Tuesday this week: Ben Sheets vs. Cliff Lee in a battle to the death! Kidding; it'll probably just be flesh wounds. Tuesdays every week: The Sporting Equivalency, where we take a member of broad pop culture and find his or her sports world equivalents. Today: birthday boy Forest Whitaker, turning 47 as we attempt to figure out just what MLB player might best represent the Academy Award winner.
Forest Whitaker's MLB Equivalent: Ken Griffey Jr.
Logic here: both have been around forever (Whitaker started acting in 1982 with Fast Times at Ridgemont High—he played a football player); both are excellent at what they do (Griffey has 600 career HR; Whitaker has an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a BAFTA); and both seem to be grouped towards a B-Tier in terms of appreciation, despite their accomplishments. For Griffey, it's likely a combination of years of injury-prone baseball and almost a decade playing for the Reds; for Whitaker, it could be that he gravitates towards more serious, less commercially successful roles (think Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai) or it could be that he directed and produced the 2004 Katie Holmes/Michael Keaton "comedy" (loose term!) First Daughter.
Forest Whitaker's NBA Equivalent: Lamar Odom
Spirited debate during this NBA season on Yahoo Sports talk boards: What NBA player is capable of playing the most positions? Everyone went knee jerk and said LeBron; while King James is strong, it's hard to envision him playing the 5 all night in the way Magic could. The broad consensus: Lamar Odom (Tayshaun gets some votes, although again, it's hard to imagine Tayshaun banging with Yao Ming). For versatility, we'll go with Odom = Whitaker. Whitaker has been in super serious fare (Platoon, The Crying Game, The Last King of Scotland) and super comedic fare (Fast Times, Pret-A-Porter). He immerses himself in every role and can do it all, yet is still overshadowed by other actors of his generation (i.e. Denzel). Odom seems to legitimately put everything into basketball these days, but he'll never outshine Kobe despite his versatility.
Forest Whitaker's NFL Equivalent: Ed Reed
Same logic here. One of our staffers once joined a Facebook group called "75 percent of the world is covered by water; the other 25 is covered by Ed Reed." So true. Dude hits like a mack truck, too. Despite the accomplishments, he's always been 'the other dude' on Baltimore's D behind Ray Ray (and Adalius, when he was around). Bonus: we could kind of see Ed Reed on The Shield, although definitely not in The Crying Game. That would just be kinda odd.
Forest Whitaker's Olympic Equivalent: Brian Beaman
No idea who Beaman is? We got you covered. He's a South Dakotan competing in 10 meter air pistol for the USA in Beijing [Ed's note: Olympic events are weird.] Why is he like Whitaker? Actually, he's quite different (Whitaker grew up in South Central, about as far from South Dakota as one can get). However, Whitaker's played a lot of roles where guns were an active co-star, so we like this comparison. Beaman's gonna have to fire a pistol for two consecutive hours during his event. Any actor (besides Sean Penn!) who can look realistic doing that more than Whitaker? Naw.