"Dance first. Think later. It's the natural order" - Samuel Beckett
It was only fitting to end the competition like this, with Josh Norman posing shirtless, squeezing a football, arms spread wide beneath a rushing waterfall. All that was missing was the caped crusader's mask and pair of wings.
It wasn't impractical to suggest this could be the culmination of Norman's dynamic ascent into being a primetime ballroom dancer, but it didn't seem probable either. That's not a knock on Norman, just the assumption that transforming into a more than capable dancer in the span of four weeks is not easy for anybody, regardless of athleticism.
That underdog mentality is where Norman thrives though, and over the course of the show's run, he took everything about the competition seriously, proving his dedication to football in the midst of 12-hour practice sessions that seemed to consume his life. On Monday's season finale, Norman missed out on the Mirror Ball with partner Sharna Burgess, providing the only sour taste of a night that the Redskins cornerback clearly won.
Let's focus on his final dance – a freestyle – that Burgess choreographed to emphasize Norman's profession and his charismatic approach to being a performer. Importantly, Norman was shirtless, and became the latest avatar for the Thirty Seconds To Mars sports anthem "Walk On Water." With a stage and backdrop resembling a thunderstorm, Norman led a group of dancers with an aggressive look on his face – lightning strikes are a serious matter. The most impressive move came lifting Burgess in a plank above his head, throwing and catching her, before sprinting and spinning his way to a platform where a waterfall splashed onto his head.
The performance earned his first perfect score, a nice way to finish his month-long journey. Judge Bruno Tonioli, speaking with typically abridged sentence structures, loved it. "You're wet. And a lot of people are very hot. That really was such a strong performance. Erotic, powerful. You were the leader of the pack. Master and Commander of the situation," he said. Carrie Ann Inaba championed Burgess for her choreography, calling it the best work she'd ever done for the show. And Len Goodman, rounding out the praise, said, "There's no way you are the underdog. It was just great. The lifts were brilliant…Then you got soaking wet."
With the three giving him 10s, that improved his overall score to 57, after Norman received unanimous 9's across the board for his first dance. That one featured a powder blue ensemble outfit for a Foxtrot, which garnered more positive commentary from the judges even as it didn't fully expose Norman's greatest strengths as a dancer.
In attendance were several Redskins teammates – Dustin Hopkins, Chris Thompson, Ty Nsekhe, Fish Smithson and Anthony Lanier II – who got their chance to dress their best on a quick trip to Los Angeles and gave Norman standing ovations, alongside Norman's dad and family members.
Meanwhile, back in Ashburn, linebacker Ryan Kerrigan hosted a private watch party at the Alamo Drafthouse, and several teammates showed up to support Norman. But, alas, the fan voting wasn't enough.
Norman walked on water, but apparently didn't have the embedded fan base like Adam Rippon did. His runner-up status will not tarnish what he accomplished. It will earn him credibility in the locker room, if not some light ribbing for the next couple of months.
Now Norman can finally take a breather. Wait, he's got football practice.