This past Sunday night, a few hundred thousand people got transported back to 1996. Or, to put it better, 1996 came to them.
Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg headlined the closing night of the Coachella music festival in Indio, Calif., and the late Tupac Shakur joined them via hologram (no, really) in what had to be one of the strangest moments in recent concert history. Because the Internet is amazing, the show was viewable by webcast for anyone who didn’t spend half a fortune on a ticket. Naturally, I watched and waited with bated breath for “Tupac” to grace us with his “presence.”
When the lights dimmed and Pac finally “arrived” — looking more like a “Grand Theft Auto” character than a real human being — the crowd erupted as he blistered through “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted,” and “Hail Mary.” Snoop eventually joined him on stage, and they actually held a brief conversation before trading verses — which was just about as weird as it sounds.
In all, I came away not sure what to think about the whole thing. It was great to see two living legends pay tribute to a fallen one, but I couldn’t help but wonder if this high-priced gimmick cheapened the legacy of the real man himself.
If nothing else, that elaborate spectacle got me thinking: What if we brought this holographic technology to sports? So far, to the best of my knowledge, it’s been publicly used just twice: Sunday night to bring us Tupac, and back on election night in 2008, when CNN did the most CNN-thing ever and, apropos of nothing, beamed will.i.am into studio with Anderson Cooper (look up that video on YouTube, if only to see poor Anderson’s face as he contemplates setting the building on fire).
So, clearly, we’re wasting this technology. The Tupac thing was a nice start, but we could be doing so much more with this — starting with sports. Think about the possibilities; dead or alive, there are plenty of athletes worth remembering from their better days. Among the few:
Hank Aaron: Our first athletic hologram will be used for a bit of public service. For one season, Hologram Hank Aaron — we’ll go with the 1957 version, who won NL MVP while leading the majors in batting, home runs and RBI — can return to the major leagues for the sole purpose of hitting eight more home runs and taking back the all-time record from Barry Bonds. Because really, who wouldn’t support Hologram Hank Aaron’s quest for the redemption of baseball’s soul?
As a package deal, the codes for Hologram Barry Bonds would have to be destroyed.
Bill Russell: We bring back 1963-64 Bill Russell — who averaged 15 points, an absurd 24.7 rebounds and an untold number of blocks (which weren’t tracked back then) — and place him on whatever team matches up with the Orlando Magic in the playoffs this year. As of today, that would be the Atlanta Hawks, which is perfect because their starting center (Al Horford) is out for the season anyway. Hologram Bill Russell would play in this series for the sole purpose of mercilessly swatting away every awkward Dwight Howard shot attempt, as payback for basically everything he’s done this season. Hologram Bill Russell might even do the Dikembe Mutombo finger wag a couple of times, just for good measure. And, unlike Howard, he’ll keep every block in play rather than volleyball-spiking it out of bounds.
To top it all off, Hologram Young Stan Van Gundy, Diet Pepsi in hand, will be brought in off the bench to dunk on Howard. The chances that SVG could ever dunk in real life are approximately negative 150 percent, but that’s the beauty of holograms: They do whatever you tell them to. And it will be glorious.
Skip Bayless: He’s not an athlete, as Jalen Rose ruthlessly pointed out on national television last week, but Hologram Skip Bayless does serve a practical purpose. Instead of shuffling through debate partners on the morning First Take show, ESPN could just pair Hologram Skip and Real Skip together on a fake TV set and let them duke it out until the end of time — ridding us of First Take forever. It could also serve as a pretty effective torture chamber if Dick Cheney is interested.
Bobby Petrino’s credibility: On second thought, even a hologram can’t bring that back.
Michael Jordan: This is fitting, because the Michael Jordan of today is a fading, bloated version of what was once the greatest athlete of all time. He wears horrifically oversized suits and baggy dad jeans while sitting courtside to watch one of the worst basketball teams of all time — which, by the way, he owns. It’s all very sad, and I think we all need a dose of Real/Hologram Michael Jordan. Maybe it would even inspire Dad Jeans Jordan to get his life together, or at least change clothes.
If Snoop, Dre and Tupac can reunite via hologram, then anything is possible.