Trick or treat, Meat.
Yeah, we're a day early, but it's never too soon to get into the Halloween spirit. It's that time of year, after all: candy corn and caramel apples, Jujubees and jack-o-lanterns—all the priceless bric-a-brac that makes America's ode to dead folk and diabetics so delightfully irresistible. And that's to say nothing of the costumes, which are far and away the best thing about All Hallows' Eve. Dashing soldier, sexy pirate, naughty priest—it's now how you dress up that counts; it's simply that you dress up: that you take advantage of the once-a-calendar opportunity presented to you at the end of October, because let's be serious here Meat:
What man wouldn't jump at the chance to be something other than what he actually is?
Poptastic Gavin Degraw ballads aside, that's the dirty secret of our universally human psychology: We all want a change of pace every now and again, a quick break from all the stilted us-ness we're more or less stuck with every other day of the year. A mask can be a wonderful thing to wear, is the point...and so far be it from the crew at the Spot to cast judgment upon the five frauds who made the cut this week, a quintet of sports impostors who got so good at being their other selves that we the fans were just about sold on the illusion. Which, again, isn't meant to a be a statement of condemnation so much as as an acknowledgement of metaphysical fact, because like they say Meat: All the world is but a stage.
And let's not any of us pretend we're playing anything other than a giant game of make-believe here. Hell, that's why God invented the Internet, isn't it?...
Number Five: Sammy Sosa as a Blue-Collar Hero
Oh, the lost innocence. Remember the good old days, Meat? Remember the Summer of '98, back when the home runs came easy and Victor Conte was just that dude who played bass on Tower of Power's seminal 1978 album We Came to Play? The world was a different place then, if you take Mike Lupica's word for it—and nowhere was that difference more evident than in the Cubs right fielder, whose late-millennium persona was all smiles and biceps and fan-friendly romps around the Wrigley Field warning track. And then, of course, there was BALCO, and the unpleasantness with the U.S. House of Representatives, and suddenly Sambo morphed from a larger-than-life superstar to a skinny, sniveling malcontent on the end of the Orioles bench. Oh well. At least he never got caught, like, corking his bat. Whoops.
Number Four: Bill Belichick as a No-Nonsense Workaholic
Who would've thunk, right? Between the ho-hum press conferences and the hobo hoodies, Belichick seemed like a paragon of moral virtue—a worthy spiritual successor, if nothing else, to the Puritans who once called Foxboro home. That, of course, was before the Patriots coach was named as the "other man" in a New Jersey divorce case, proving once and for all that beneath those ratty sweatshirts beats the flaming heart of a bona fide Don Juan. In hindsight, of course, it all adds up. After all, you don't think Tom Brady learned how to be a swinging bachelor entirely on his own, do you?
Number Three: Mark Chmura as a Champion of Christian Values
What was the Jesus said about the Pharisees—something along the lines of woe to you who are like whitewashed tombs, which indeed appear outwardly beautiful but inside are full of dead's man bones and all uncleanness? Without getting too bogged down in scriptural interpretation, that about sums up Chmura's story: shiny-bright piety belying a seething inner wretchedness. A prominent Christian activist who famously refused to meet with President Bill Clinton in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the former Packers tight end found himself on the wrong end of the bully pulpit after a girl who'd babysat his children accused him of raping her at a high school prom party in the spring of 2000. Although he was ultimately acquitted of the charges, Chuey never could quite explain what he was doing at the party in the first place. We're guessing that it probably had something to do with spreading the Good Word. Youth outreach, you know: It's a glorious thing...
Number Two: Michael Jordan as a Real Human Being
He sure looked real enough, didn't he? He even made a point of acting the part—with the madman baseball romp and the emotional comeback and even that ill-fated bit of hubris in D.C., all of which seemed to just scream human foible. Little did we know, of course, that MJ was playing us the whole time; little did we know that the dude was never anything but a brand, a commercially-perfect brainchild of Phil Knight and Adam Smith, an avatar of capitalist virtue who breathes dollars and bleed cents, no matter what they tell you on SportsCenter. How else to explain the fact that Jordan—arguably the most recognized individual in the history of the species—has been so utterly inactive since his retirement? How else to explain the fact that his Airness—with all that prestige, and all that power—has opted to ride out his days hawking shoes and making celebrity summer camp appearances, instead of putting his influence to good use—to any kind of use? We'd call the thing a shame, but that'd be making the mistake of believing it could be otherwise...which it can't, of course, because obviously Mike ain't a real person. As for where exactly that leaves Ahmad Rashad—well, we'll let you figure that out for yourself.
Number One: Mike Tyson as a Marauding, Lunatic Psychopath
We tried to approach this one about eight different ways, but we finally decided to let it speak for itself. You know the story; you remember Spinks, and Douglas, and Givens and Washington and Holyfield and any number of other oh-my-Gawd-honey-look-at-what-he-did-now moments, all of them amounting to a career that came off as part ten-cent freak show and part textbook Greek tragedy. The one constant, of course, has been the cat himself: Iron Mike, Kid Dynamite, the hard-luck ghetto hood whose twenty-year descent into self-destructive madness in the stuff of Pay-Per-View legend. You've seen it all, Meat—watched it right there on your television screen—and so you know how easy it's been to write Tyson off as a proof-positive whack job: less citizen than savage, less lost soul than prohibitively primitive beast. You've been there, and you've seen it, and so if you need us to tell you how it feels, now, to watch the champ hump it around the country fighting tomato cans for lawyers' fees and bankruptcy payments, how it feels to see a man'a real actual no-fooling man—reduced to nothing but his sad and lonesome self—
Well, we know it's Halloween and all, but that's a bit too scary for our taste. If you need us to tell you all that, Meat, you're definitely on your own...