Excuse the obvious weak witticism, but it seems as though the wheels have come off the Tour de France. Painful as it may be for fans like Danny and ex-champs like Saint Lance — who is no doubt nervously contemplating his future as a saint, once his “I never tested positive” starts to sound like “they had to drop the charges because there was a typo in the warrant” — I say: Good. Let the wheels come off. It’s time. The whole sport — lots of sports — seems to be soaked in chemicals, and if we’re going to pay anything but lip service to the idea of getting them clean, there are going to be a lot of downhill wrecks in the Pyrenees, so to speak.
When I was a lucky, lucky journalism fellow at the University of Michigan a couple-three years ago, we were privileged to have Dick Pound, head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, as a seminar speaker one night. It was an eye-opener, to say the least; it’s safe to say Pound has few illusions about just how dirty amateur and professional sports are these days. During the question period, someone asked why we don’t just call off the war on drugs in sports. Let them take drugs that grow their legs longer and hands larger and shrivel their testicles and whatever else, as long as it’s transparent. Pound was unimpressed with this argument, and pointed out the obvious problems, and then mentioned the biggie: What would you do about kids?
We forget it’s not only jerseys and sneakers that youthful admirers of athletes go in for. When I was in high school — and recall, I graduated in 1975 — there was a boy on the football team who seemed to explode over the summer, turning into the Incredible Hulk in a matter of weeks. It was an open secret he was taking steroids, and everyone knew where he got them — from his father, the doctor. When I started going to the gym after college, one of the trainers gave me the rundown on how the bodybuilders got their drugs: They went to Scioto Downs, the trotting venue, and spoke to certain veterinarians.
If a high-school kid from an upper-middle-class family is willing to take drugs, if a no-name bodybuilder with no hope of competing with the likes of Frank Zane will medicate just to impress girls (or other guys) in bars, then why even doubt that a pro, with millions on the line every day, would do it?
As for the other sports scandals of the moment — NBA officials working for the mob, dog-fighting aficionados in the NFL, what-evuh — I just throw up my hands.
Just got off the phone with Lance Mannion. We were discussing “Mad Men” and went off on a tangent about how faces, and bodies, change through the decades. He didn’t think “Mad Men” got the faces quite right, although they certainly nailed the set design. The latter is so nailed it’s almost distracting — you find yourself saying, “Hey! A puu-puu platter!” insted of listening to the dialogue, but I expect that will abate with time. Faces and bodies change gradually and we don’t notice them until we do. Look at a picture of the crowds at Woodstock — everyone is skinny but untoned, the way people used to be when obesity was rare and thin was simply average. (I will give “Mad Men” this, though — a scene in a burlesque club featured a woman who not only stripped, but had a few rolls of fat at her waist. Once again, I miss my era.)
Anyway, this sort of comes back around to the Tour de France (I think). If we really flush drugs out of sports — and I’m not sure we can, or can even come close — we’re going to have to recalibrate not only our record books, but our eyes. The upside: Baseball players that look like Babe Ruth again.
I’m not sure why Tim Goeglein is so prolific of late. When I worked for the paper, it seemed he only submitted his stupid guest op-ed columns three or four times a year, and here we’ve had three or four in that many months. Someone in a past comment thread speculated he’s keeping his name in front of the public in preparation for a run for office, but I’m not so sure — the subject matter’s all wrong. Of course, as a loyal soldier, he’s destined for the wingnut-welfare gravy train, but I don’t know which car he wants to ride in. Last month he lamented the tragic underappreciation of his favorite operatic composer, and this month he turns his attention to…John Wayne?
If we could scale down the pantheon of 20th Century actors to those with screen personas so resonant that their images remain available via plaster busts and lamps still sold in novelty stores decades after their deaths, John Wayne, whose centenary is this year, shares that particular down-market upper-tier.
Ummm, OK. Whatever. That’s his lead, by the way. I’ve never seen a John Wayne lamp, have you? I guess “down-market upper-tier” is a joke.
Wayne’s big-hearted, tough-guy screen personality was just as much a creation as a few others, but the boy who was born Marion Michael Morrison in Iowa 100 years ago, was seeking validation that did not exist in his disturbing home life when he was growing up.
I’m not sure what he’s saying here. That a movie star’s “screen personality” might not be a 100 percent organic reflection of their actual personality, just like “a few” others? Stop the presses.
There’s more, but lord, I don’t have time for this crap. Just know it contains the phrases “mitigation-free,” “near-perfect baroque cohesion” and “an out-of-door sort of spirit.” I don’t think Garry Wills is losing any sleep tonight.
LA mary said on July 26, 2007 at 10:07 am
I think I’ve seen John Wayne Jim Beam collectors bottles. Then again, I might be mistaken. In Foss Drugs, in Golden, Colorado, they used to carry a scary assortment of Jim Beam bottles, and the Duke might have been one of them. You could turn the empty bottle into a lamp if you wanted to. Sounds like a fun weekend. Drink the Jim Beam and mess with electricty.
Jeff said on July 26, 2007 at 10:09 am
Best Tour de France article for summary purposes:
Ah, cycling, farewell; let’s just go ride a bike.
brian stouder said on July 26, 2007 at 10:15 am
I’ve never seen a John Wayne lamp, have you?
Nope – but I have occasionally seen those jumbo-sized, framed, velvet portraits of Elvis (and Marilyn) that people sell out of their vans, on vacant lots. I bet iconography of the Duke pops up in those places, too.
btw – Garry Wills book on Lincoln at Gettysburg (maybe 12 or 14 years ago) was very good stuff; it was the first thing I read that really analyzed Lincoln’s incisive (and altogether lyrical) writing style, including a fascinating look at his revisions. A new (and masterful) book on the subject of Lincoln’s writing style and his never-ending revision process, and his love (and I mean LOVE!!) of commas, is Lincoln’s Sword : The Presidency and the Power of Words by Douglas Wilson.
A marvelous book – informative, funny, and absorbing; plus, Wilson has come to the Lincoln Museum a few times, and he is an engaging speaker and a gracious conversationalist
(PS – I have edited this post three times now – removing annoying typos. So – any errors remaining are beyond my ability to recognize)
alex said on July 26, 2007 at 10:56 am
If Timmy’s planning a run for office, I’m not sure what it would be or where, because he appears to be sucking up to the old fart demographic that I call Sansabelt Conservative. You know the type. The sort of beige-haired bluenose bitches who call up the newspaper and cuss out the managing editor for allowing words like “hell” to get into print.
Maybe he’s auditioning to be the next Peggy Noonan, just thirty years too late.
Danny said on July 26, 2007 at 11:52 am
Jeff. So true. Just throw a leg over and get out there and ride.
Though I follow sports as entertainment, I really don’t consider myself as much a fan (as in fanatic) as an interested spectator. For me, it’s always been more about participation and having fun. No professional sports debacle can ever take that from someone.
colleen said on July 26, 2007 at 12:06 pm
OH Alex, I love you.
They are the same people who write into The Rant. They want to smoke everywhere, park for free, eat out without tipping and for things to ALWAYS STAY THE SAME.
Speaking of which….what year is it in Tim G’s world?
Julie Robinson said on July 26, 2007 at 12:23 pm
Well, Mark Souder has to retire sometime, doesn’t he? Although Timmy may think he’s above being a representative, since he’s been working in the White House.
And there have actually been letters to the editor stating that our boys are dying over there in Iraq so that they have the right to smoke at home. Huh?
The other problem with sports and drugs is that so many kids are trying to earn college scholarships. They no longer want to play multi-sports; they focus on just one year around. And who can blame them, college costs are unreal these days. (We have one in college and one in grad school, though we are not paying for that.) In both my kids’ classes, there were several mediocre students who received college money for sports, while the salutatorian was struggling to get an academic scholarship. Where are our priorities?
Stepping down from the soapbox now.
Kim said on July 26, 2007 at 1:25 pm
Oh, Timmy! All those freakin’ commas are making me dizzy! Shorten your sentences.
Seriously, is this guy taking a 100-level film criticism correspondence course? It reads like it’s been ripped from a C-minus/D-plus paper.
czucky Dimes said on July 26, 2007 at 7:33 pm
I urge all who are even only vaguely interested in the career and life of John Wayne to read Garry Wills’ absolutely excellent bio of him, and when done with that one, find a copy of “An Empire of Their Own–How The Jews Invented Hollywood”, by Neal Gabler. Both profoundly influenced my understanding of film entertainment and also the world. Brian Stouder, in particular, I believe will very much like the Wayne book.
brian stouder said on July 26, 2007 at 7:56 pm
I shall take your advice, and seek out Wills’ Wayne book
Jim said on July 26, 2007 at 8:00 pm
Tim Goeglein is full of himself and always has been. Do any of you remember his own five-minute newscast on channel 55 back when he was about 13?
Tom said on July 27, 2007 at 1:04 pm
Dick Pound may be an impressive speaker, but I think that he’s hurt the antidoping movement simply by seeming to refuse to believe that anyone is clean. This is most noticeable in Armstrong’s case; Lance was the most-tested athlete in the world during his Tour career (in his autobiographies, he mentions having to give samples during a wedding reception and when he was literally heading out the door to take his wife to the hospital to deliver twins), and I would think that his passing the tests that have caught others would count for something, but Pound’s POV seems to be that, even if you pass the tests, you’re still doping.
Pound has many remarkable accomplishments as an attorney, but that sort of adversarial approach to dealing with athletes reminds me a bit of prosecutors who refuse to admit that they may have made a mistake in convicting people who are later exonerated by DNA evidence.
Linda said on July 27, 2007 at 8:43 pm
Re: Changing bodies. The most obvious thing you notice nowadays is teeth. They’re so much better than they used to be, it’s distracting. Even in tv and movies set in modern times, you will see characters that are supposed to be in the middle of a war, gritty and filthy, with dazzling white, perfect smiles. The authenticity of the shot is lost every time someone opens their mouth.
Dave said on July 28, 2007 at 2:55 pm
Linda, I remember our columnist, Nancy, making that very point about teeth a good number of years ago when commenting about the Indians in DANCES WITH WOLVES. I believe it was in her actual column in the N-S days.