Thursday, October 29, 2009

Third-Degree Burns and Paper Cuts

The New York Times best-seller list may get a couple of new entries from the sports world in the next couple of weeks. Jackie MacMullan's When the Game Was Ours once again joins Magic Johnson and Larry Bird as the faces of the NBA in the 1980's.

Then, a couple of weeks from now, we'll be treated to Andre Agassi's Open. That one's already generating huge buzz over Andre's "I used crystal meth" admission. More on that later.

First, Bird and Magic. They started out as two guys who would just as soon gouge each other's eyes out as have to look at each other, and now they seem buddies. Magic and Isiah Thomas, however, seem to have gone the opposite direction.

Almost immediately after Magic was diagnosed with HIV in 1991, rumors flew about how he contracted it. Many reports prior to this have painted Isiah as the architect of the one that had Magic being gay, and according to TrueHoop's Henry Abbott, those reports were already somewhat public in 1992.

No one seems to be doubting that Magic knew of Isiah's role in the rumors from Day why has he sat on it for eighteen years? Why has he still greeted Isiah warmly when they meet, taken friendly pictures with him, etc.? Why the hell did he recommend Isiah to the Knicks (allegedly), unless it was a diabolical conspiracy to completely trash New York basketball? (If it was, at least that mission was accomplished.)

It's pretty fucking weak to smile in a guy's face and mutter curses at his back, but it seems like that's the approach Magic has taken. Although, maybe it should be a bit more understandable. After all, Magic being angry at anyone kind of goes against the happy-go-lucky, never-met-a-stranger persona that The Smile has cultivated for him all these years. We as humans find it quite easy to smile in the face of unpleasant people when our money might be at stake. Just go to work tomorrow and look at your boss. Point proven.

People that tell others where they can get off usually don't get endorsement deals. Unless you're Chuck Barkley. This is why you can never get Michael "Republicans Wear Nikes, Too" Jordan to admit that he has any personal beliefs aside from "Being a shoe-and-underwear-shilling robot is a pretty sweet gig." So, obviously, while he was trying to get his various businesses off the ground, Magic wasn't about to commit such an egregious breach of decorum as slamming Zeke for telling everyone he caught the most fatal disease of the 1980's by playing the wrong skin flute.

Now, here we are, almost two decades later. Magic's a full-fledged entrepreneur, feel-good survival story, and the all-around embodiment of the American dream. Isiah's run two teams and AN ENTIRE LEAGUE into the ground, been sued for sexual harassment, been placed on suicide watch, and now starts over with his basketball legacy, becoming head coach of a fourth-rate basketball program at a university whose provost didn't even know his name.

Seems like a good time to smack Isiah with one more piece of character Kryptonite, doesn't it? Forget kicking a guy when he's down, this is kicking a guy after he's been shot with a cannon, run over by a train, had his entrails pulled out his nose and fed to a pack of coyotes, set on fire, and watched a four-year-old kid come over and piss on what's left.

And what about that reboot, Isiah 2.0, if you will? How does a story like this play in high school basketball stars' living rooms? Would you like your son to play ball for a guy who allegedly spent the 1990's endeavoring to dig up dirt on his best friend's sex life, especially when said guy has failed out of the NBA in spectacular fashion?

Forget HIV, Magic may have just given Isiah a real disease to worry about. It's hard as hell to make Isiah Thomas into a sympathetic figure, but honestly, I kinda do feel for Zeke right now. Even with that said, I'll be surprised if, Thomas isn't the biggest leper in college basketball come recruiting season.

And now, back to Mr. Agassi.

The fact that Agassi used any kind of substance is not, in and of itself, surprising. After all, this is a guy who once thought that wearing a muskrat pelt on one's head (see left) was a good look. (Appears he's also got some kind of furry animal poking out of his shirt collar, but that's beside the point.)

Seriously, no sober person I know would wear something like that.

What is most surprising to me is the kind of message that Andre's sending when he describes the results of the "spiked soda" that he used as a scapegoat when he failed a drug test shortly thereafter:

"There is a moment of regret, followed by vast sadness. Then comes a tidal wave of euphoria that sweeps away every negative thought in my head. I've never felt so alive, so hopeful - and I've never felt such energy. I'm seized by a desperate desire to clean. I go tearing around my house, cleaning it from top to bottom. I dust the furniture. I scour the tub. I make the beds."
Dude, seriously, knock that shit off. You've probably just done every bonehead mixing toxic and explosive chemicals in the back of his garage an enormous favor. If this was a symptom for everyone who used meth, my wife (and probably millions of others like her) would be bringing me crystal by the truckload and shoveling it into my cereal.

I know people who've done crystal. Oddly, none of them were great housekeepers.


As a bonus service provided only here at Starr*Rated, a few pitches for potential sports best-sellers of the future:

The Athlete's Guide to Parenting by Shawn Kemp and Travis Henry
--Who better to give advice on raising children than two guys who have 18* children between them? (*-number is conservative estimate, as we all seem to have lost count) Henry's half of the profits will go directly to the Travis Henry Legal Defense Fund...since it likely wouldn't be enough to cover Christmas gifts for all the kids. Kemp's half, judging by the 300-plus pounds he was lugging in Orlando, will likely go to his local Golden Corral.

Left Behind by Dale Earnhardt Jr.
--A novel. Doug Earhart II loses his father in an auto accident, and descends down a slippery psychological slope resulting in a deathly fear of right turns. The most harrowing passage is a minute-by-minute account of a downtown excursion that covers three five hours.

Nice, Huh? by Derek Jeter
--The Captain presents a coffee-table book of all the fine tail he's partaken of during his career (allegedly). The Internet masturbation crowd will, sadly, pan the book, saying "I can seez pix of half these bicthes NAEKD!!~!~!!!!`111111~1~1!1!!"

On the Line by Serena Williams
--What? This one's already been written? Well, bummer. All I can say is that I'd only be buying this version.

Next week, I fully anticipate being able to chuckle over another Vikings game featuring 50+ passes and the complete ostracizing of Adrian Peterson.

Until then, peace and be wild.

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