Ricky Williams is a religious soul. He came to this world in search of something. He found it first in football and second in marijuana. A player of sublime talent, Ricky won the Heisman Trophy in 1998 when he led the nation in rushing yards for the University of Texas Longhorns. He was drafted fifth overall by the New Orleans Saints who were not so good in those days. They still had a city however. Ricky was good at football, but the NFL was in the business of presenting America with its steroided, airbrushed reflection, and Ricky insisted on smoking weed. It must not be easy being a religious man put in the place of a god, and the wacky tabaccy provided a brief release from this world of illusion. He went somewhere when he played football. He went somewhere when he smoked weed. Ricky retired. Ricky returned. Ricky was banned. Ricky did yoga. Ricky played football in Canada. Ricky went unto the mountain and there he prayed. Now Ricky plays on the Miami Dolphins for football czar Bill Parcells, himself a god. They share an understanding. And Ricky knows that, wherever the true god is or isn’t, Ricky was put on this earth to play football. But there is, nestled deep within, a ragged festering wound where Ricky has betrayed himself; because, role model or not, Ricky Williams was put on this earth to smoke weed.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
In the late nineties, baseball entered its ‘Steroids Era.’ For the next ten years (at least) players would inject themselves with tissue building hormones to increase the equilibrium level of sustainable muscle mass in their bodies. Wooden bats, pigskin balls, and faux pastoral ballparks that were built for Michelangelo’s properly proportioned athlete became lighter and smaller in the shadow of the new colossuses. Statistics geeks, drunk on the history crunching comparisons made possible by baseball’s encyclopedic records, were dismayed to find that 70 Home Runs by a man with a stovepipe for a neck were perhaps of a different order than poor, balding, Roger Maris’ 61. When rumours began to crystallize into confession, Congress held an inquiry, the tenor of which was, “Woe is us, America has been betrayed by its role models.”
Break it down!:
Boys are going to think that manliness is big muscles, just like girls learn that womanliness is having a waist that can fit in the aforementioned stovepipe. Boys grow muscles, larger and larger, penis enlargement, the man whose arms exploded, man wins and crushes. Kiss her with big, fat, muscular, man lips. This is baseball. An eternal present where the batter gets bigger and bigger, the pitcher’s arm more and more maximized until his tendon snaps. Go to Alabama, visit the hallowed Dr. James Andrews, come back with a dead man’s elbow, pitch some more you oblivious android. Roy Halladay was traded to the Phillies, and he was happy. They come from the farm, a smaller town, with fewer seats and less equality – the journeyman knowing they will need a real career soon, the punk-ass shit-for-brains bullies who could never play a team sport that involved thinking like a team, and the star-crossed kids who have yet to be spoiled by their career-ending injury or eight figure contract. They are weeded, they grow. Bigger towns, almost cities, one hundred thousand populations, some of which come to the bigger ballpark. Still on a bus, but the future is friendly. Then you’re there, and fuck shit, happy to be here help the team one hundred and ten fucking percent. Who wouldn’t use steroids? It is American.
Tiger Woods had sex with women who were other than his wife. They had big boobs. Tiger employed a celebrity pimp whose job was to offer a free weekend vacation to big breasted hotties in whatever location happened to host a golf tournament that weekend. They would end up at the same VIP party as Tiger, and who wouldn’t want to have sex with Tiger Woods? When Tiger pumped his fist after another victorious Sunday, his grin held the true glow of the alpha male; in one weekend he conquered the males and fucked the females. What a fine Tiger. But this Tiger got his power from an unfair world. We paid him a billion dollars a year to bask in his image of razor sharp success, and surrounded the truth of that success – the ruthless, animal, survival of the fittest – with the trappings of the life of our defeated culture. Tiger was the Ubermensch and we loved him for it, but we gave him a wife and kids to make him look more like pathetic us.
The Charlotte Bobcats changed their uniforms at the start of the 2009-2010 season. Instead of the orange road unis they had sported previously, the Bobcats adopted a pinstriped slate blue with checkered sidebars (in honour of North Carolina’s NASCAR addiction). The tragedy of this switch is not in the aesthetic of the new uniform – the effect is surprisingly pleasing, given the conceptual clutter – but in the loss of an orange team. After the neon craze of the eighties, professional sports uniforms have slowly regressed towards a ‘tasteful’ mean. All games are, at a fundamental level, red vs. blue, and any orange, purple, green, or pink teams feel left out. They seem like teams that came later and took the leftovers, and every team must present itself as a possible protagonist. Professional sports hope to cultivate fans who would never choose to play the outsider.
When Gilbert Arenas brought his four guns to work, he made perhaps the most expensive mistake involving firearms by a private citizen, ever. Gilbert, or “Agent Zero” as people called him back when he was exciting and good, had 80 million dollars left over four years of contract. Eighty million dollars to wobble around on reconstructed knees, throw up last minute shots, all the while preening and posturing with the knowledge that he met the man and took his money. The Washington Wizards, Gilbert’s unfortunately named employer, were doomed to mediocrity by Gilbert’s contract. They paid superstar money to a man with magic knees that went “pop” at the smell of ink on contract. But I want to commend Gilbert for meeting the man, taking his money, and making him look like a fool. Now let's just hope that the man doesn't find an excuse to not give Gilbert his booty.
In professional sports, athletes trade their physical gifts for a lot of money. The grueling schedules these athletes play to create the revenue to pay their salary inevitably takes a toll on their bodies. The perils of football have been particularly well documented recently – the repetitive head trauma involved in being an offensive lineman, for example, makes raging, demented fifty-year-old infants out of our most statuesque giants – but can be found across all of the big four (NBA, NHL, MLB, NFL). Hockey players get concussed and lose their teeth, baseball players have messed up hormones and snap their tendons, and basketball players eventually blow out their knees. It alleviates the pain caused by the suspicion that I am wasting my valuable life force by living.
I wrote the following entries in January and February of 2010. I spend more time thinking about sports then I should, and occasionally I like to write about them. These are kind of all over the map - I was trying to be a little intuitive and I'm not sure it worked as desired - but I thought I might as well publish them here because they aren't doing me any good just sitting on my computer. Plus, the way sports work, the passage of a year has rendered some of them outdated.