Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

This week’s debate: Vodka Drunkenski vs. the Industrial Revolution


I can list the handful of writers who have truly inspired me throughout my career in journalism. Steve Buckley. Rick Telander. Steve Rushin. Dick Schaap. Dave Anderson. Mike Freeman. A couple of others. None, however, have had the impact of Greg Orlando, my former co-worker at the University of Delaware student newspaper and one of the best scribes I’ve ever seen.

Greg has worked for a handful of publications, primarily dealing with video games. He conducted the funniest Jason Giambi interview of all time (Question (feeling Giambi’s uniform): Is this thing velvet?), and once wrote an essay, “The Answer Man,” that continues to blow me away. Most important, he’s a good friend, and he’s agreed to contribute to by taking one side in our weekly debate session. Today’s topic (selected by Greg): Vodka Drunkenski vs. the Industrial Revolution?

JEFF: As a boy growing up on the tough streets of Mahopac, N.Y., I had no life. The bullies picked on me. The teachers failed me. Rocks were thrown at my head with jarring regularity. In short, my life was equivalent to the hardened piece of snot permanently affixed to my nose.

Thank God for Vodka Drunkenski.

To simple, limited Gregory, Vodka was merely a video game character. But to me, he was everything. Vodka was the only person to come to my 13th birthday party. Vodka took me fishing. Vodka showed me how to woo a woman, and while his technique (Trip them, then offer a hand) was flawed, his intentions were all good. I still remember the time Vodka brought my 12 brothers and sisters to the movies. Yes, it was Teen Wolf Too. But he bought us popcorn. What a man.

The industrial revolution? Overrated.

Vodka? My friend and lover.

GREG: Toil and belching smoke and the soul-crushing oppression of the bourgeoisie: Truly this is the stuff of revolution.

We may laud Vodka Drunkenski. Certainly the man balanced the dual role of Russian boxing champion and alcoholic with great aplomb. Full well in time we may realize that his liver was actually built from living steel. As a man, unafraid, he was magnificent. As a statement for the promotion and advancement of the Soviet distillation industry, he was without peer.

Yet Drunkenski was no Industrial Revolution. He was Otto Von Bismarck’s blood and iron, but hardly a force to transform the world. Drunkenski could not, would never birth a hundred-thousand factories, or ten million oppressed waifs slaving away in dark, cramped, and unsafe conditions for 20-22 hours a day, six days a week and three-quarters of the day on Sunday.

The industrial revolution elevated squalor, disease, and despair to great heights. It was suffering for a new age of man, a scalding of the soul paving the way for our eventual overthrow and, God willing, enslavement by automatons, possibly with such cool-sounding names as the Crushmatic 8850 and the Stompinator 4425. And, when the time comes that we are all crushed beneath the gears of life’s cruel machinery, we may all stop for pause to thank the Industrial Revolution.

Should there be time, of course, of which there will be not.