaya: He’s very determined.

· Tell my kids that it’s important to keep trying, even when you’re clearly not the best. That if you keep trying and study those ahead of you, more likely than not you’ll get better.

· Tell my kids that how you carry yourself in the face of adversity makes a big difference in how you’re viewed. Sanjaya would have been sent home a long time ago if not for his grace under pressure.

· Tell my kids that it doesn’t matter that Sanjaya won, you’re still not having birthday cake for breakfast, because sometimes Mommy gets carried away and makes wild, impetuous pledges.

Well, OK, maybe one tiny piece, and only today. Because I did promise, and it’s cheaper than airfare to join the chorus of “Kumbaya.”

Copyright 2007 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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