Print and Go Back Page 2 [Print without images]

Wednesday, February 18, 2004


On Tuesday, Robert Lipsyte wrote about the peculiar relationship between owner and coach Beastmeasters and their pet Bad Boys. Today, several WB writers cop to their own all-time favorite Bad Boys.

Burn, baby, burn | From Eric Neel
Richard Pryor. "Live on the Sunset Strip" on the turntable was an everyday ritual for me once. He taught me every curse word I know. If the Eskimos have a hundred different words for snow, Richard had a hundred different meanings for "motherf---a" -- some angry, some sweet, and all of them funny. He was bad because he'd say anything and he was bad because he felt everything and lived to tell about it. The man lit himself on fire and went running through the streets, and he knew how sad that was and he knew how hilarious that was, and he said so, in front of God, white folks, black folks and everybody. The man was B-A-D.

Who? Me? | From Ralph Wiley
As E points out, Richie Pryor is pretty much untoppable as a Bad Boy. Get him and Jim Brown in the same room, the Bad Boy meter goes off the charts. But, still and all, I have to rate Billy Martin right there with them. I don't really have an anecdote to back this up, other than the time Billy tried to square me off (I kept taking the angle away from him as we were standing there, which vexed him to no end). Or the time he tried to insinuate that the famous closet Gay Oakland Athletic was an outfielder named Larry Murray and not Glenn Burke -- who it was, in fact. No doubt, he was attempting to endear me to Larry Murray.

Or the way he treated his toadies like Mickey Morabito and that besotted pitching coach whose name escapes me now. No, WIld Bill doesn't take a back seat to anybody in the Bad Boy rankings. Pound-for-pound, he could hold his own with any, even with the likes of George Foreman and Mike Tyson.

But the one who takes the prize is fairly unknown to the rest of the world. His name was Robert Aldridge, and he was my high school classmate, also known as The Geech. We were all scared of him, some of us a little, some a lot; and we were boys who didn't walk around scared, for the most part. An older bully named Bishop strode among us striking fear, until he looked over at Robert and said, "Ain't you the little punk they call Geechie?"

Robert's reply was eloquent. He hit Bishop with a right so perfect there was no need for a second punch. Bishop was soon prone, and completely convinced that he didn't want any more of that. We all celebrated. Twenty-five years later, after Robert was shot in the head and killed, my old classmate Fitzpatrick, now a homicide dick, called and asked what he should say at the small memorial service for Robert. I suggested he say there were times we were afraid of him, other times we were embarrased by him, and other times when he saved us, absolved us of our own sins, and that he was our friend.

Recently, it also dawned on me that he was also the reason I could never give up on Foreman, Tyson, Richard Pryor, Jim Brown, or Billy, and why a book called "Serenity" really works.

Take one for the team | From Chuck Hirshberg
Ron Hunt. He played second base for the 1970 SF Giants, when I played the same position for Village Host Pizza, the dregs of the Palo Alto (Calif) Little League. Hunt hit second in a spectacular batting order, sandwiched between Bonds and Mays, with McCovey cleaning-up. He was a C+ hitter, a B+ fielder and an A+ cheater. He knew his job was to get on base any way he could, so he put on a puffed-up uniform and started crowding the plate. He looked like a suicidal Michelin Man, with his feet dug into the batter's box and his head hovering over the outside corner. Once, three Reds pitchers hit him in a single game and, each time, he never moved a muscle until the beanball smacked him, whereupon he'd do his little dance to convince the umpire he was making an effort to get out of the way. Ron Hunt was one bad hombre. My big brother tells me I once tried to imitate my hero. But all I remember is waking up in the back seat of the family Dodge with my aching head in mommy's lap.

When bad meant naughty | From Steve Wulf
Sparky Lyle was a notorious prankster: hotfoots, sawed-up chair legs, fake casts. One time when the lefty reliever was with the Yankees in Fort Lauderdale, he found a toad on the field and decided to give it a home in the clubhouse. And the home he found was the protective cup in the jock of shortstop Gene Michael. As the players got dressed, Lyle and Graig Nettles watched in amazement as the Stick pulled on his undergarments and then his uniform without noticing anything new. Michael took the field, still unaware of his stowaway. Finally, Nettles couldn't wait any longer, so he went up and tapped Michael's cup with his bat. Upon which, the toad started jumping . . . and Michael started freaking. He ran to the trainer's room to see what was the matter with his "equipment."

The Sultan of Swat | From Robert Lipsyte
The all-star role model for Bad Boys was Babe Ruth, whose records for partying, wenching, farting and still delivering at the plate probably still stand. As a throwaway kid -- he was raised in an orphange because his parents couldn't handle him -- his street creds are still impeccable, and he seems to have been generally amiable to all, if a little oblivious to the world. His big advantage, at least in the Roaring Twenties, was that his excesses perfectly fit the mood of the country. The newly-rich saw him as a justifying symbol, the struggling immigrants saw him as an inspiration. By the Depression of the Thirties, his act was stale and so were his skills. He got thrown away again, which is the fate of bad boys.

Swim with the Tarks | From Patrick Hruby
Scandal trailed him like a dorsal fin. The NCAA followed like a half-crazed Roy Scheider. He left an oil spill in his wake, a slimy, Valdez-worthy froth of blowout wins, chewed-up towels and hot tubs swimming with convicted fixers.

Simply put, Jerry Tarkanian was the sort of coach mom would have warned us about, had she worked for the 2-A's enforcement division. A shameless opportunist, the Shark shunned sanctimony, skirted the law, ignored the classroom and coached a wildly entertaining brand of ball -- all while helping link the terms "Fresno State" and "samurai swords" for years to come.

And for that, I applaud him.

Forgive me, Father Krzyzewski, for I have sinned: While others laud the coaching saints of the college game -- the leaders, the educators, the squeaky-clean men 'n myth makers -- I've always had a soft spot for the renegades, the only honest men in a fundamentally dishonest business.

You can keep your graduation rates, your special, special kids, your inspirational treacle like "Lead to Succeed" and "Coaching from the Heart." Give me hungry JUCOs and troubled prodigies, academic fraud and recruiting shenanigans. Give me basketball, straight-up, without the hollow, highfalutin' chaser of the NCAA's 1,001 rules governing the conduct of indentured servants, er, "student-athletes."

When Jerry Tarkanian's roguish Runnin' Rebels blasted virtuous Duke 103-73 for the 1990 NCAA title -- the most lopsided defeat in championship game history -- it was akin to Darth Vader slicing off Luke Skywalker's hand near the end of "The Empire Strikes Back." A moment of triumph for black hats everywhere.

And give Tark credit: While Vader later repented, the Shark never did. He knew the power of the dark side, clenched fist and all. Thank badness.

Rickey, Rickey, Rickey | From Jim Caple
I'm still waiting for Rickey Henderson to sign with the Yankees because I shudder to think what a baseball season would be like without the man who gave us the snap catch, who perfected the use of the first person singular, who played cards in the clubhouse while his team was losing a playoff, who yanked the bag from its moorings and declared himself "the greatest'' when he broke Lou Brock's stolen base record (and for all we know, had the base gold-plated, then wore it like a necklace), who ended his home run trot by sliding into home plate when he broke Ty Cobb's record for runs and who missed a game due to frostbite -- in August.

I'm also eager to see how they fit all his teams on his Hall of Fame plaque.

As the Worm turns ... | From Melanie Jackson
He looked worse in a wedding dress than Ricky Williams, has more tattoos than Tommy Lee and had a marriage that lasted barely longer than Britney Spears' nuptials.

He changed the color of his hair as often as Paris Hilton takes a new beau, stirred up confrontation more than Jerry Springer and makes Rasheed Wallace's run-ins with NBA referees look mild.

And yet, whenever I watched Dennis Rodman's eyes track the rotation of the ball as it caromed off the rim, none of his eccentric ways mattered. He made rebounding a science, and it was mesmerizing. And never before had I hoped that Michael Jordan's shot would miss just so I could see Rodman track down the loose ball.

Hey bud, let's party | From Dan Shanoff
Sean Penn. Lived a life of multiple Bad Boy thrills:

  • of KO'ing paparazzi;

  • of marrying both Madonna AND Robin "Buttercup" Wright;

  • of speaking his mind, no matter who it ticks off;

  • and of being the most underrated film actor of our generation.