Friday, January 04, 2008

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons, The Bay News, Tolosa Press, SLO, CA for
January 4, 2008

Shoeless Joe Forevermore

In American life, there are no second acts
F. Scott Fitzgerald

It’s odd that the man who wrote what is arguably The Great American Novel --The Great Gatsby --could have gotten it so wrong. In American life, there is nothing BUT second acts. Certainly, in our Era of No Accountability, we no longer bother to put paper bags over people’s heads for even five minutes of earned shame before banishment into the outer darkness of a well deserved obscurity. Nope, instead, it’s a quick appearance on Oprah for some tear-spilling phony repentance, followed by a multi-million dollar book contract and a very lucrative post-sin life speechifying on the rubber chicken circuit.

And I suspect that trait of No Accountability and Nothing BUT Second Acts preceded Fitzgerald. After all, the first Great American Novel was Huckleberry Finn. And when Finn, the quintessential American character, needed a second act, he simply “lit out for the territory.” No accountability there. Book contract to follow.

Add in a few other Great American Traits – our love of Money & Winning at All Costs, our Addiction to Fame, even fifteen minutes of it, and, ironically, our extraordinary tolerance for pious, hypocritical humbug – and you’ve got the present “Baseball Doping Scandal” in a nutshell.

The sports writers had a ball, all that hand-wringing --Baseball’s ruined! Black clouds of shame are hanging over our national pastime! The sport is tainted forever! -- while one column over from their jeremiads was a story on how management was busy signing multi-million dollar contracts for next year with some of the dopers just named in the Mitchell report. So much for taint. Forget accountability. Time to move on. Too much money at stake here for both players and management. Batter up!

And the fans? Well, they don’t care. Was their hero’s bulked up socko performance the result of chemicals? So what? Socko’s all that counts nowadays. And, anyway, everybody’s doin’ it, including the rest of pill-popping America; everyone looking for that edge, that boost, that little secret needed to make the big win, the big score, by any means necessary. You only go around once, grab for the gusto, even if it comes out of a container of pills, a bottle of booze, or the end of a syringe.

And there, of course, is the real tragedy when a “sport” gets steroided up into Bottom Line Big Business – professional boxers brain damaged at 40, football players’ ruined bodies turning them into broken old men at 30, careers gone in a flash leaving the players with years of pain, diminished capacity, their livelihood gone. They don’t call them the Boys of Summer for nothing. Like mayflies, too many athletes’ professional lives are equally brief. And how many ball players are more than willing to accept a lifetime of disability that comes with trading their health and future for that dream slot in Cooperstown? That, and a $36 million contract?

Ironically, baseball is particularly vulnerable to “taint” since it is a sport of record-keeping, of minutia. Whole games can be resurrected and replayed from out of the distant past, all based on those records, every strike-out, every ball, every walk or hit or bunt recorded faithfully by record-obsessed fans. Who played what, where, and how the weather was.

So it is a particular irony that those records will now forever be suspect. After all, how can you indulge in the game of Let’s Compare Players when you suspect one of them somehow magically changed his neck size from “normal” to Hulk in a matter of months? Should we now handicap each hit and start a new Cooperstown record? Plus ten points for proven clean; minus 7.9 points for steroid-dirty; 6.8 for HGF enhanced; and 4.5 for suspect?

And what does it matter anyway? If it’s all about money and fame, two things that almost always corrupt everything they touch, why should we even bother? Except to indulge our love of pious humbug – Aw, say it ain’t so, Joe, -- wink-nudge – followed by some pretend accountability before lighting out for the territory for another act, big money contract in hand.

Pass the syringe, and Play ball!


Mark said...

Ms. Calhoun wrote: Pass the syringe, and Play ball!

Hi Ann:

You are a phenomenally gifted writer. Talented too!

This piece should be in Sports Illustrated or at least SLO Trib Sports as a guest writer. I know there are many who would enjoy reading your work, who do not read your blog.

I could give you my "blind copy" list...;-)


Mike Green said...


I'm sorry Ann, he obviously doesn't know what he's writing, what an insult!

I don't give a fig about watching baseball, like watching paint dry IMHO.
Don't worry too much about it, look at it's competition,
Pickup truck racing
Tournament poker
Competitive eating
Professional bass fishing
Competitive turkey calling
Punkin chunkin.
I'm sure one of those will "step up to the plate" and fill the void.

Mark said...

Don't forget Septic Tank Discharge Elimination..

Churadogs said...

Mark sez:":This piece should be in Sports Illustrated or at least SLO Trib Sports as a guest writer. I know there are many who would enjoy reading your work, who do not read your blog.

I could give you my "blind copy" list...;-)"

Thanks for the kind comments. You're free to sent the website & posting URL out to your BCC.

Mike Green's favorite alternative sport:Punkin chunkin.

Did you read the wonderful book, So and so Build a Trebuchet.? (can't remember the exact title) There was also a great PBS series where they went and built old stuff using old methods and tested it out, like a siege engine to hurl giant boulders at a partial constructed stone "castle" wall & etc. Woa, amazing what a hurled boulder could do to large stone walls -- surprisingly, it caused hideous and lethal shrapnel explosions wiping out the poor guys on the other side of the wall. Run away! Run away!!

Mike Green said...

You know what? I think punkin chumkin would hit a home run!

The bases would be run by "targets"
with getting tagged "out" a whole new meaning.
anyone making it "home" would get to aim the "chunker" at the new "targets"

Since 'roided up folks present a larger target, bulking up would be counterproductive, skinny and quick would be better.

And since it's a personal game, teamwork (an old outdated idea anyway) isn't necessary.

Homer Simpson said...

Yeah, I’d like to see Barry Bonds hit 700 home runs on hot dogs and beer like the Babe did. I remember watching a documentary on Babe Ruth years ago. Jimmy Reese, the Babe’s roommate, told a Babe Ruth story that I’m sure has been embellished to the point of legend over time. Nevertheless, it’s a humorous story. Apparently, Babe was quite the consumer. And, I mean consumer........women, food, beer, cigars......quite the epicure. The Yankees were in Chicago for a weekend stint against the White Sox. Aware of the Babe’s reputation, the White Sox players devised a strategy to get the Babe out for a night on the town and get him liquored up drunk so he would be worthless on the ballfield the next day. Well, evidently, the Babe could handle his liquor a lot better than the White Sox, cause the Yankees pummeled a hung-over Chicago team and the Babe hit three home runs. As the Babe rounded third base after his third home run, it is said, he shouted over to the White Sox dugout; “Where’re we going tonight boys?”.....

Jimmy Reese was a long time California/Anaheim Angels bench coach. I grew up 3 miles from Anaheim Stadium so I refuse to refer to the team as the Los Angeles Angels although when my friends complain, I try to remind them of history and where the name “Angels” comes from. Let’s face it, it’s not quite as ridiculous as the Los Angeles(Minneapolis) Lakers or my favorite the Utah(New Orleans) Jazz....I mean really, the Utah Jazz? It really doesn’t get anymore oxymoronic than that, does it? Anyway, Gene Autry and all the players were so fond and respectful of Jimmy Reese, Autry awarded Reese a lifetime contract with the Angels where he coached until his death in 1994. Nolan Ryan, not to be confused with Roger “Juice Club” Clemens, was so fond of his coach he named his son Reese.....

Another one of my favorite sports stories is the one of Max McGee and Super Bowl 1. Football legend Max McGee just past last October. Max McGee was a veteran player in the twilight of his career. He was the second or third string receiver for the Green Bay Packers who were in Los Angeles for Super Bowl 1. Max had ridden the pine(bench) all season and felt there was no way he would play in the big game the next day. So, Max figured while he was in Los Angeles, he would have some fun. He convinced his roommate and devised a plan to break curfew. They got handsomely dressed in their nightclub attire, crawled into bed and pulled the covers up to their neckline. After the trainer came around for the bed check, Max and his roommate slipped out under cover of darkness for a night on the town. As the story goes, they picked up a couple of stewardesses at a Hollywood nightclub. Max rolled in around 5:30 or 6 the next morning. Hours later, as the team was preparing for the game, Max told starting receiver Boyd Dowler; “I hope you don’t get hurt. I’m not in very good shape.” I’m guessing Max may have spent the better part of the morning with his head buried in the toilet driving the porcelain bus. Now, this is where the story gets really good. On the Packers second drive of the game, starting receiver Boyd Dowler separates his shoulder and is out of the game. Coach Vince Lombardi, calls on Max’s number to replace Dowler in the game. McGee was so out of it, he’d left his helmet in the locker room and had to borrow one from a fellow teammate. And the rest, as the say, is history. Max McGee had 7 receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns.....
Ya see, as far as performance enhancing drugs go, Max McGee didn’t need steroids. All he needed was a few stewardesses and a night on the town. Roger Maris was a chain smoker. One might ask the question how much better would Babe Ruth, Max Mcgee and Roger Maris of been without their vices. I would say not much better and maybe even worse. This is who these guys were. To be any different would violate their inner spirit. Like locking a tiger in a cage or a killer whale in an aquarium. Zoo’s are the most depressing places in the world. I’m sure Ruth, McGee, and Maris are the exception to the rule and I don’t believe “performance enhancement” was the intent of their untoward lifestyles. Injecting or partaking of a substance unnaturally with the intent of augmenting your physical stature to the point that it makes you superior to someone who does not, is a true violation of the inner human spirit. It’s cheating. It reminds me of the late 60's and early 70's(before testing) when all the young female Russian Olympians had thighs the size of oak trunks and full facial hair. Power, whether it be physical or political, is addictive and too much of it ultimately corrupts. I am looking forward to watching Roger Clemens look into the camera a telling a big fat Mark McGwire style lie on 60 minutes tomorrow night.

Speaking of power, last night I arrived home to a very dark neighborhood and a very dark house. So, I turned my car around and headed back into SLO to catch a movie. I basically had the choice between Legend(Will Smith facing carnage with a gun in his hand) or Charlie Wilson’s War(Tom Hanks as a Congressman whose vices make Ruth, McGee and Maris look like canonized saints). When faced with this type of decision I usually pick the Movie that has the fewest explosions. This was a tough choice as one movie was some sci-fi destruction and carnage flick and the other was about the war in Afghanistan. So, I had to go to the tie breaker. I went with the story based on history and reality over fantasy.

What I took away from this movie is that since WWII, our Nation’s foreign policy has been a series of shortsighted cluster fucks. We’ve been pretty good at picking fights but not very good at finishing them. It’s easy to break something. The hard part is putting it back together. One might say we won the cold war but I would say the biggest enemy of Communism was Communism itself. I remember visiting East Berlin in ‘86 before the wall came down. Remember the scene from the Wizard of OZ where Dorothy steps from black & white into color. Well crossing from West to East Berlin was just the opposite. I can’t remember if it was a Sunday or what but compared to the West, East Berlin seemed so lifeless, repressed, and destitute.
I believe Communism defeated Communism. That and the fact that two superpowers had a few thousand nuclear warheads pointed at each other and decided to play the ultimate game of “chicken”. To quote from the move “War Games”....“The only way to win is not to play.” And the move “Crimson Tide”..... “In the nuclear age, the true enemy cannot be defeated.....the true enemy is war itself”......

As far as baseball goes, I’d like to quote the James Earl Jones Character from “Field of Dreams” ....

“Ray, people will come Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won't mind if you look around, you'll say. It's only $20 per person. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they'll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”

Don't worry, after congress drops the proverbial shoe and hammer, I believe we’ll see the integrity of our great American pastime restored to players who womanize, smoke and drink too much.

God Bless America.

Mike Green said...

Don't worry, after congress drops the proverbial shoe and hammer, I believe we’ll see the integrity of our great American pastime restored to players who womanize, smoke and drink too much.

Sure, except to "protect our kiddies"
No nicotine allowed, Smoking is bad
Alcohol is not allowed above a level of point 000006% (can't have drunk line DRIVES)
Drinking is bad
They will all have to pledge abstinence

I say just say NO to organized sports, I LIKE booze sex and smoking, just not tobacco.

I say get em all drunk before they can compete!
Couldn't hurt figure skating!
imagine the fun!
Michele Kwan after four slammers!
That would take the advantage out of steroids!
Get Bonds stinko and let him hit, ha ha ha ha!

Then you can keep your holy records and relish them as the religion that they are!

Me, I'd rather have a really good 04 syrah in my wine bar (on top of my septic tank).

Mark said...

The printed word reveals the writer more than he/she may know.

Mike, I appreciate your old school thinking! Roids, Alchohol, Drugs including Nicotine and Technology have changed the game for better or worse. People will always be themselves. Remember the Cocaine problems in the 80's and 90's?

Homer: Too bad you did not use you real name as your handle betrays your ability.

Kudos and thanks to both Ann & Ron for their regular reports and postings for they are why I stop by to read here. I always learn something...:-)

Best regards,


Ron, Ann dubbed you "Mr. Smartie Pants" a while back.
She is spot on!
I will look forward to meeting you in person, when the time is right.

If only a few more sports fans could "catch" on like you have...