Preface: Only the scars of last weekend are left. Or rather, forming. Forming on my right middle finger and on my sunburned, blistering left arm.

I’m not surprised. On Sunday I was hung over, took the wrong exit out of San Diego and spent two dehydrated hours driving through the desert in a convertible, blasting Bruce Springsteen in a desperate attempt to stay awake.

That morning I woke up bleary and queasy. Room ten-twenty-something of the Holiday Inn Select was full of empty and mostly empty whisky and beer bottles, the bathtub was full of drowned cigarettes and joints, and the sheets had odd stains – the cleaning bill would be a fucker, but it wasn’t mine. I found out what the stains on the sheets were (lipstick) and where they came from (my face). My goddamned Neolithic co-workers had painted my face with streetwalker-colored lipstick.

It was time for me to leave.

The Daily Nexus was through with the California Intercollegiate Press Association’s awards weekend. The rooms were all trashed and so were we. I’d gotten especially so the night before, celebrating my coronation as the No.-1 (of those who had competed) sports writer (collegiate) in California. I don’t write about sports. People hit, kick or throw balls, other people catch them. There’s a score. Same thing every time. I entered the on-site competition at CIPA for the free meal. So I tried to get disqualified. I said nasty things about sports writers. And I won first place for this:

Saturday started poorly. The phone woke me up, still drunk. I was lying on the carpet of the 10th floor of the San Diego Holiday Inn, under a half-zipped sleeping bag and tangled up in the limbs and lips of a staff writer – poor form all around

The ringing phone was a wake-up call. From the bed, our Opinion editor, Curtis, answered it, hung it up and rolled back over. Good man. The last thing any of us rummies needed was a wake-up call. I can’t remember which one of us came to half an hour before we were supposed to compete. Bastard.

Personally, I was planning on sleeping through this part of the California Intercollegiate Press Association’s awards weekend. On-site competitions – at 9 in the damn morning – are awful for hangovers. I knew mine would suck especially. For whatever reason, I was doing sports.

Screw sports. I’m not sure which is sillier: that pituitary mutants get paid to play children’s games or that pompous, bungling whores get paid to report on it and have the nerve to call themselves journalists.

I walked into the lobby of the Holiday Inn; the light stabbed my eyes like the flashlight of an angry God. He had seen my sin and he sent me to purgatory: a hotel lobby full of sports reporters.

The television kiddies were the worst: high school jocks long gone to seed, dressed in slacks, shirts and wide ties, their faces scrubbed and their hair gelled to diamond-like hardness. Waiting for the CIPA bus, they admired themselves in reflective surfaces and made small talk. One sporto was sending 50 tapes of himself to TV stations around the country. Another was giddy because he had landed a job with an upstate New York station – “a great stepping stone.” One girl talked about how much easier writing was than smiling in front of a camera. They were all sure they were going places, doing things, meeting all the right people and looking good.

The NBA fined one of its pituitary mutants, Rasheed Wallace of the Portland Trailblazers, $10,000 yesterday. The team was fined $25,000 for not enforcing league rules. The crime? Failing to make himself available to the media.

Not being available to the media is, short of slaughtering a half-dozen or so reporters, the worst crime a sports player can commit. Sports and the sports media are locked in mutual masturbation. They can’t exist without each other. Leagues and teams are about moving product and selling image, which only works if someone is paying attention. The sportos pay attention because if they don’t they don’t appear on TV, on radio or in print they’d have to go sell used cars. The athletes play along because if it all dries up no one is going to pay a college dropout millions just because he’s above average height.

Rasheed Wallace rocked the gravy boat, and he’s lucky to have gotten a fine and not a flogging.

Wallace, by the way, just set a new season record for technical fouls: 41. The previous record was 38. He set that one last season.

One of the sportos completely interrupted my hangover with a diatribe about Wallace and his fouls. “That’s so bullshit,” she said. “And these guys are supposed to be role models for kids and stuff? He’s a total disgrace to the sport.”

Right. That pure thing, the sport. Those heroes, the athletes.


Brendan Buhler won last weekend, so he didn’t have to write anything new for this Thursday’s “Black Box.” Next week, he’ll still reek of booze, but he’ll write something new.