Monday, July 22, 2013

PEDs In Baseball? Fuck You. Go Away, You Cheaters...

With today's news that Milwaukee Brewers' outfielder Ryan Braun finally copped to cheating via performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), and was suspended for the remainder of the season without pay, maybe we can finally say that Major League Baseball is, finally, getting close to getting it right.

But, is it a case of too little too late? I guess you'd have to ask the kids in Milwaukee.

Given how Braun kinda, sorta skipped by on a technicality before the 2012 season (the "chain of custody" defense); and, given how doggedly and vociferously he held to that defense (and with such arrogant indignity!), his carefully worded admission of some sort of guilt today cuts at, not merely the kids in Milwaukee-- but at the kid in all of us who still love the game of baseball, and want to believe in it's veracity.

As I write this, well past being a kid by any definition, I am sickened and saddened by today's event; even as I (a mere fan) am breathing a simultaneous sigh of relief.

I wanted, like all hell, to believe that Braun had been railroaded in the previous controversy! His very game looked to be so pure: Everything from his joy, to his easy swing, to the throws he made, made him a blast to watch-- so when the first allegations against him came down well over a year ago, I was among those who fell into the "no way!" camp.

Even as a small, dark part, deep inside cautioned against my flag-waving, fan reaction.

We'd been here before....

I need not lay out the litany of names: We all know them; though it is now fairly unlikely those who vote for Hall Of Fame inductions remember them now:

Most of an entire generation of stunning diamond achievement not lost; merely exposed for chicanery that, after the '94 strike, was kind of ignored by all involved.

Including US, the fans.

Yes, we as fans, are absolutely complicit.

We saw McGwire, Sosa, Bonds suddenly strike to new heights between '98-'01, and all we did was gawk at the moon, and say nothing! Yes, to baseball fans, these hallowed records toppling was kind of an awesome thing to behold in the moment, weren't they? "Hey, I watched as McGwire hugged the Maris family on September 8, 1998, blah, blah, blah..."; and wasn't that touching?

Yes, it was.

It was also a lie. A lie to the fans. A lie to history. A lie to the very game itself.

But, it was so monumental that we all just let these fake successors to Ruth and Maris just jerk off all over our faces; because we wanted baseball to be back after the strike of 4 years previous. We wanted baseball to comfort us again.

Doesn't make us (the fans) bad people; nor does it necessarily make those players involved bad people, either.

This is where it gets complicated:

You and I are just fans. Doesn't mean we're not invested; but, if you're like me, your competitive baseball career ended after high school. For the guys with better eyes at the plate, better arms on the mound, or better defensive skills, the end of high school suddenly made things all real.

At that point came the stink of money.

If you need anyone to write a detailed account of how PEDs can possibly fast-track a prospect into MLB greatness, perhaps you should check out here, as my thesis is about to possibly get a bit weird on you.

I was a very good high school athlete. Even before then, once I lost fear of a ball hitting me in the face (4th grade), I'd been good at sports. I was good/great at football, baseball and basketball all through high school.

On a football field, I could throw a ball 70 yards, on a line. On the baseball field, I could pick all the short throws at first base, and was a pretty decent hitter.

Oh yeah, I was also a flake and a bit of a stoner fuckhead. This might explain why my athletic 'career' ended soon after I fell in love with cigarettes and weed.

I'm okay with that.

Just as I am okay with the following contradictory logic in my head:

While I feel completely betrayed by McGwire, Sosa, Bonds (ecchh!), Ramirez, Braun, Rodriguez, and the like; I am A-Okay with my man, Dock Ellis.

(No kids, don't try this at home)

It has now gone into the realm of a folk tale; but, according to the late Dock Ellis, on June 12, 1970 he did something kind of incredible. This long-repeated tale has Dock, pitching that day against the San Diego Padres, throwing a no-hitter.


I mean, tripping balls, on acid.

Can't say I saw it, as I was 7; but, I wanna believe it. I really do.

As a fan.

As a so-called 'writer', I wanna analyze/explore this more against the tableau of PEDs, and the shadow they've cast over the game in the past 20+ years.

By way of full disclosure, I love booze, hallucinogenics, weed, blah blah blah.

And, I want ALL drugs out of all major sports. Not just PEDs; but also the weed, coke, speed, etc....

Yes, I admit that I am a total fucking hypocrite in the sense that I think it was cool Dock Ellis threw fastballs at the Padres while seeing trails off his hand on that long ago June day; while, in the same breath I can hit Ryan Braun (a player I root for) with some sanctimonious "say it ain't so, Joe!" utter fucking bullshit, just because of the waist deep denial I've been in.

In the end, as a fan, I am hopeful that the MLBPA finally will, at some point, embrace an aggressive set of tests to eradicate, once and for all, the doubt we all now feel, as fans, dropping just above our heads.

Fluids, hair samples, skin/tissue biopsies, etc...If you've got nothing to hide, then you've got not problem!

Lawyers, CBAs and all the rest are just smoke/mirrors bullshit! Drop your needles, level the field and make baseball pure again, right?

And, despite having said that, I still say Dock Ellis dropping and then tripping while firing zeros against the Padres is still just too badass for words.

I wouldn't recommend it; but, in a different era, with different mores, Dock was the guy to pull it off.

May he rest in peace.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Mitch Kupchak Cutting Himself Listening To Joy Division?

(By Chris Checkman)

There are many fans of the Los Angeles Lakers who are today cursing the hell out of Dwight Howard.

This is understandable.

Howard is the most physically imposing center of this generation-- and, despite the myriad flaws in his game (can't shoot free throws; has limited offensive skills beyond those near the rim, blah blah blah...), ANY team with the cash to blow would've wanted him.

Totally understandable.

By way of full disclosure, I've been a Lakers fan since the most bitchy parts of the Vietnam war: I was in 4th grade during the 33 game winning streak, and I was mesmerized. Names like Sharman, Chamberlain, Goodrich speak volumes to me. Especially the name of Jerry West.

Every kid back then wanted to shoot like Jerry; and we all tried to emulate his perfect form.

In other words, though merely a fan, I'm familiar with this franchise...

So, when Dwight Howard Tweeted about his choice being the Houston Rockets, and then Kobe countered by unfollowing Dwight on Twitter, and then posting a shot on Instagram of him and Pau Gasol, apparently taking a casual stroll along the banks of the Seine, my head just fucking EXPLODED.

In the time since Dwight Howard Twittled that he's gonna go with the Houston Rockets, Twitter has basically exploded with a whole bunch of "fuck you nigger", "YOU FAG!", kinda posts. And, if you're wondering why I didn't censor the words of others, I just thought it okay to remind everyone, again, that we live among a knot of heaving, hissing vipers; so, don't get too many stars/stripes in your eyes, okay?

Still a lot of closeted bigotry out there. Fuck 'em. (that's my not so subtle thing here...okay, moving on)

Bigotry aside, I get the frustration with Dwight Howard. As a Lakers fan, I'd have wanted him to stay; but, from the day he came here, I knew he was a one year whore. Period.

And, I knew this without having any insider friends or informants anywhere near the action. And it's not that I am so smart of aware, either!

My prior knowledge of this had nothing to do with anything more than seeing (as a regular NBA fan) how Dwight Howard had conducted himself since he came into the league.


If, I thought, a fucking idiot like me can see these flags, surely my Lakers are aware of them, right?! They know well that, while Howard seems like a good guy; he is a bit of a head case, and coach-killing flake, right?

And, coming off back surgery.

Nonetheless, the Lakers brought him on for a year, in the hope they could sign him long term. Even then, this gave me a bad feeling.

Really bad.

But, when they fired head coach Mike Brown 5 games into the season, and then PASSED on Phil Jackson in favor of Mike D'Antoni, it was clear this was never gonna work out.

And, despite a late season rally that gave some fans hope; this Laker team ended where it should've, exactly how it should've....

(Fucking sucks that Kobe will now be a mobile as post-Achilles Dan Marino was after same injury)

So, here we are. The Lakers' fans on Twitter and other social media sites seem to all wanna gang up on Howard. Sometimes, this is in a rather horrific, bigoted/shitty way.

Not cool, closet Klansmen; just sorta fucked.

Problem is, from my perspective, we Lakers fans are looking at this in an ass-backwards way. This was never Dwight Howard's problem or burden; it was that of the Lakers...

In a free market enterprise, with the NBA's collective bargaining agreement looming overhead, Dwight Howard had every right to exercise every legal option at his disposal. And he did just that. That is totally fair; and you can't fault him for this.

So, the Lakers then played their card: We can offer you $30M more than anyone else, we have a championship tradition, this is Hollywood, branding, blah blah...

And Howard skipped off to Houston, leaving THAT $30M on the table anyway.


Well, to me, what it comes down to is dignity. It is easy to knock Howard, given the sheer number of holes he's put in his own armor. He's an immature, clownish, narcisstic brat with an unusually thin skin:

He wants attention, only as long as it is positive. The negative shit wilts him like a moth under a fat kid's magnifying glass.

His physical gifts cannot be denied; but, when weighed against the thinner parts of his psychic armor, the whole package is called into question.

Dwight Howard is an immensely gifted specimen in terms of what he can do on the court. He also seems like a nice guy, one you would want to root for. But, he was never Laker material. Ever.

And the Lakers should've known it...

I'm gonna assume those of you who've read this far know Lakers history; as I'm too fucking lazy to repeat it here.

Dwight Howard, nice fellow that he is, never had that thing Lakers fans think of when they remember previous greats like George Mikan, Wilt, Kareem, Magic, Byron, Worthy, Shaq, etc...

Not just centers; but, Laker greats. Gotta include my all-time favorite basketball players here: Michael Cooper (killer defense; the Coop-a-loop; willed himself to be a great outside shooter) and Kurt Rambis (tough as fuck; great on the boards; backed down from NOBODY; eventually developed a nice little midrange jumper...)

I've loved ALL the Lakers teams (even the few shitty ones) since I first discovered them as a little shit; but, with all the superstars (whom I have loved), my main guys were Coop and Rambis.

And for a reason.

The (east coast) media used to paint the Lakers as some sort of superficial Hollywood joke; and the Finals against the Celtics were portrayed as Showtime vs. the Lunchpail crowd-- and I cannot tell you how much this used to piss me off!

To the national media, the Lakers were just flash; while Boston was about hard work, and were the embodiment of the soul of the game...

I loved Magic, Kareem, McAdoo, et al; and I am a student of the history of the league, and have been for 40 years.

Yet, my 2 all-time favorite players were, despite wearing L.A. uniforms, the ultimate in grinders. Sure, Coop and Rambis wore purple and gold; but, I'll say here that no other tandem in NBA history holds any sway over them. You might find an equal tandem. You'll never find one better.


And so we hit the home stretch. Finally.

While my kneejerk reaction upon first hearing the news was to blame Howard; the feelings that I held well before his not at all shocking decision bore themselves out-- and this mess was not Dwight Howard's fault at all...

The blame lies solely in laps of what can be, most charitably, termed the Lakers' brain trust.

The billboards, the banners, the public manipulation...! WHAT THE FUCK?!

It was like some through-the-looking-glass thing where up/down are reversed; and suddenly the Lakers are the desperate fat chick trying to pay for a date to the prom.

The fucking Los Angeles Lakers, now reduced to bringing in their tv provider to try and sway a physically gifted/emotionally troubled waffling manchild to stay by having their tv partner offer him some sort of tv show,blah blah blah?

This fuckup is not Howard's fault, it is squarely on the shoulders of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise. Understand that I am NOT calling losing Howard to Houston the "fuckup"-- as anyone with a brain (not you, Jim Buss) saw this coming...

The "fuckup" itself is the entire PR campaign launched by a now-desperate franchise under the leadership of the idiot son, who rules not by guile or knowledge; but by the seat of his relaxed fit pants.

Jim Buss had a chance to save all of this, early last November. He could've wrapped up Howard and secured a real run toward a title in one fell swoop:

Uncle Phil.

Instead, he went all arrogant, let any personal issues fuck things up; and decided to go with Mike D'Antoni as head coach in the wake of the Mike Brown firing, 5 games into the regular season.

The greatest coach in the history of the sport was all lined up to ride in and save the day-- AND WERE IT NOT FOR JIM BUSS' PERSONAL AGENDA, UNCLE PHIL WOULD'VE BEEN THERE.

But, Jim Buss went with D'Antoni, seemingly out of spite; and the rest is history.

THAT'S why Dwight Howard is Houston bound right about now. THAT'S why the Lakers are in a chaotic personnel/PR-based free fall right about now.

The billboards, the signs, the manipulative begging, using the media/social media as easy and complicit drooling accomplices-- what did this do?

It left a brown shit stain on the normally immaculate purple and gold. Sort of a reminder that even pillars and institutions are no less subject to checks and balances-- and should be no less aware of the pitfalls when they stumble away from the core principles that made them successes and icons in the first place.

It's okay, Lakers fans, to bitch at Howard for leaving; but, if you look a little closer, you'll see that the problem wasn't the physically gifted yet immature center. It was the chaos within the organization.


Welcome to Teagle/Ceballos/Threatt, v 2.0

It's gonna be ugly for awhile, Lakers fans.

chris checkman