Duff: Kings rise, Justin Blackmon stumbles

June, 6, 2012
6/06/12
3:15
PM ET
Alec MartinezNoah Graham/NHLI/Getty ImagesThe Los Angeles Kings have made a historic run through the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Musician Duff McKagan's column runs every Wednesday on Playbook Sounds.

Around the time that Guns N’ Roses was getting our thing going in mid-'80s Los Angeles, there was one other band that was the perfect angry counterpart to what we were doing: Jane’s Addiction.

JA was weird, edgy, dark and wrote the most spectacular riffs of any band since. Bass player Eric Avery, I came to find out, was a huge part of the songwriting for Jane’s, and perhaps singularly informed that band of which direction to go in those early formative years.

Duff McKagan
Robert Reiners/FilmMagicDuff McKagan
Eric Avery is also a long-suffering Los Angeles Kings fan. And perhaps today or this week, those years of pain will come to an end. The Kings just appear to be too dominant to do anything but win the Stanley Cup.

The L.A. Kings fan community is an odd bunch. From what I have observed being in L.A. so much myself, Kings fans aren’t necessarily the typical three- or four-sport year-round spectator of all of the other L.A. teams. This is also true of Avery. He doesn’t follow the Lakers, really. Nor the Dodgers or Angels.

I had noticed throughout the season that Eric was tweeting more and more about the Kings, as they just scraped by into the playoffs and as they became the first No. 8 seed in NHL history to beat the top three seeded teams. It’s weird to see a guy like him being so animated about sports. He tends to come more from an art side, than the sport side of life. This speaks for the Kings and their fans. They are an odd bunch who have taken it on the nose for quite some time.

Avery has been on the road with the reinstated Garbage, and has had to resort to getting updated scores from the monitor guy on the side of the stage (“The right hand is for the Kings, the left hand for whoever they are playing,” Avery told me). His enthusiasm for the Kings is now infused with confidence that his team will win it all. He was so confident on the phone Tuesday morning that he didn’t even have a fear of jinxing his team.

He is in fact such a cool dude, that it inspires a non-hockey fan such as myself to try to find a way in to the sport (or, until Seattle gets an NHL team?).

•  •  •


ESPN’s Colin Cowherd just seems to be one of those guys who knows a little bit about a lot of stuff. You can, of course, agree or disagree with his takes on different sports issues; but it’d be hard to argue that the guy is not on top of his game information-wise.

I couldn’t help but notice the passion in Cowherd’s voice on Monday, when he brought up the topic of Justin Blackmon getting popped with another DUI (Blackmon’s second). The situation was made more serious, as now Blackmon must face the daunting proving ground of being a troubled draft pick without yet having signed his contract. This DUI could be an exorbitant financial blow.

But above and beyond the money part, Cowherd threw the "possible alcoholic" tag on Blackmon, and voiced his concern that perhaps the newly drafted wide receiver should look for some help before the "disease" got out of control. This is an area I know something about. Cowherd does too.

In my case, I’ve done my time with caustic substances. The alcohol. The drugs. I’ve been clear of it all for quite some time now, but it is a disease that will come back worse than before. I’ve tried it. It wasn’t cool.

Cowherd came back from a commercial break, to reveal that people were jumping all over him via email and Twitter, that he didn’t know what he was talking about, and some others were presumably joking about Blackmon and alcoholism (Cowherd went on the explain that his late father was an alcoholic and that he himself had grown up going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and had read a lot about the disease).

The point here is not if people agree about whether Blackmon is an alcoholic; but rather, that people who have no experience with addiction can be so cavalier and judgmental. Cowherd was taken aback. Me? I’ve seen that movie. Been on the wrong end of those opinions too many times.

We should come to the aid of our sports heroes. It’s easy for us to sit on the sidelines and joke or make fun of someone for a misstep. Remember, these guys and gals are just human, going through the same stuff we all go through, but in a much more public arena. Chill out, and give a break where needed. In Blackmon’s case, he is only 22 years old.

In anyone else’s case? No one wants to be a junkie or an alcoholic.
Michael "Duff" McKagan, a founding member of Guns N' Roses, writes a weekly column for Playbook Sounds and is a passionate sports fan. McKagan is currently playing in Loaded and Velvet Revolver, is a prolific writer, including an autobiography, "It's So Easy: And Other Lies."

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