Model/actress Brooke Burke may have taken the crown on Tuesday's finale of Dancing With the Stars, but former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive star Warren Sapp still came out a serious winner.
Burke's killer moves dominated the competition for weeks, leaving little doubt the former Maxim cover model would sashay off with the highly rated competition's valued mirror ball trophy — she even made judge Carrie Ann Inaba cry with her final dance.
But by placing second out of 13 celebrities, the 300-pound ex-NFL athlete proved a big man with a big heart and a few nimble dance steps can do very well for himself, indeed.
Still, Sapp looked more surprised than Lance Bass when the former N'Sync member was named the show's third runnerup about 90 minutes into the two-hour finale. If Dancing with the Stars were just a dancing competition, Sapp would have been in his place.
But the real juice which powers the show is the thrill of watching contestants progress. And what remains most remarkable about this year's Dancing competition is the transformation of Sapp — an athlete sportswriters say can be charismatic and appealing or an absolute jerk.
This is a guy who recently called former Buccaneers teammate Keyshawn Johnson the b-word on Showtime's Inside the NFL and, according to gossip site TMZ, last week got in an argument with tiny pro dancer Derek Hough on the Dancing set.
But on camera, he's been Warren the Teddy Bear, cuddling pro dancer partner Kym Johnson and laughing as former contestant Jeffrey Ross jokingly asked "how do you dance eight hours a day every day for three months and stay so out of shape?" Like George Foreman before him, Sapp has learned the value of a wide smile and playful attitude in retirement.
At least Tuesday's show lacked the lazy padding that so often fills Dancing episodes. Instead, the finale was packed with loads of new material, including separate, rocking performances by Miley "Hannah Montana" Cyrus and Alicia Keys that, thankfully, broke the show's habit of focusing on dancers as much as the superstar singers who stop by.
Almost all the previously ejected competitors reappeared for a final dance — mostly proving why they got ejected in the first place (aging soap star Susan Lucci in particular seemed to move as if she was afraid her facelift would crack into 1,000 piece if she jumped too quickly).
In all, it was an entertaining if predictable finale that continued the show's genius of masking an old school variety show inside a new school "reality TV" competition.
And if show really wants a new challenge, it could tackle my candidate for the next Warren Sapp-style Dancing transformation: Mike Tyson.