Learning from The Pros

December 22, 2008

ENVY ME, for I have drunk deep from the chalice of wisdom. For four days I have done nothing but read pro athletes' blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. (Don't know what a Twitter feed is? Ask the nearest nine-year-old.)

I know what you're thinking. Athletes' blogs? Aren't those filled with self-promotion and mundanity?

Not so long ago I thought the same thing, assuming today's jocks could offer little compared with their predecessors. After all, while playing for the Knicks in the 1970s, Bill Bradley wrote the insightful book Life on the Run, which included such eloquent observations as, "My attention drifts out through the bus window to Cleveland, one of America's northern industrial cities where furnaces of progress leave everything ashen, like the gray of a December morning."

Why couldn't an athlete today write something like that? Well, besides the fact that they're rarely on buses?

So I plunged into the prose of the pros and stand before you a smarter man. I found solutions for the financial crisis ("Heck, come on people. Spend! Get this economy going," writes U.S. Olympic swimmer Ian Crocker), learned the rigors of NBA training ("I play Halo some days for 14 hours," confides Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas) and had my misconceptions about NFL players corrected. "It's a reach to think of more than three or four on a team that really would carry around a gun," writes Redskins tight end Chris Cooley—and I think I speak for all of us when I say, Isn't that a relief!

Some players marvel at their own skill ("The crazy thing is my jumpshot is really coming along [and] that could be scary," writes Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony) while others focus on that of their progeny ("We had a big boy moment!" reports softball player Jennie Finch. "Ace 2 days ago pooed in the potty!!!"). I can only imagine what has to happen for Finch to use four exclamation points.

I encountered a wealth of trenchant discourse on current cinema. There was Shaq's insightful take on The Punisher: "great bloody movie, aggggggh ... aggggggh (growl) (snarl) spit." And Celtics guard Rajon Rondo's Denbyesque analysis of One Missed Call: "Hands down it was the wackest, most horrible, sorry, miserable, lousy, inappropriate, disappointing, pathetic, deplorable, atrocious, awful movie I've ever seen in my life."

Regrets? On his blog, former 49ers linebacker/maniac Bill Romanowski offers, "I wish I had found meditation while I was playing football," and I'm guessing there are a couple of hundred NFL wide receivers who wish he had too. And Hornets center Tyson Chandler had to learn the hard way that it's wise not to play a "sex song by R. Kelly" while your wife is in labor. ("She almost kicked me out of the delivery room.")

Everywhere I clicked, I gleaned useful advice, from the obvious ("There is no better way to celebrate a big win," writes Cooley, than "getting grabbed and punched in the balls by a bunch of offensive lineman [sic] on the bus") to the practical. When attempting to ingest nine pounds of fried asparagus in 10 minutes, one should "eat 2 spears at a time" notes competitive eater Pat Bertoletti, and drink "wylers pink lemonade/raspberry to get it down."

There were tips for other bloggers ("Please don't use Wikipedia as a reference," pleads free-agent pitcher Curt Schilling), tales of promotional snafus ("I've seen bobbleheads of me where I was a white player," laments outfielder Curtis Granderson of the Tigers) and helpful hints on eating pancakes ("Start by cutting your first bite out of the center," writes Crocker, as it's "the warmest, softest, most flavorful spot").

I encountered no M.D.'s yet learned a remarkable amount about medicine. On her blog Mercury guard Diana Taurasi describes what it was like to have an infected hair follicle removed from her back ("incredibly painful ... I could feel the creature in every nook and cranny") while promising "the video will follow" with "maybe a soundtrack." Arenas—perhaps the most prolific pro blogger out there—reports on the downside of painkillers, namely that after taking them, "I couldn't use the restroom for like five days." Alas, there is no video to follow.

Finally, near the end of my cyber wanderings I came upon the blog of tennis star Rafael Nadal and discovered a novel sentiment: insecurity. Nadal, it seems, just wants to say he's sorry—for the scarcity of his posts, for their tardiness and, most of all, for their irrelevance. "Why am I saying this? Who cares, right?" he writes in one. In another, he hopes "that I am not too boring because I would hate that," then apologizes again, professing that "I don't think this will be a very deep blog if you know what I mean."

I think I do, Rafa, I think I do.

TALK BACK
If you have a favorite athlete's blog, send it to SI.com/pointafter.

By reading athletes' blogs and Facebook pages, I found solutions for the financial crisis, trenchant discourse on cinema and a helpful hint on eating pancakes.

ILLUSTRATIONILLUSTRATION BY KEITH WITMER

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