True story: I saw Metta World Peace on the street once. He was just walking down 48th street in Midtown Manhattan by himself. It took me a minute to place the face, but then I realized whom it was. So, armed with this knowledge, what was my next move? I did what any idiot would do: I proceeded to say his name back to him for no reason whatsoever. “Metta World Peace!” I bellowed, as if he was unaware of his own moniker.
It was literally the dumbest thing I could have done. But here’s the thing, MWP was super-cool about it. I was just planning to yell a celebrity’s name, snap an out-of-focus picture, and be on my way, but HE walked over to ME, shook my hand, and wanted to chat. I was so unnerved by this, and, having clearly already failed the first time at communication and fearing a similarly embarrassing follow-up, I just cut my losses and kept moving — keeping our contact to a brief exchange of pleasantries.
But after the shame of a pitiful celebrity encounter wore off, I was struck by how down to earth he was — especially for a guy whose most infamous moment was helping incite a brawl with fans in what became known as “the Malice at the Palace.” What I did not know then — but do now — is that he also did not have the faintest idea how to play Big Brother.
He didn’t know it either because I can assure you he was blissfully unaware back then that Big Brother even existed. And I have yet to be convinced he is aware of its existence even now, as he is playing it. The thing about it is, Metta World Peace’s obliviousness on Celebrity Big Brother is not only wildly entertaining, it is oddly endearing as well.
How bad is Metta World Peace at this game? Let us count the ways! The first way is laid bare by the fact that I am not sure that MWP even realizes he is PLAYING a game. Anytime anyone attempts to talk strategy with the former NBA champion and defensive player of the year, he looks like a cross between dazed and confused. He had no idea one player could make an (albeit unenforceable) deal with another player during a challenge, was flummoxed by the concept of “backdooring someone” — which, to be fair, does sound like an entirely different thing when outside the Big Brother house — and then, in his pièce de résistance, mistakenly voted for Chuck Liddell to be evicted from the house, thinking he was actually voting for him to stay. (Commence dramatic slow clap now.)
Maybe Metta was just confused about the whole go-or-stay thing because he himself can’t decide if he wants to be there. Just a few days into the game he was ready to quit and asked Shannon Elizabeth to get rid of him, but she had other targets in mind. According to live-feed viewers, Mr. Peace has twice tried to leave the house — even going so far as to hit some sort of “emergency button” (which sounds like something my wife presses every time I insist in watching this show) — but was convinced by producers to stick it out. The last time I turned on the live feed, Metta spent 10 minutes snuggling a stuffed owl, which, granted, is not nearly as odd as spending 10 minutes watching someone snuggle a stuffed owl.
So is Metta World Peace the worst Big Brother player ever? Well, there have been some epically terrible moves made throughout the years — Marcellas Reynolds declining to use the veto on himself in Big Brother 3 and promptly being voted out ranks right up there — but Metta doesn’t actually make bad moves; he just doesn’t make any moves at all. Of course, MWP is far from the first seemingly disinterested player to enter the house. There have been plenty of others who seemed more concerned with their showmance, airtime, or getting along with everybody than playing the game.
And when it comes to a social game, there have been a slew of contestants that were so blatantly unlikable you wondered if people would award them the half-million dollars to leave. But Metta is just the opposite — he’s very likable. Everyone in the house seems to think he’s positively swell.
However, when it comes to a complete lack of knowledge about the game, MWP is truly in a league of his own. That’s not to say everyone who plays Big Brother is a super-fan. But usually the network provides DVDs or links to previous seasons for a player to watch before they play so they have at least a working knowledge of how the game is played. Mr. Peace, however, clearly never bothered to watch a single episode before walking in — and it’s kind of amazing.
Even host Julie Chen seems entranced by Metta’s Bizarro World appearance — which has also included staging a pool fight between inflatable flamingos. “Does he know he’s on Big Brother?” asked Chen in our recent Q&A. “And has he ever seen the show? Apparently not. That being said, he makes me laugh! There is a giant childlike sweet quality about him. Quite frankly, he doesn’t care if he wins or loses competitions, or even the game. That has to be something to be admired. When you don’t care, people can flock to you and give you more power than you deserve. Maybe that’s his strategy. But I don’t think so. I think he just lives in his own world, and I’m good with that. He is fun to watch because of it.”
The only thing that would be any more fun would be if Metta World Peace could somehow ride that cluelessness all the way to victory. And if he can stop himself from actually quitting, it just may happen. Nobody is likely to ever consider him a threat, so if the best players keep taking each other out and MWP somehow finds himself at the end, Big Brother’s worst player ever could becomes its next champion. Hey, you know what they say on this show — expect the unexpected.