Monday, April 20, 2009

Top 5: Splendid spliffers...

It is 4/20, so apropos of that, there should be a Top 5 of sports' greatest stoners.

Few are taken aback by pot-smoking anymore, and paraphrasing North Dallas Forty, which came out in 1979, players take much stronger stuff just to get out of the locker room. Even conservative judges think it's totally bogus the U.S. government won't allow for medicinal purposes, which raises the question why the hell it was front-page news when a picture surfaced of the Olympic swimmer of Michael Phelps sucking on a bong. Talk about cognitive dissonance.

Any athlete who breaks this fourth wall always ends up taking heat from his bosses and having to put up with ridicule from dealers in the small joke trade.

The point is, there have been a more than a few athletes who were partial to the wacky tabaccy. Maybe a few kids read this and realize, hey, pro athletes are human, they have vices too. We're all a little screwed-up. Robert Parish, the erstwhile Chief of Boston Celtics fame, was left off this list, but there's plenty of others.

MARK STEPNOSKI, NFL offensive lineman

The five-time Pro Bowl centre enjoyed a long and productive NFL career with the Houston Oilers and Dallas Cowboys, and upon his retirement in 2001, became head of the Texas chapter of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He said he'd started smoking in high school, often to help him relax after games. Stepnoski's explanation was as straightforward as the Cowboys' famed lead draw play to Emmitt Smith: "I'd rather smoke than take painkillers."

FERRIS FAIN, baseball player

An oldie but a goodie. Fain was a two-time American League batting champion, winning in 1951 and '52 with the old Philadelphia Athletics. He didn't hit very many home runs, but his numbers suggest he had plate discipline out the yin-yang, since his career on-base percentage was .424 (he even led the league in OBP one season, when Ted Williams was off flying planes in the Korean War).

Thirty years after leaving baseball, though, Fain, was twice arrested for growing marijuana and eventually did 18 months in a California state prison. He played the moral-relativism card, though, telling reporters in 1994:
"I never abused or shot anyone. I was just trying to make a buck. What I did was far less harmful than a bartender getting you boozed up and then letting you out on a highway where you might kill someone. I know how bad that stuff can be."

Granted, some would say, "The Entire NBA" should get a spot on its list. That's more of a commentary on how we tend to believe the worst about public figures. They show less and less of their true personalities and have a legion of professionals paid to highlight their good qualifies, so it's only human nature.

Howard broke a fourth wall a while ago when he straight-up told Michael Irvin, then of ESPN, that he smoked marijuana. He didn't even act like it was a big deal: "I just let him know that most of the players in the league use marijuana and I have and do partake in smoking weed in the off-season." In other words, Josh Howard should be rewarded for his honesty. It's like something Bryant Gumbel once said, We complain about guys giving cookie cutter answers to questions, and then there is outrage when someone speaks his mind

Estimates of how many players smoke range from 30 per cent (2005 Rocky Mountain News survey) to 60 per cent (2001, then-Raptor Charles Oakley).

RICKY WILLIAMS, NFL running back

Many fans have felt a kinship to Williams, the walking contradiction who projects a blissed-out hippie mien even though he's one of the top power runners in NFL history. It's a good reminder that people can't be put into small boxes, although any time before about 2005 or '06, you would have got your ass kicked for suggesting it.

Williams was said to have tested positive for marijuana four times, which ultimately led to him being suspended by the NFL and having to come up to Canada for a one-season sojourn with the Toronto Argonauts. The fact the NFL considers weed a banned substance is kind of strange. No This is the league where fans and media react to a player getting a four-game ban for steroid use pretty much the same way they do when someone's out a month with an injury.

RANDY MOSS, NFL wide receiver

Being a New England Patriot and catching touchdown passes from Tom Brady has helped erase the rough edges around the most prominent graduate of Rand University. At the end of the day, if you win, people look at you differently. That's what is.

Moss, who's been this ass-talker's favourite football player since 1996, his freshman year at Marshall, had the exact opposite of the Midas touch during his years as a Minnesota Viking. There was the squirting of an official with a water bottle, bumping a meter maid with his car, the mock mooning, the "I play when I want to play" and last but not least, being honest with Gumbel during a 2005 interview.
"I have used, you know, marijuana ... since I've been in the league….But as far as abusing it and, you know, letting it take control over me, I don't do that, no ... hopefully ... I won't get into any trouble by the NFL by saying that, you know. I have had fun throughout my years and, you know, predominantly in the offseason."
That's pretty much forgotten now, as Moss has image-rehabbed his way to a bust at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Point being, he smoked weed and he's still considered a consummate professional, one of the best to ever play the game.

So, to all you kids out there, now that you know you can do it and still take care of business, please, don't do it.


Dennis Prouse said...

I think the number of elite athletes you will have using marijuana will always be pretty low - these guys are pretty obsessive about their training, and marijuana simply doesn't fit into that. This is one of the reasons why I support de-criminalization (as opposed to legalization), and don't think that sports should be testing for it.

Having said all that, "medical marijuana" is a complete pile of hooey. If you like getting high, then be honest about it -- don't try to hide behind the fig leaf of it being some kind of medical treatment, because the research flatly does not support that conclusion. You will find very few doctors willing to go on the record in support of medical marijuana, and a massive number who will tell you that as a treatment for pain management, glaucoma, etc., it is ineffective compared to other alternatives.

sager said...

I ain't a doctor so I can't answer that definitively. Some people might concede that maybe it's not effective as some painkillers, but that they don't want to take painkillers.

I'm not a holistic person, but I do nod in acknowledgement when people claim the medical industry seems dedicated to keeping people sick.

The former prosecutive reference in the first link says there is no study substantiating the efficacy of medicinal marijuana, but says it's because the U.S government refuses to fund one. Some people swear by it. Make of it what you will.