Thursday, January 19, 2006

Kelly Slater on Steroids (The Whole World is Juicing)

First there was the Canseco/Baseball/Palmeiro story and the juiced-up McGuire taking the fifth, and Barry Bonds, and…well, you remember all that. Then, the talk about steroids died down a bit this winter, flaring up briefly when that wrestler died in his hotel room, but mostly going to the back pages, probably because every journalist in America is saving their stuff for the “Welcome Back to Baseball” article that we’ll be seeing in a few weeks.

Steroids slipped back to light rotation in my mind, too, right there with Rick from Magnum, P.I. (he was more dangerous than he seemed – out of that whole crew, he was the one who might’ve snapped and become an Evil Kingpin. Mangum was tormented by flashbacks, yes, but he could always hop on his paddleboard and hallucinate that his father was making him “tread water”, which was inexplicably comforting…it would’ve made me even more depressed. I’d rather flash back to icing the VC than wonder whether my father would’ve let me drown during my passage to manhood) and Ivan Lendl (did he sport the world’s most durable and minimalist butt-cut? That was a work of art).

Then the other night I was watching portions of an MTV special called “Real Life: I’m On Steroids.” Why? Because the Broncos-Patriots game was on, and I couldn’t handle the tension. I just knew that the Patriots were going to come back somehow and win that game, and I couldn’t listen to another word about Tom Brady. Every announcer on every network and every writer for every publication has gripped themselves sore over that guy and the net result is that I wish he would die. I can hardly stand to look at a picture of Tom Brady’s face. I’m sure he’s sexy. I’m sure that his facial progenitor, Dudley Do-Right, would be proud. Did you know he loves children? Did you know he once reached into the body cavity of a dying child and pulled out a malignant tumor, then hurled it into outer space, where it orbits the earth as “Brady’s Comet”? Did you know he was a sixth-round draft pick? Did you know that? Did you know that he’s never lost a single playoff game? Did you know that a woman can be brought to orgasm simply by pressing her ear to the cleft in his chin? They say it sounds like the ocean in there, only a sexy ocean that never loses in the playoffs.

So this MTV show featured a couple of guys doing steroids. The first was a “lost soul”, a wildly insecure gay guy who was pumping himself full of steroids with no noticeable changes in is physique. He had these small, perky breasts that he couldn’t seem to lose. God, I hope he doesn’t read this somehow; he’ll do something crazy. Then there was a young, studly guy whose goal was to make the cover of a fitness magazine. He got really buff. As an aside, I saw him later on another show and he was arguing that he knew all about steroids because he was in pharmaceutical sales. Insert your own punchline. So I flipped back and forth between this show and the football game. I probably would’ve forgotten the whole episode in my joy over the Broncos’ victory, but the next day there were waves.

So I was out in the lineup with my friend JM. It was a sunny day, waves 3-4 feet, light winds. The paddle out could only be described as ridiculously easy. However, because it’s winter, JM and I were wearing wetsuits, and because it has been flat for almost a month, neither one of us were in surfing shape. By the time I got outside I was gasping for breath and feeling like I was going to throw up. JM was the same way. I’m not that fazed by my lackluster surfing performances; I turn them in all the time. JM, however, is a gifted, gifted surfer, a real artist on the waves, and he’s nervous and critical about every aspect of his session. That’s not to say he doesn’t enjoy himself, he has a wonderful time in his own intense, concentrated way, but he doesn’t relax until he’s finished surfing.

JM was really getting down on himself about his lack of conditioning, he was complaining about the water temperature, about how he had no balance, about how he felt fat, and so on. “I’m too old for this, dude,” JM said. “I’m old, dude. I turned the corner this year.”
To try to make him feel better, I said, “Yeah, but look at Kelly Slater. He just won his seventh world title, and he’s older than us!”
“He’s on the juice, man. On the juice.” JM went on to explain that Slater had gotten onto HGH and testosterone. There was no other way to explain his sudden return to top form after a five-year decline.
Another guy in the lineup chimed in that he’d heard the same thing.
“Youth, dude,” this other surfer said. “HGH is instant youth. Surfing doesn’t test for illegal substances, man. You can paddle out on speed, crack, ‘roids, acid, whatever, dude.”

Slater on the juice? This was rather depressing news, if it was true. I’ve always idolized Slater (who doesn’t? The guy is dating Gisele Bundchen, for god’s sake, and he tapped Pamela Anderson in her first-and-second-Playboy-spread prime) and it was such a compelling story when he won his seventh title, I hated to think he’d cheated his way into it. In a short aside, I just want to mention that after JM had finished grousing about all the things he was doing wrong, he picked a wave way, way out, paddled about a hundred yards to the south, caught it way outside (it was the biggest wave of the day, about 5 feet), and then did a huge air off the back, sailing over some longboarder who had dropped in on him. In that one wave JM demonstrated vision, positioning skills, speed, and aerial ability. How he never went pro is beyond me. He is, to use the jargon of the sport, a “rad” surfer.

That episode in the water pushed steroids back into heavy rotation on my mental playlist. The next day one of my co-workers called me up and as part of our obligatory pre-work chit-chat, he asked what I was doing.
“Doing some hammer curls,” I joked. “About to start another cycle of ‘roids.”
I suppose I expected him to react with mystification or stunned silence, but instead he said, “Where you getting them? What are you taking? I just got some stuff from Norway.”
I was flabbergasted, and in a rather tight spot, because there’s no way I could tell the guy I was only joking, not after he’d opened up to me that way. I gave noncommittal answers while he described his routine in great detail; what steroids he took when, how he took them, and what he did in the gym at certain points on the cycle. You have to understand, my co-worker is the last person you’d suspect of juicing. Yes, he’s in decent shape, but he’s a mid-40’s software architect, and a devout Christian. I don’t recall Jesus saying “Unless ye become buff…”, but who knows, maybe Council of Nicea took all that stuff out. I guess Jesus had to be pretty strong to smash those pillars in the temple and bring it down on Delilah. Too bad they chained him to that rock and let the buzzards eat his liver. By the way, if you ever feel the messianic urge, resist. It will pass. Don’t just sit there under the Bodhi tree, get up and go mingle, for Christ’s sake. Hit Starbucks and get coffee and a compilation CD by Carole King. Go buy some nice, fluffy towels. Call your mother and tell her you’re thinking about going back to medical school.

Strange. See, now I’m thinking that everyone is on steroids but me. Now I’m thinking that I should investigate this further. If I weren’t so lazy and so reluctant to spend money, I’d get on a cycle, too. Everyone else (excepting Tom Brady, of course) seems to be doing it. Hey, I wonder if T.C. was juicing. That dude was awfully big. And he did have rage issues, particularly when Magnum was trying to con him into using the chopper.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Decent article.. Jesus didn't smash the pillars it was Samson. Got to get your facts straight or else all your writing will come off as gossip.

10:31 AM  

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