*"To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love." – Jane Austen *
There was reason to believe Redskins cornerback Josh Norman would be good at this. He's a football player, and football players have historically done very well on "Dancing With The Stars," beginning with Emmitt Smith and continuing with Hines Ward and Donald Driver and Rashad Jennings. The footwork, the agility, the memorization of choreography, the missing undershirt showing off abs – it's all there.
Still, watching Norman catapult over his partner Sharna Burgess to commence the final dance of last night's season premiere was somehow still unexpected. Once he landed – and dispelled momentary fear from Redskins fans that he might fall or tweak an ankle or have something catastrophic happen – Norman provided arguably the best dance of the night, a Cha-Cha-Cha that made believers out of everyone seated inside the Los Angeles studio lot and those watching at home.
After patiently waiting for the entire night's broadcast, which is to say after struggling to watch Kareem Abdul-Jabbar do little more than a two-step (sorry, Kareem) and witness Johnny Damon pretend that baseball mangers use whistles while practicing, he embraced his moment to the tune of Bruno Mars' "Finesse" and confirmed what most people already suspected of Norman: he loves the spotlight.
This is understandably a biased blog post about a player, but it should be noted that just about everyone agreed with the judges, which gave him universal "8's" that very nicely add up to 24, the number on his jersey, tied for the highest score of the night with figure skater Adam Rippon, who also did the Cha-Cha-Cha.
"Another line of footballers that can dance," said Len Goodman
"Charisma, sex appeal, you've got it," yelled Bruno Tonioli.
Carrie Anne Inaba went so far as to call him an "X-Factor Fly Guy," a designation that means what exactly? I have no clue and neither did anyone else. But she said it with enthusiasm so it's probably a good thing.
Because this is a special athlete-only four-week edition of the show, two dancers will be eliminated each dance. Monday night, Jamie Anderson and Damon both received the fewest votes online, and in this writer's opinion, viewers mostly got this one right. Tonya Harding, who has somehow become the nation's underdog again thanks to a complicated biopic about her life last winter, was in "jeopardy" of being cast out, but had just enough votes to save her another week.
What I can say is that Norman looks destined for the finals, especially when you consider the other competitors around him. Aside from Rippon and fellow figure skater Mirai Nagasu, Norman looked the most at ease and in control of his performance. He made one little mistake – an out of sequence move with his arm – but seemed flawless everywhere else.
"The pride is so real, oh my god @jno24 you exceeded any expectations of mine. I'm so excited we are headed to the next round and ain't nobody ready for what's coming," Burgess wrote of her partner on Instagram, presumably as she landed back into Dulles, Va., to begin another week of training.
Norman's teammates, current and former, believed as much on Twitter, tuning in to lend support and see just how good Norman is with his feet. They were all impressed.
The bar has now been set. Next Monday, Norman will have to raise it.