2011

The King’s Speech

Not breaking any ground here, but if you wanna see the movie of the year, this is it. Terrific acting, phenomenal story, respect for history. Just brilliant.

Not all that long ago Colin Firth had a major role as Amanda Bynes’ dad in What a Girl Wants, perhaps the worst movie of the 2000s. What he was doing there, slopping along with Grade-C thespians like A.B. and John Travolta’s wife, well, I’m not sure. But in 2011, when we’re talking best actors out there, he must—must—be on the list. He was terrific in A Single Man and oddly excellent in Love Actually. The guy has some serious chops.

OK, off to bed.

Book highs. Book lows.

When you spend two years working on a book, there are many highs and many lows. Great interviews. Being blown off. Tracking down a key document. Losing a file. Meeting a deadline. Forgetting about a deadline.

The first draft of the book I’ve been working on, Nuu: The Nuu Faaola Story, is due in two days, and I’ve been really manic. High, low, up, down, sleep, no sleep, hyped on coffee, low on water. I’ve never interviewed this many people (nearly 700), never read this many research materials (can’t even count). I’m overwhelmed, beaten down, empty.

Two days ago, my key editor sent me this text:

Just finished the book. aMAZING. Loved it. It will be a best seller. You did a great job!

I don’t know if it’ll actually be a best seller, but the message blew me away. My key editor is very smart, very dedicated, very particular, very keen, very, very, very wise.

I’m glad I married her.

Bagwell: V

I’m done blogging about Bagwell—and not merely because of the 8,000 of you who overloaded this blog with you-suck-the-anal-hair-of-an-emu messages. I’m done because I’m done. Time to move on to more important things, like boogers and Dick Clark.

But, as a final word, I invited J.J. Stankevitz, a University of Missouri journalism student who disagrees with me, to have his say. J.J. and I met up on Twitter, and he seems like a good guy. I know many people here don’t agree with me on this one, but—nonetheless—I love the debate. For the most part it’s healthy and entertaining and educational. So thanks.

And merry 2011 …

I’m not here to speak for backers of Jeff Bagwell across the baseball landscape. I’m here to respond to Jeff’s argument against Bagwell for the Hall of Fame.

Jeff graciously extended an offer to write a rebuttal after I made an off-the-cuff comment on Twitter panning his argument against Bagwell. I don’t think Jeff ever has done cocaine, for the record. But my point was this: I had no evidence, but I could still speculate. And that speculation isn’t fair.

Jeff did not directly accuse Jeff Bagwell of using PED. But, given the era and some observations on Bagwell’s body type, that’s enough to keep Bagwell out of the Hall of Fame.

I couldn’t disagree more.

When it comes to players from the steroid era, voters have three options in my mind:

1) Believe a player used steroids

2) Deny a player used steroids

3) Doubt a player used steroids

Denying isn’t an option, because full drug-testing records for the last 20 years don’t exist or aren’t available. Believing is only a rational option for guys who were caught or admitted something—Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens come to mind.

If you want to hold those guys out of the Hall of Fame for using PED, that’s fine. I’m not here to argue whether or not those players should or shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame.

But if you want to hold Bagwell out of the Hall of Fame because he looks like those guys and played in the same era, that’s not rational.

It’s only fair to Bagwell and all the other Hall of Fame-caliber players of his era to doubt they used PED. The burden of proof is on you, the voter, to come up with evidence that the player in question used PED. There’s no evidence Bagwell can produce to clear his name at this point. Unless you can come up with some evidence of Bagwell’s use of steroids, you can’t rationally hold him out of the Hall of Fame.

Calling into question his muscular body isn’t good enough. It’s not like baseball players haven’t been muscular in the past. And while the steroid era calls into question anyone with muscle mass, it doesn’t mean everybody ripped player did steroids.

And that Bagwell stood by and didn’t speak out against PED is hardly unique. Greg Maddux didn’t speak out against PED. Neither did Tony Gwynn. Or Ken Griffey Jr. Or Derek Jeter. The only Hall of Fame-caliber player I can think of who spoke out against steroids is Frank Thomas.

But what if Bagwell did speak out against steroids? What if he said he never took them? That still wouldn’t be enough for Bagwell detractors. Remember how things worked out when Rafael Palmeiro said he never took PED?

It’s deplorable that Hall of Fame voting for players of the steroid era has turned into a witch hunt where the burden of proof is on the players, not the accusers. Everyone’s scared to vote for a player who may one day admit to using PED, so everyone is guilty until proven innocent. (Aside: if that does happen, that PED-using player wouldn’t be the first “cheater” in the Hall of Fame)

That’s not fair. It’s not rational, either. If you’re a Hall of Fame voter who chooses to not vote for Bagwell based on performance, so be it. I’ll disagree with you like I disagree with Jon Heyman’s stance on Jack Morris and Bert Blyleven, but I won’t disagree based on an irrational premise.

In the case of Bagwell, not voting for him based on conjecture is irrational.

Dick Clark

So last night the wife and I spent New Years Eve with a bunch of friends. Great times, amazing food, tons of Coke Zero (hey, I’m soft). We paid no attention to the TV until 11:55, when everyone gathered around to catch the annual ball drop.

There was Dick Clark. Slurring. Again.

Some people started making fun. And giggling. Others just watched in stunned disbelief. One or two expressed a good-for-him outlook.

Me? I’m not so sure. Initially, I felt bad for the man. You’re Dick Clark. You’re 81. You’ve had an insanely succesful career; an iconic career. You’re one of the most famous people in the world, and you’ve got all the money you could possibly need. Why, oh, why, would you tarnish your legacy by, post-stroke, slurring and mumbling your way through a show that makes you look old, feeble and sad? (The awkward manhug with Ryan Seacrest was downright painful). I mean, what’s the point? Why not just kick back on your yacht and live large?

This morning, I woke up feeling differently.You’re Dick Clark. You’re 81. You’ve had an insanely succesful career; an iconic career. You’re one of the most famous people in the world, and you’ve got all the money you could possibly need. You know what—fuck the stroke. Fuck those who laugh and giggle. Just because a man is impaired doesn’t mean he should stop living; stop doing; stop being. I don’t know Clark’s motivation, but perhaps he continues to appear on New Years because, frankly, he wants to. Not to prove a point or stand up for stroke victims—but to live. To exist.

If so, I say bravo.

Bravo.