Welcome to Awkward Athlete Guest Star Theatre! Every week, here at Puck the Media, we aim to showcase the best and brightest of odd, ill-fitting, unnecessary... but occasionally brilliant one-time acting gigs from your favorite sports stars throughout the history of television. Do you have an Awkward Athlete Guest Star appearance you'd like to see featured? E-mail the clip to email@example.com!
Athletes are often considered a different category of celebrity than film, television or theatre actors. But really, they're all just showmen (and women), looking to entertain the people who paid good money to come see them -- or in the case of television, good money for the cable bill. You'd think athletes would make natural actors but, other than a few rare cases (Peyton Manning on Saturday Night Live, Mr. Burns' softball team on The Simpsons), it doesn't really tend to work out. That's the phenomenon Awkward Athlete Guest Star Theatre aims to explore.
I was raised on Nickelodeon in the late '90s, which meant a combo of some of their early originals (Doug, Rugrats, every single game show they came up with) and a new breed of cartoons they had developed. Behind, say, Hey Arnold or SpongeBob, Rocket Power hasn't really held upl. I remember it being an enjoyable show when it ran originally from 1999-2004, though it does seem oddly dated. Sure, people still skateboard, snowboard and play street hockey, but I'm pretty sure no one ever does it to the effect that you start to wonder if anyone ever actually goes to school.
The third season's "Power Play" episode is a bit of an anomaly for the show, which rarely used guest stars. Here, however, you immediately notice the voice of legendary Los Angeles Kings (and D2: The Mighty Ducks) voice Bob Miller leading us into an episode featuring NHL all-time wins leader Martin Brodeur, 668-goal scorer Luc Robitaille and U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer Jeremy Roenick.
Here are the five essential questions we ask of every awkward athlete TV appearance:
1. Had the athlete(s) acted in anything before? This was right before the Jeremy Roenick acting boon (more later), but by then, he had -- and I have a feeling this will be an answer to this question frequently, sadly -- done a couple of episodes in HBO's... sigh, Arli$$.
Robitaille had appeared in D2: The Mighty Ducks and has the rarefied honor of being the only real NHL player in the Jean-Claude Van Damme classic Sudden Death, while he and Brodeur have a fairly infamous commercial together for what is essentially the Canadian version of DiGiorno's Pizza.
Delissio: It's totally not DiGiorno!
2. Was their presence essential to the plot of the episode? The plot, actually, is dependent on them being there. The Rockets (Otto, his sister Reggie, and their friends Sam and Twister) were attempting to win a chance to play against them as reward for winning the NHL Breakaway street hockey contest, which I totally remember being a real thing back at least before the 2004-05 lockout.
3. How was their performance? Though the three hockey stars drive the entire plot of the episode, none gets more than a line beyond some typical voice acting rhubarb at the end. Roenick delivers his line the best of the three, but Robitaille and Brodeur give it an OK shot. It all sounds a little flat, which is fair, considering English is two of the actors' second languages.
4. Most awkward line of dialogue? Robitaille's line asking someone for a friendly pickup game of street hockey sounds more like like some sort of weird, Michael Scott-esque proposition.
5. Did the athlete(s) ever do any prominent acting afterward? To my knowledge, Brodeur hasn't done anything substantial since. Robitaille, however, has done both voice (Phinneas and Ferb) and sitcom (How I Met Your Mother) acting.
Roenick, however, became sort of a weird, hockey/pop culture crossover character toward the early to mid-00s. He's done character work on Hack, Leverage, The Ghost Whisperer and something called Heist. He also recently played himself on Go On. In fact, I'd be shocked if this segment didn't feature Roenick again someday, though once is probably enough for all else involved.
(Thanks to the wonderful Sean Leahy, who procured the clip of the episode for which I had been searching for at least a solid year)