Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mark McGwire isn't so bad. He's only rock & roll.

I looked carefully while I toured the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, but I saw no asterisks. I assumed that there would be little asterisks beside the names of the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain and The Doors and the Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company and Bob Dylan and Crosby Stills and Nash and the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith and Guns N Roses and the Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd and the Velvet Underground and Blue Cheer and Gram Parsons and the Byrds and the 13th Floor Elevators and Shadows of Knight and Johnny Cash and the Faces and the Small Faces and the Yardbirds and Eric Clapton and Cream and Traffic and Deep Purple and Iron Butterfly and Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne. And others.

After all, weren't those artists aided by performance-enhancing drugs? Didn't they take LSD and heroin and quaint '60s drugs like qualudes, whatever those were? It should at least be acknowledged that their musical superiority was not a result of their hard work and natural talent, but rather a chemically-induced excellence that was more smoke and mirrors than it was blood sweat and tears? Pardon the awful pun...

It occured to me, however, that we have a pretty big double standard when it comes to drugs and celebrities. We mock Lindsay Lohan because she's 25 and looks like Keith Richards, but we do so only because she has never released an album like American Beauty. When Sylvester Stallone gets busted with steroids, who cares? If Hugh Jackman took steroids to look ridiculously huge for Wolverine, who would care? It can't be any less healthy than Christian Bale losing 210 pounds for The Machinist or Robert DeNiro putting on 210 pounds for Raging Bull. All of this is just performance enhancement. But if you take steroids and then hit 50 home runs, we care. We care deeply. And we wring our hands and tear our hair out because the integrity of the game is at stake!

This supposes, of course, one of two things. Either music and movies and Hollywood in general don't have anywhere near the integrity of Major League Baseball, and we hold them to a lower standard. But I don't think that's likely. After all, Lawrence Taylor is still one of the most revered figures in sports. Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry are still remembered with fondness. Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter on acid! And losers like me remember the feat fondly in blog posts. But if we ever met Manny Ramirez, we would kick him square in the balls for sullying the image of the game we love so much. What's the difference here? Steroids make people bigger. Heroin doesn't. That hot chick at the bar would probably pick me over a guy on heroin. But she would probably pick the guy on steroids over me. And I'm jealous. I could take up heroin, but I would look less and less attractive, and I would never release Nevermind. Or, I could take steroids and look more attractive. I would never hit 30 homers, but I might go home with that redhead.

Now Mark McGwire is the St. Louis Cardinals' new hitting coach. And from what I am hearing, this means the end of Sports Integrity and possibly the end of American Civilization. This is true. The four horsemen are, indeed, nigh. Jimi Hendrix is now teaching guitar to your kids. And he's wearing that acid-dispensing headband. And isn't it time we took that Oscar away from DeNiro?

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