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Even after a night's sleep, I'm still hearing like I'm underwater. Fellow blogger Mark Bechtel was good enough to secure an unused ticket to Thursday's Pixies show for me, which, if you read the New York Times, you already know was loud. It was also, if this makes sense, extraordinarily efficient: an hour and a half, two dozen songs, stage banter you could have fit on a fortune-cookie slip. As veteran indie show-goer Steve Cannella pointed out, even their encore was no-frills: no disappearing from the stage, milking five minutes of whoops and rhythmic claps; no, the band paused long enough for Kim Deal to wolf down half a cigarette, played an indulgent, luxuriating Gigantic and then split. The only petty tragedy of the evening: I lost my $7.00 plastic cup of Corona (thanks, Hammerstein Ballroom, for gouging, and Cannella, for buying) when the dude next to me pitched face-forward onto the floor shortly before the show started, and this was the prone flop of a dead man, Bill Murray off the diving board into the swimming pool in Rushmore. I was convinced I'd soon see something awful when this kid rolled over with two of the glassiest eyes I've ever seen, but he bounced back, impervious to pain like Curt Schilling with a bloody sock, and soldiered on, presumably toward the bar. Fallen man, if you're reading this, e-mail me and let me know you made it home. Also, they played U-Mass, a song an old, old friend first played for me, and one I wish I had known about in elementary school, when parents, teachers and other well-meaning adults told me that boring things were educational.
While I'm in this ballpark, if you're in NYC tonight, stop by the Acme Underground at midnight and hear Miss Mother USA.
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Some baseball: my cousin Chris, certainly the greatest iconoclast I know -- I am fond of the memory, when I was maybe six and he was 10, of his telling me about "this new band, the Dead Kennedys" -- e-mailed me a modest proposal to solve MLB's steroid conundrum:
"... Start a movement to push for an entire sports league dedicated to athletes who use drugs. Instead of players being banned, they can be excommunicated and forced to play out their careers in a drug league where they are paid workfare wages and supplied with all of the drugs they can consume. The teams they leave would have to pay 1/4 of the players' remaining contractual pay to drug treatment programs and all advertising in support of the drug league would be paid directly into a treatment program fund. It would become the most successful charity drive ever.
It sure would. Cast an eye around the league, consider likely users, and mull a team composed of them, unfettered juicers -- no cream, no clear, no flaxseed oil just full-on Giambi-style injections of testosterone in the ass -- breaking every record there is. When I covered college baseball, at the time of its offensive explosion in the late '90s (the '98 title game, in which USC beat Arizona State 21-14, is regarded as the apotheosis, though I attended an NCAA Regional that spring in Baton Rouge, La., at which it took double-digits to win almost every game), we called it "Gorilla Ball," and was it fun to watch. A steroid league would stand in the same constellation as arena football (More hits! More scoring! More extreme!), or professional wrestling, or the Slam Dunk contest, all payoff and no distracting nuance. (In a brilliant old Simpsons gag, Homer goes to see Bachman Turner Overdrive, complains loudly from the crowd for "Taking Care of Business," then interrupts the opening verse to demand the chorus, immediately.)
A steroid league would represent the logical outcome of athletes' all-encompassing obsession with self-improvement at any price, from the unnatural frames of mesomorphic linemen, to the coteries of coaches/trainers/publicists attending the development of prepubescent tennis prodigies. We ought to venerate it; in its desire to increase, to maximize, in its gross and large ambition it distills the essence of American sport."
A final riff: as the Washington Nationals' stadium deal crumbles, in steps, naturally, poker. Now, this ballpark has as much chance of being named after an offshore gambling Web site as it does being christened, say, Huey Newton Field, but poker kiosks on the concourses! I could get on board with that, especially on days Steve Trachsel pitches. Could we get them in the press box, too? Because the free hot dogs aren't enough. Weather-beaten reporters need other forms of stimulation while we do our jobs.