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I just found this ad online: “Download Sanjaya Idol Ringtones.” Jeez Louise! Can you imagine being next to someone on a subway and having THAT ring tone go off? I swear – there would be a riot.

I did some online research and went to a bunch of different sites that talk about Sanjaya Malakar and no matter what the point of view, the comments are seething! Lots of caps. “HE SUCKS! BOOOOO! GET HIM OUT OF THERE!”

So why is everyone so angry? American Idol has had less than stellar finalists before – and even a less than stellar winner or two. It’s not the first time better singers have had to wave good-bye to adoring fans of the show. This is the way American Idol works. It is, after all, a reality TV show with a high entertainment factor. And, like him or not, the whole Sanjaya story certainly has been entertaining.

People who usually wouldn’t spend time talking about reality TV shows are finding something fascinating about all this. I even heard Brian Lehrer, the erudite, insightful, delightful host of WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show discuss the issue: (scroll down to segment) Fallen Idol.

And the amount of press this has gotten would almost make me think that American Idol is helping to fan the flames. Could that be part of it? Simon wants to resign? Oh really? Because America is voting for someone who doesn’t deserve to win? It wouldn’t be the first time.

Basically, Sanjaya has been good for business – not that he intentionally chose to be the object of so much national debate and hatred. But this is a topic Americans can get their heads around – unlike the Iraq war, global warming, healthcare, and other more serious issues that in theory should be occupying our brains but are way too painful. At least we can be angry at Sanjaya and know where we stand.

Look…the kid is 17. He entered a contest. The judges and/or producers selected him to move on. He’s giving it his all. Sure he’s not the greatest – but he’s not voting for himself. So why is HE getting all the anger? You should read the comments. People are royally pissed off at him for what’s happening. (Not that I would be opposed to chipping in and getting him a good vocal coach who could teach him to “sing out Louise!”)

But all that aside…I’m actually impressed that this young kid is standing up on the stage week after week, despite the controversy, and not only delivering the best he knows how, but even having some fun – such as with his new mohawk hairstyle.

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I laughed when he came on. He certainly entertained me with that. Give the kid some credit for how well he’s handling all this. I saw comments calling him “snobby” and “arrogant”. Could any of you get up there and face the ridicule each week? I know I couldn’t. I’d be a blubbering mess. There are even nasty comments about his race and Indian heritage – as if that were really any part of this. But maybe it is. I don’t know. I hope not.

What I do know is that he has become the focus of a lot of fun conversations and passion. And that does make for good entertainment. But he’s also become the focal point of intense outrage – and to me, that’s the truly fascinating part of the whole story. So what’s going on?

I realize that people are upset with what’s happening and feel frustrated that he keeps going and going – like an Energizer bunny on tranquilizers. But he’s clearly getting some real votes from fans, such as pre-teens who just think he’s cute – as evidenced by the crying girl in the audience. And he’s also getting votes from people as part of a campaign by Vote for the Worst, also spurred on by Howard Stern. But then, according to Wikipedia, Jennifer Hudson was also one of their targets. And so was Carrie Underwood.

So again…why all the anger? Is American Idol so sacred that the public vote can’t be subject to some playful shenanigans? Is last year’s winner Taylor Hicks really unimpeachable as a true Idol? (Wikipedia says Vote for the Worst also supported him.) But granted…so far Sanjaya’s performances have been fairly lackluster. And I would hope that the vote itself – with such great contestants as Melinda, Jordin, Blake, and Lakisha – will take care of the controversy by the last show.

In the meantime…enjoy the fun. But give the kid a break. He didn’t cause this. He’s just going out there each week and doing the best he can. And isn’t that the real American tradition in any contest? If you want to be angry, be angry at the people voting – not at Sanjaya Malakar.