Pundits and experts tossed around predictions for weeks, certain they had the inside track on the eventual nominee. But in the end, it took a well-coordinated announcement to obliterate all the speculation and reveal the name of the real contender. Forget Joe Biden: Warren Sapp is appearing on Dancing with the Stars.
The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive star, renowned for his fancy footwork on the field, now may excel in a different arena — among 13 notables announced Monday as competitors in the seventh cycle of ABC-TV's highly rated reality TV dance competition, returning at 8 p.m. Sept. 22.
"I enjoy the idea of training for something I've never attempted," Sapp told St. Petersburg Times Buccaneers beat writer Rick Stroud. "Why not? There's nothing wrong with my smile. I don't think I speak Ebonics."
Here's how the rest of the competitors stack up:
The surprisingly agile male athlete
Former NFL star Emmitt Smith and race car driver Helio Castroneves both won in this role. Sapp and former Olympic track star Maurice Greene may fit that bill this year — if the retired NFL star can keep his legendary mouth in check.
The spunky middle-aged mom
That's sixty-something All My Children star Susan Lucci, now enshrined as the Marie Osmond spot. Here's hoping Lucci isn't quite so, um, relentless as the hyperperky Osmond was last year.
The comic relief
Call this the Steve Guttenberg/Jerry Springer/Penn Jillette triangle, occupied by those still defined as "stars" only when using the term loosely. Pictured from left, failed reality TV chef Rocco DiSpirito, show-killing character actor Ted McGinley, out-and-proud N'Sync member Lance Bass and road-weary comic Jeffrey Ross fall here — sorry dudes.
Known for a sexy look and early ejection, the Paulina Porizkova memorial spots go to actress/host/model Brooke Burke, left, and Playboy model/reality TV star Kim Kardashian, right (it seems the more slashes you have before your name, the worse you do).
The pop performer
Spice Girl Mel B. landed second place last year. Now its R&B star Toni Braxton's turn.
The physically challenged contestant
Ex-Mrs. Paul McCartney Heather Mills competed with one leg, and deaf actress Marlee Matlin proved dancers don't even need to hear the music. Now 82-year-old Cloris Leachman is hanging tough as the oldest contestant ever.
This is a new one, with 18-year-old Hannah Montana co-star Cody Linley officially the youngest contestant ever. Just keep him away from Kardashian.
The female athlete
Ex-champion skater Kristi Yamaguchi's pinpoint timing and relentless perfectionism smoked the guys. But will Misty May-Treanor find Olympic beach volleyball skills translate as well as figure skating chops?
Eric Deggans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8521. See his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/media.