Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Good, The Badass, & The Ugly

There are two circumstances where sports crosses over into life. The first is when a tragedy occurs. Think of George W. Bush's first pitch after 9/11, the first game Virginia Tech played after the massacre, etc. The second is when the troubles the rest of us have reaches our beloved superstars. Not in a Mike Vick/Plaxico Burress sort of way either. I mean, how many of us have murdered dogs or shot ourselves in a night club?

The Good

San Francisco Giants ace pitcher Tim Lincecum. The Cy Young winner who resembles Mitch Kramer from Dazed and Confused was charged with possession of 3.3 grams of marijuana after being pulled over for speeding. No doubt he was driving to his dealer's house to reload.

The Badass

Raiders coach Tom Cable, who we have recently learned not only beats up on assistant coaches, but smacks around women as well. The National Organization for Women thinks Cable should be suspended. Which seems funny, because the cumulative man--err--woman hours that organization has spent watching football is somewhere around 0.0-0.02.

The Ugly

Andre Agassi. According to his new book, Agassi smoked meth, tanked games, took speed at an early age, never liked Brooke Shields and was a pyromaniac. Or as it's known in tennis circles, "Pulling a McEnroe".

The reason I bring these three up is because they have done what sports commissioners and sports writers spend a lifetime trying to hide: athletes are exactly the same as us.

Granted, Tom Cable is not an athlete nor a superstar. But he has come to embody everything that the Oakland Raiders used to stand for: blue collar football thuggery. I say "used to" because the reality of sports in the 21st century has led us to believe this kind of behavior doesn't exist anymore. Like it or not, the Raiders conduct themselves like athletes of yesteryear, which everyone seems to agree was a better time for sports. They do not hide their shortcomings. Everyone who puts on the black and silver is an extension of Al Davis. And while that rarely translates to wins, it does translate into truth.

Lincecum and Agassi's stories are a little different. They are superstars. And while Agassi's life may be lazily construed as a warning against forcing children into professional athletics, I see it more as another story of another American person. No, we haven't all had the same problems, but we know somebody who does. I know a guy who used to do meth, a guy who for some reason did not love a beautiful woman, and a guy who thought he should abuse matches like Beavis (OK, that last one was me). Agassi is all of us, just wrapped into one.

The same goes with Lincecum. He smokes weed. We all have. If you haven't, then I have no idea why you would read anything on this website.

We've learned that Troy Aikman almost crushed his brain into mush because of his pride, Brett Favre is selfish, Pete Rose wanted to win too much, Isiah Thomas has a little bit of homophobia, and so on. In the 60s, 70s and 80s, being like everyone else and having flaws was the reason athletes became heroes. Mickey Mantle drank like your father. Hell, even JFK lusted like you do. It was alright, because there was no illusion.

Make no mistake, this is a good thing. We need it. It's why Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa are pariahs but Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte are champions; the latter pair apologized. They admitted their flaws, which we can identify with. I say the more pot possessions, wife beatings and meth smoking the better. It's healthy to become comfortably numb to demons of reality. It's what makes the accomplishments of those who have risen above them that much more heroic.


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