Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

When Nothing Else Matters. On Hulk Hogan and fallen heroes

This appears in the Monday, July 27, 2015 edition of the Business Mirror.

When Nothing Else Matters
by rick olivares

In 2004, publishing house Simon & Schuster released Washington Post writer Michael Leahy’s myth-shattering book, “When Nothing Else Matters” that chronicled the third and last comeback attempt by Michael Jordan only this time not with the Chicago Bulls but with the Washington Wizards. The title was taken from a relentless personal pursuit by Jordan to reclaim the top of the basketball firmament no matter who gets stepped on. 

While I agree with Simon Barnes of The Times of London that the author was committed to depicting Jordan as shameful, Leahy nevertheless expounded on that narcissistic and difficult side of Jordan that was first revealed in Sam Smith’s ground-breaking “The Jordan Rules.” The GOAT’s Hall of Fame speech did nothing to rebut that and that left me shaking my head in disgust. My remark then was, “If the shoe fits…."

I guess people will always disappoint someone (as I am sure I do with others).

A couple of days ago, I saw this Tweet that sort of summed a collective shock over people who were at least a part of our childhood. Tweeted Jon Richard from London, “Cosby allegations. Hulk Hogan getting scrubbed for racism. What else could ruin my childhood?"

Perhaps you can even throw in ESPN radio personality Colin Cowherd (although I cannot say that he is an influence on me or a staple of my sports-diet). Make that ex-radio personality after he was axed for comments about people from the Dominican Republic. 

Am I disappointed over the circumstances surrounding Bill Cosby and Hulk Hogan? 

Of course. Do I dislike them now? Not at all. I’ll give myself a minute or two to lament or even mourn a fallen hero but that’s it. I have long come to terms with the fact that the public face may not necessarily be that real person. It’s like those Philippine celebrities who get voted to public office but are jailed for corruption or plunder yet deny everything even if they’ve been caught. Just because you play a wholesome person or a superhero on screen that doesn’t mean he or she is one. The problem is many people cannot separate fiction from reality.

But Hogan is a fake athlete, you say. That is besides the point. He is a sports entertainer and millions and millions of people have hung on to his every word, taken their vitamins, and adopted his iconic poses and catch phrases.

And that brings to mind that old Charles Barkley commercial about sports heroes NOT being role models. That certainly applies to entertainers or artists as well. Reality is a sick and jarring thud waiting to happen. Jordan was presented as the All-American superhero. Come on, he starred in a film with Bugs Bunny! Instead, he wasn’t the best teammate, he gambled, cheated on his wife, and well, cannot seem to get rid of that chip on his shoulder that he carried ever since he began playing.

On the local front, there was this player I used to worship for quite some time, even if practically all of my family and friends rooted for opposing teams. When I found out years later the reason for his falling out with his teammates, I was crushed. And it isn’t anything like hearsay. I heard it straight from people involved. It left me shaking my head not only in dismay but in disbelief. How could you?

Years ago, I attended a graphic novel signing by this famous writer at Fullybooked at the Power Plant. I was the 20th in line and as soon as it began moving, I was right in front of this favorite author of mine. Since I was alone, I asked the person next to me if he could take our picture. Unfortunately, the photo he took was poor and I asked the author if we could get a re-take. He snarled at me about how there were thousands in line and I was holding it up. I was stunned yet I still found my voice in an even testier retort, “I asked you nicely, you don’t have to be an ass.”
There was silence and everyone around us heard it. A chill ran up my spine. If he stood up and left then everyone would be pissed at me. Mercifully, he didn’t (but he did hear what I said). I stepped down the dais and threw all three of my graphic novels in the trash bin. To this day, I do not read anything he writes.  

The excuse that we are only human is true but doesn’t let them off the hook. They are held to a higher standard. If they receive the admiration of many then scorn is no different. In this day and age of social media, it’s like the wrath of God has gone digital. 

This politically correct world has its pros and cons but what I do not like is how people are out to bury folks who committed wrong. People make mistakes. They should pay for them without a doubt but we shouldn’t excommunicate them where they cannot get back on their feet. Sometimes, people are crucified in public without the benefit of knowing the circumstances surrounding an incident. Case in point, that MRT commuter who was video taped arguing with a security guard. We only saw her outburst but not what preceded it. Who knows what the guard said or did to warrant that outburst for which the lady was bludgeoned? 

So are heroes or role models dead for me?

Not at all. I have learned to confine my admiration to simply what they do in their field of excellence. Nothing more, nothing less. Color me jaded and I will somewhat disagree. Let’s just say that I learned to compartmentalize things better. Jordan remains a favorite athlete of mine. Hogan will always be one of my cherished wrestlers. 

I remain a fan of many people, bands, athletes, teams, but always keep my admiration at an arm’s length, sometimes even farther. There are far more urgent things that I should worry about such as work, family, and paying the bills rather get upset about someone whose 15 minutes of fame are up but had one mad minute for which they are now paying for their mistakes. 

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