Sure, athletes are role models for impressionable young kids. And yes, in a more perfect world the sports section would read a whole lot less like the tabloid page. But that doesn't make it easy, you know what we're saying?—doesn't make the siren song of life on the edge any less tempting for all those jocks with the will and the means to play as hard as they work. Fast times, fast cars, fast women—it's a lot to turn down, especially when you're young and rich and running on a permanent testosterone high. It might be reckless, and it might be irresponsible, but come on Meat: what else could you possibly expect?
Not that we're trying to grant blanket amnesty to playboy athletes here. If you're going to hang with the in-crowd, you've got to know how to handle yourself—and if you can't break the rules with at least a touch of ribald grace, you don't deserve to break them at all. That's the thing about flaunting social convention: it only flies to the extent that you can pull it off. Living big comes down to attitude, in the end, and it ain't the kind of attitude you can learn; you've either got it or you don't, and all the faking in the world won't make you anything other than a lecherous, leering poser—
But enough about Matt Leinart. The cats who made the cut this week, naturally, are the best of the best, the most accomplished carousers in the history of American sports. They could hold it down, and they could light it up, and if we at the Spot had our way, we'd get them all together for one epic mother of a night on the town. It'd be a struggle to keep pace, of course, but that wouldn't stop us from trying, and you can bet your last cocktail that we'd go down swinging—so long as no one was expecting us to be in the lineup the next morning...
Number Five: Charles Barkley
You never know what you're going to get during a night out with Sir Charles. Maybe he'll show off his unique brand of edgy and erudite social commentary. Maybe he'll dig into his star-studded rolodex and turn the evening into a seriously A-list affair. Or, if you're really lucky, maybe he'll throw a rowdy bar patron through a plate-glass window, as he did at an Orlando nightclub in 1997. (And here's attitude for you: when asked whether he had any regrets about the forcible defenestration, Barkley said, simply, "I regret we weren't on a higher floor.") The real reason he cracks our top five, though? It's near closing time, and we're swimming with the Round Mound through a fog of Bacardi and fatigue. Subtly, stealthily, we lean towards him in the booth—and poke him square in the belly, Pillsbury Doughboy-style. Does he giggle, Meat? Come on come on: does he giggle? There's only one way to find out...
Number Four: Dock Ellis
Let us ask it for you: who the hell is Dock Ellis? There are, of course, any number of possible answers here. We could tell you that he was one of the most visible characters on the colorful Pittsburgh Pirates squads of the 1970s, and that he helped lead the team to a world title in 1971 with 19 wins and 3.06 ERA. We could tell you that he was an outspoken advocate of black rights, and that his charitable work in the African-American community has been compared to that of Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali. We could also tell you that he threw a no-hitter against the Padres in 1970—on LSD. The story goes that Ellis, thinking the Pirates had the day off, had gotten high with a girlfriend in LA, only to learn six hours before the first pitch that he was slated to start the first game of a doubleheader in San Diego. After a harried plane flight and a frantic effort to find his locker in the visitors' clubhouse, Dock staggered to the mound and pulled off one of the more improbable feats in sports history—and assured himself of a far-out place on this week's list. From a historical standpoint, the acid trip helps explain why Ellis walked eight batters and hit another en route to his no-no, and why the pitcher was seen licking Willie Stargell's face between the fifth and sixth innings.
Number Three: John Daly
Just imagine the itinerary, Meat. The night starts out at Sizzler—John's treat, of course—with a double order of the classic Surf & Turf combo and a smuggled flask of Heaven Hill. From there it's off to the local Indian casino, where you blow a quick hundred grand at the blackjack table and still have time to catch the tail end of Darius Rucker's twice-weekly set. Things get hazy after that, but you still manage to count two weddings, three divorces, and more ounces of Early Times than any right-thinking man would ever expose himself to. Your last memory is of a late-night Sizzler redux featuring a two-pound porterhouse and a guy who keeps claiming to be one of the Blowfish—and then everything fades to black, like every good movie should. The best part: waking up at three in the afternoon surrounded by a sea of Dairy Queen wrappers and Wild Turkey bottles. Now that's the high life.
Number Two: Mickey Mantle
He had it all: Herculean talent, movie-star looks, a crippling alcohol addiction that ultimately killed him at the age of 63. Long before his stint in the Betty Ford Center, though, Mantle was the prince of Manhattan, a transplanted Oklahoman who split his time between Yankee Stadium and the Copacabana and never met a floozie he couldn't coax into bed. Remarkably, the Mick managed to hit 536 home runs in a career that seems by most accounts to have been played under the cloud of a chronic hangover, which makes the crew at the Spot feel a little better about the fact that we're trying to beat our deadline on this column with bloodshot eyes and a nasty case of bourbonized cottonmouth. We might never swing a bat like Number Seven, but that doesn't mean we can't howl at the moon as loud as he did. Now if we can only figure out how to leapfrog to the front of the liver-transplant line...
Number One: Babe Ruth
Whores, booze, and hot dogs—if you need more than that, Meat, you're not ever going to be happy. The Bambino was a natural born party animal, a rock star before Elvis Presley was a gleam in his pappy's eye, a loud and vulgar and way-larger-than-life icon who did what he wanted when he wanted—and got away with it because he could. He was Babe Ruth, after all, the Sultan of Swat, the Colossus of Clout, a champion both of children in hospitals and women in heat. People loved him, is the point, and his crass exploitation of that love as license for a dangerous and degenerate lifestyle would ultimately inspire generation upon generation of future American megastars. To run with Ruth was to run with the best, and if we at the Spot only had the chance—
We'd get the Babe so schnockered that he couldn't help but spill the beans on the rumor that he injected himself with sheep testicle extract during the 1927 season. Forget Game of Shadows: we've got Game of Scrotums, and we're riding that baby all the way to the bank. Tell our editor he can find some other bunch of derelicts to do his dirty work...