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.