Let me get right to the point: Charles Barkley is a national treasure. He reminded us again of this simple fact over the weekend when he enthusiastically cheered on his Auburn Tigers on the set of the March Madness studio show.
Charles Barkley is a national treasure. And no, It's not hyperbole. Certainly, Sir Charles has his detractors. There's gotta be at least a few Alabama fans in that camp, although plenty of Bama fans feel exactly as I do. Or maybe you remember his famous "I'm not a role mode" commercial for Nike. The 1993 ad rubbed plenty of people the wrong way and sparked a national debate about what we really should expect from our athletes. It was a good discussion to have.
Charles Barkley has also dabbled in politics, without ever committing to the life of a politician. While still playing in the NBA, he stated that he'd like to run for governor of Alabama after his career was over. He would run as a Republican and had already asked for the support of Rush Limbaugh and former Vice President Dan Quayle. By 2006, he was still talking about a return to Alabama and a run for the state's top office -- but this time, he'd run as a Democrat. As he explained: "I was a Republican until they lost their minds." And despite talking about running on multiple occasions, we never got to see a single Charles Barkley campaign ad.
Charles Barkley has been nothing if not outspoken and controversial. And if that's all there was, I might agree with his naysayers. But what makes Charles Barkley special is that he does everything on his own terms. Charles Barkley brings a sense of himself to everything he does. If he didn't, we wouldn't have hilarious display of Chuck just being Chuck when Auburn played Kansas in the NCAA tournament.
If you didn't already know, it's pretty obvious Charles Barkley loves his Auburn Tigers. Why else would he be "sitting there looking like a float?" But it was all part of the fun, and only the most insecure Kansas fans didn't laugh at it -- at least before the game. By halftime, his enthusiasm was probably anything but hilarious to the Jayhawks faithful who were enduring a blowout.
But that's also a big part of who Charles Barkley is. He is going to make you mad sometimes, but it's hard to stay mad at him. Because he's funny and he's having fun. And if sports isn't fun to you, it may be time to find a new hobby.
Charles Barkley simply makes the game more fun, whether it's his three weeks a year of covering college hoops or his regular job on TNT's NBA broadcasts. The NBA is always the most fun when it's on TNT, because of Charles and the TNT studio crew. And you're getting a taste of that dynamic with his turn during March Madness.
I cannot wait 'til Friday, when Auburn plays North Carolina for a shot at the Elite Eight. This time, his broadcast partner Kenny Smith will be bringing the North Carolina love in an attempt to get under Chuck's skin. It will be must see TV, no doubt about it.
UPDATE: Charles Barkley was on Late Show with Stephen Colbert to talk about March Madness and to pump up his team ahead of Friday's game against North Carolina. (That game is Friday 6:29PM, on TBS).