Like all of you, I love all the decent, down home, red-blooded, God-fearin’ things that make America great. I love little baby ducks and old pickup trucks. Fireworks, eagles, guns, churches, amber waves of grain, Regis Philbin. And of course, I love sports, or else I wouldn’t be here.
But to be perfectly honest -- and this is something that wouldn't make my dear, departed, sainted mom proud or my bosses at WEEI.com forward this column to the Pulitzer committee for consideration -- I have to admit that I also love celebrity scandal. Cheap, tasteless, tawdry entertainment that appeals to the lowest common denominator. It’s my avocation.
For the last several years, I’ve been writing for Barstool Sports, an R-rated website that opened for business right on the intersection of Sports Avenue, Celebrity Way and Sleazy Boulevard. And I realized right away it was the perfect place for me.
And if you spend enough time hanging out on the corner of that intersection, sooner or later you’re going to see a fender bender. Like, for instance that good practicing Buddhist Tiger Woods stepping off the cartpath to Enlightenment. With 19 or so (confirmed) women. Or guys like Greg Oden and Santonio Holmes performing advanced studies in the field of Nude Cellphone Pictures in the Full Length Mirror research. And this week, we had Patriots rookie Brandon Spikes all over the Internet demonstrating, how do I put this? The ability to penetrate. Next to raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, professional athletes, sex stories and terrible lapses in judgment are my favorite things.
I mean it. And don’t give me that look. Deep down in places you don’t like to talk about at cocktail parties, you know you feel the same way. Look, every Patriots fan I know is excited about Brandon Spikes. He seems like a good, solid, hard-working player. A natural leader who has a chance to be the tough, run-stuffing inside presence the Pats have been lacking since the primes of Ted & Tedy. And he didn’t break a law, hurt anyone or do anything he doesn’t have the right to do.
Still, you probably wish he and his beloved had maybe kept their mommy/daddy time private. And you hope this doesn’t become a distraction. But don’t act like you’ve ignored the story either. There are three reasons National Enquirer outsells Smithsonian magazine: You, me and everybody else.
So, I’m not taking pleasure in Spikes’ embarrassment, if there is any. I’m just seeing the endless entertainment potential in the situation. Just try to imagine the elephant in the room at Bill Belichick’s first , um … post-coital press conference. The Foxboro press corps is intimated enough over a simple matter like asking him about some rookie dime back’s injury status. Just wait until one of the beat writers can’t ignore the elephant in the room any longer and decides he/she simply has to ask about the Spikes’ situation. If you’re a fan of socially awkward moments like I am, it will be one of those excruciating clips you watch 150 times on YouTube, like Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky deposition or the time Stuttering John asked Sharon Stone if she plans on showing her vagina in a movie again soon.
I mean, until this story blows over, it will be a great time for shameless, bottom-feeding sports/gossip writers everywhere. Because as much as I love that the Pats were able to draft this kid, I also love cheap humor. And one can only imagine that he’s hearing it from his teammates. Spikes can really hit the hole. Nice 3-point stance. I noticed he doesn’t have the green dot on his helmet. Could you call the Tuck Rule on this one? His 40 time was slow but he showed good moves in the two-cone drill. Hack comedy hasn’t come this easy since the heyday of Neverland Ranch. I like to think Brandon Spikes is getting his ration of it in the locker room then moving on to the business of preparing to perform a footballectomy on Carson Palmer 10 days from now.
But I can also see the storm that’s coming. The volumes of preachy, self-righteous sermons that are right now barreling towards us like Hurricane Holier-Than-Thou. The people who will paint Brandon Spikes as a monster. Who’ll say we’ve got to hide the women and children from him before he destroys the very fabric of our lives. And how the Patriots are hypocrites for claiming they try to build around “good character guys” but are only too happy to draft a depraved lunatic like Spikes. Self-appointed Morality Police Chief Tony Dungy stared speaking in tongues when Rex Ryan spoke with a potty mouth on HBO. I can only imagine he’s sewing a scarlet 'A' onto Spikes’ Patriots jersey as we speak.
Mostly though, I know that what’s coming is a series of sanctimonious, preachy tomes from the old media about how coaches today have to deal with athletes’ immoral behavior in these days of instant communication. (Place your bets: Who gets first crack at this question? Bob Ley on “Outside the Lines” or Sports Illustrated with a 10,000-word cover article?)
And I’ll admit it’s a semi-interesting topic. But let’s not kid ourselves. Brandon Spikes might be doing pioneering work in the field of Athlete’s Bedding Hot Women research, but he hardly invented it. It’s as old as mankind itself. I’m sure the first time a Cro-Magnon took out a mastodon with a perfect rock toss, he spent the night in his cave with the most fertile looking tribeswoman while the poor nerd who was inventing bronze tools slept alone.
But you don’t have to go back that far. Boston athlete sex scandals are hardly anything new. They just kind of take on different forms as technology evolves. What was the whole Wade Boggs/Margo Adams scandal but a late '80s version of what Spikes did? The only difference is that Boggs was married, and the Internet of the time was Penthouse magazine, in which Margo gave the world the only photo spread ever that was actually worse than Rev. Jimmy Swaggart’s $20 per night prostitute. And is there any doubt that if Boggs had a website like Chatroulette at his disposal what he would’ve done with it? In the wall-phones and snail-mail days he still managed to hit .400 with women in scoring position.
And remember the Delta Force, about which Margo spilled the beans? That was an elite commando unit of Sox players with the mission of infiltrating teammates’ hotel rooms and getting reconnaissance on them in the act with their Road Beef. A smut peddler can only imagine the cell phone video the players would have gotten had the technology been available.
Take the Internet goodness out of it, and the whole history of Boston sports is filled with episodes far worse than Brandon Spikes’. It’s just that the only information we had was filtered by the members of the press, who kept it to themselves out of a sense of decency, a gentleman’s agreement or complete cowardice.
But we know now what our fathers and grandfathers didn’t. In Stephen Brunt’s “In Search of Bobby Orr,” we learn that the Bruins would go to local bars, blindfold Orr, spin him around and whatever girl he ended up pointing to would be the one he with which he would “shoot and score.” In Leigh Montville’s “Ted Williams,” he explains how Teddy Ballgame was a serial adulterer, wrecking more than opposing pitchers on all those road trips. Williams wasn’t much of a fielder, but he knew how to play the field.
And the Alexander Graham Bell of athlete sexcapades was Babe Ruth. One of my all time favorite Bambino stories was the time the rookie assigned to room with him walked in to find the Babe flat on his back with a beer in one hand, a hot dog in the other and a prostitute earning a living on top of him. And without stopping, Ruth turned to the startled newbie and said “Hi-ya, kid!!!” If Ruth could have filmed that without needing a giant 1920s reel-to-reel camera, a film crew and a director in a beret and riding clothes, is there anyone of us who thinks he would’ve said “I will not do this. It would be wrong”?
I confess I’m not proud that I have such a prurient interest in the life of an athlete or that I find this Spikes situation so hilarious. But I’m not ashamed of it, either. As Mozart said in "Amadeus," “I am a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.” And I guess my music is writing about the silly sexual hijinks of grown men. Talented athletes with all the advice and counsel money can buy but who don’t have the common sense to keep their private lives private and their penises somewhere that the whole population of the world … including their teammates, coaches, wives, sisters and mothers … can see them.
The Internet has made it a wonderful time to be young, rich and talented in America. But it’s also made it a great time to be in the sports gossip industry, too.