Yeah, I Got a Bad Attitude!
I guess you could say I've got a weird slant on life (stop the presses). I know I have sort of a downer slant on this wretched exercise in futility known as Human Life. My motto is: It's not whether the glass is half full or half empty. I HATE THE FUCKING GLASS!
And usually the glass is just full of shit anyway, so who CARES if it’s half full or not. Sheesh.
Anyways, yesterday was Super Sunday! Followed, inevitably by today, Mundane Monday. Everybody is making a big deal about how Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens played the game with a recently broken leg. And played "heroically" at that (caught 9 passes for 122 yards.) His doctor refused to clear him for the game. But Terrell maintained he had been "cleared by God." So that sort of trumps the team physician. And of course the sportswriters checked in with all their lame-ass cracks and quips concerning God's divine plan for gridiron action, and etc.
But the thing that stuck in my mind -- downer slant that I'm stuck with -- was an article that appeared on the sports page about a week before the Super Bowl. There was another retired NFL player who "heroically" had played in the Super Bowl about 10 or 15 years ago with a broken leg. And he was urging Terrell not to risk his health by playing. Turns out the former player paid a heavy price for his moment of so-called glory. After about 20 surgeries to repair his mangled bones there was no longer enough meat and muscle left to lash the thing together, so they had to amputate his leg below the knee. So the sportswriter asked him what he thought of his Super Bowl ring, and the guy sort of smirked and replied: "Its a nice bauble." And the inference was obvious; that it wasn't worth the price he paid.
The average pro football player has a career of about 3 years, and usually he ends up crippled for life for his effort. The average life expectancy of a former NFL player is about 55 years old, or something like that. One retired warrior put it this way: "An NFL player is like a can of soda: they pop open the can and drain you down to the last drop, and then they toss the crumpled can in the garbage and open up a fresh new can."
But don't cry any tears for those guys. They knew what the bargain was. They wanted the fame and the glory and the money and the ripe young cheerleaders.
But its weird how I think of THAT right when everyone else is congratulating the new champions, New England Patriots, for conquering the world.
I'm reminded of a Peanuts cartoon. Linus comes rushing over to Charlie Brown and excitedly exclaims:
"I was just watching this football game on TV and the other team scored on the very last play to win the game, this spectacular 50 yard pass, and everybody was jumping up and down and laughing and smiling and patting each other on the back. It was incredible!"
And Charlie Brown asked: "What did the other team think about it?"
And I can relate to the plight of the losers, of course. Much more easily than the winners. Who can't? That’s why Charlie Brown and Rodney Dangerfield are so popular. And I can relate to the retired NFL players wondering whether it was worth it all. For in my own way, I too chased after the Brass Ring. I spent (wasted?) my youth chasing after the dream of becoming The Great Artist. Going on endless flights of imagination, seeking visions, taking every possible risk, mangling my mind and my soul in the same way the football players mangle their bodies. Living in poverty, forsaking material comforts and normal preoccupations, living like a goddam junkie for my art, okay? The old corn-pone Starving Artist routine.
Now, at age 48, I'm pretty much well spent. I'm out of gas, my soda can on empty, and it’s too late to be re-trained for a promising career as a Computer Programmer. You dig? In other words: I'm facing the dreaded Other Side of the Bargain. And tough shit, right?
Well, I can't think of a cool ending to this column. But I'm burned out, remember? So it all fits together. It’s, like, a concept. I'm making a Statement here. Yeah, sure. The end.###
(February 7, 2005)