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I'm Crying For Kirby

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10103720.jpgI wrote this a few years back. I used to have a kirby action figure that I kept in my trading jacket at work. They even managed to scar his legacy after this. I sent it to a guy at the LA Times - he told me that it was very long - so you are warned. I was watching SportsCenter’s coverage of Darryl Kyle’s death just now and they actually had clips of grown people crying. I’m not sure I thought that possible a couple of days ago. These people didn’t know Kyle personally. They were just Cardinal fans and they were crying. Grown people. It made me think long and hard about whether there was any sports figure alive in today’s jaded world, whose death would cause media savvy me to actually shed tears.I swear to you that I am a Romantic at heart, but I’ve seen a bunch of athletes die and I haven’t come close to crying once. Don’t get me wrong, but these are the days of the spoiled, selfish, boorish cheating athlete aren’t they? I would definitely cry at the death of a true hero in his prime, but do we as a people still think of today’s athletes as heroes in the same sense that they did 70 or so years ago, when millions of people were shedding tears over Lou Gehrig before he had even checked out. When Charles Barkley declared that athletes shouldn’t have to be role models, didn’t it once again deflate your ability to ever think of athletes as true heroes in our modern day cash society. Movies are a good gauge of this. I’ve never read anything substantial about Gehrig’s personal life other than that most people thought that he was a great guy, and yet Pride of the Yankees makes me cry every time I watch it. Were Gehrig and his wife the happiest most incredibly in love couple in the history of the world? Probably not, but who would say any different after seeing Gary Cooper and the irresistibly plucky Teresa Wright play the Gehrigs a couple of hundred times? Compare the two Babe Ruth movies and try to decide which one was more of a detriment to Ruth’s legend. In 1948’s The Babe Ruth Story, despite the fact that he is played by the overweight and non athletic looking William Bendix, the film does its best to convince you that the Babe was the greatest child loving hero of all time. In 1992’s The Babe, Ruth is this time portrayed by the incredibly overweight and incredibly non athletic looking John Goodman. In the modern version Babe is getting drunk, he’s sleeping with whores, he’s even slapping his wife around. In the same way, today’s modern media as led by Jim Bouton’s Ball Four have really somehow robbed us of our belief in the magic of the lives of our sporting favorites. It’s done the same thing for politicians too. When I was a kid, I could tell that my mother just worshipped Robert F Kennedy. Today, I can’t think of a single person that I associate with that felt or even could see themselves feeling that way about a current day Presidential candidate. When Lyman Bostock was accidentally shot in 1978, I was 13. I remember thinking to myself “Wow that’s so unfair!” because I had just read that in response to an early season slump he had actually given part of his salary back to the team because he didn’t feel that he was carrying his weight. Essentially, I was offended by the fact that life was unfair, but even at 13, I didn’t cry for him. I probably even laughed the first time someone jokingly implied that he had in fact been shot by the players union as punishment for the refund he gave to the Angels. Tragedy has a short life span these days.The closest I ever came to shedding a real tear was for Hank Gathers. That run and gun Loyola Marymount team with Gathers and Bo Kimble might not have been taken too seriously at the time, but it was by far the most entertaining team I’ve ever seen play basketball. There was debate about whether Gathers would be a successful professional, but everyone seemed to like him and he would have at least made some decent money for his family in the NBA. Gathers even died in the most horrible fashion imaginable. What could be sadder than an athlete in his seeming prime, instantaneously dropping dead while on the playing court? I remember feeling very positively about the UNLV players wearing Gathers’ number on their shoes and like most of the nation was inspired by Bo Kimble’s left handed free throw salute to his ex teammate, but even back then I eventually started to hear chiding talk in the media about whether Gather and Kimble were ever really best friends. Sometimes it almost seems like nothing is sacred anymore.Reggie Lewis seemed like a decent enough guy, but then suddenly there is a huge dispute whether he was a cocaine user or not. I’m not saying that anyone should have covered up evidence about Lewis’ use of cocaine, but I bet you that they would have left it out of Lou Gehrig’s autopsy. So I sat down and tried to think whether I could see myself crying over any of today’s sport’s superstars like I had once cried for Gary Cooper. The first name that popped into my head was Muhammad Ali. Hey, I almost think Muhammad Ali is as great a guy as he has always said he was, and that is really saying something. The guy was fun, he was a political hero, and seemingly just a fabulously nice person to almost everyone he ever met. I probably would have cried for Ali twenty years ago, but to be completely honest his advanced Parkinson’s Syndrome has made him seem nearly dead to me for over half of my life. There may be debate over whether Ali’s mind is at all sharp inside all of those unwanted tremors, but you can’t deny that we’ve been desperately missing the true Ali for quite a long time now. Michael Jordan has meant a lot to me. Jordan is the one athlete that I feel privileged to have seen play. Older folk will do their best to make you think that Jim Brown was the greatest running back of all time, or that Sandy Koufax was the best that they had ever seen. When I get old, I’ll be harping about Michael Jordan. I probably would have cried had Jordan died in between championships five and six, but the media and the press have even manage to corrode Jordan’s legacy of late. When he retired for the first time, after his father’s unfortunate murder, I can’t remember a single person alive that would stand up and say a bad word about the guy, but since then we’ve had the almost divorce, the gambling rumors, the so far disappointing second comeback, and years and years of Michael haters who screamed over and over that the referees took care of him and that he pushed off Bryan Russell to make his game winning shot at the end of Game 6 in Utah.When Bernie Kosar was cut from the Browns, I stopped being a Brown’s fan. How could they treat a guy who had gone to so much trouble to play for the home team, when he could have played somewhere else for more money like that? Still I don’t think his passing would have made me lose my composure. Here is the dilemma in a nutshell. I find myself paying less attention to baseball every year. The only player I follow religiously and want to see do well is Barry Bonds. Do I think Barry Bonds is a great guy? No, from everything I’ve ever heard or read, the guy is probably one of the bigger jerks ever to play the game. I’m not even sure why I root for Barry Bonds. It’s just one of those things where you decide you like a player early in their career and continue to root for them despite what anyone says or writes about him. If Barry Bonds had died in 1937, I bet there would have been a ton of crying, but it’s just not the same these days.Finally, I selected two athletes and made myself promise to become emotional if they ever passed away. The first is Kirby Puckett. That guy just always seemed like there wasn’t anybody in the history of the game who enjoyed and appreciated being able to play baseball like he did. Hell, I may have even cried a little when I heard Glaucoma in his eye was forcing him to retire while he still had a few good years left in him. The other athlete is harder to explain. It’s Mr. “I’m not a role model” himself,. Charles Barkley. The guy is definitely no saint, but he sure is fun. Remember when his coaches had to talk him out of trying to do a dunk off of one of those mascot trampolines? Remember how he got kicked off the 1984 Olympic team for making fun of Bobby Knight’s yellow shoes? Remember how he was the only 1992 Dream Team member to leave his hotel room and party with the rest of the athletes? Remember how fun it was hearing Jim Rome describing him throwing midgets through bar windows? Remember how fun it was seeing Jordan kick Barkley out of his house upon realizing that he’d never be able to get into good enough shape to help his comeback? It’s very different than they way things were 70 years ago, but hell yes, I will shed a bucket of tears when we lose the Round Mound of Rebound.
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well yeah that's true - i'm just saying if i have to cry for one really rich guy it would be him - and that was before i found out he liked to randomly urinate in public places

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