In the time it's been around, Deadspin has become a wildly popular sports blog. Its editor, Will Leitch, is not only a Friend of Outsports, he's an unabashed St. Louis Cardinals fan. Furthermore, he really really really likes Rick Ankiel, in a guy-crush heterosexual way that sports fans have.
After I read the Ankiel HGH story below, I went to Deadspin to see if Will had offed himself. Close: this post might be the closest thing to crying you'll ever read on a sports blog. It got me thinking about the relation of fans to athletes. I grew up in the 1960's absolutely devouring books about baseball players. Those books are interesting cultural artifacts, because they were total whitewash jobs; the idea that Mickey Mantle fucked and drank his way through his Yankees career was never even hinted at. The athletes were pure examples of American manhood, their accomplishments Olympian and that's the way it was.
In the early 1970's, I read the great Ball Four by Jim Bouton. Unlike the manufactured scandals of today driven by a rapacious 24-hour media cycle, that book really *did* cause a scandal, with its tales of players drilling holes in dugouts so they could look up women's dresses, pill popping and even two players kissing, which I loved, of course. Reading that book removed the scales from my eyes, made all those hagiographies that I'd read five years before seem like a pack of lies.
Still, when it came to rock music, music being my true passion, I was still naive, thinking, for example, that The Clash were going to change the world with their anger and their songs, fighting The Man. When they started playing baseball stadiums, opening up for The Who, a band they'd ripped in the press years before for being junkie dinosaurs, I finally had my moment of "Ahhh, don't look up to people, you'll only end up disappointed, they can never live up to your expectations".
Nowadays, finding out the most salacious details of athletes lives is fairly easy thanks to the Internet, but I'm increasingly getting turned off by that knowledge. In general, I find athletes to be pretty dull people, actually. So many of them have had to live constricted, narrowly-focused lives to succeed that they don't really seem all that interesting apart from whether they can hit a curveball 400 feet. The absurd amounts of money they make, the uncritical adulation they receive, the attention all out of proportion to what they do has made me feel like I barely want to know more about them. Lusting after them is another matter, of course! :grin: