Yes, I was indeed juicedFor years, there have been rumors and speculation about the relentless pace of my column writing. How could anyone perform at that level for so long?
By: Tony Bender, The Dickinson Press
For years, there have been rumors and speculation about the relentless pace of my column writing. How could anyone perform at that level for so long?
The whispers started in the salad days between 1999 and 2003, when I was routinely putting up Hall of Fame-type columns. Those were the days. Women adored me. City councils feared me. Dyslexics ignored me.
During that period, I went 47 straight columns without a typo, breaking Wayne Lubenow’s old record. I went years without dangling a participle. I hardly ever wrote in passive voice. I went over 1,000 words three times. I won Best Use of Punctuation twice. I was named Poet Laureate of Venturia, N.D.
Then, during the summer of 2004, Lloyd Omdahl (the Joe Frazier to my Ali) and I went toe-to-toe, column for column, in an unprecedented stretch of wit and homespun humor, and newsstand sales rocketed. We were as Gods. We both got shoe deals, me with Payless and Lloyd with Red Wing. Our faces were on cereal boxes. I still can’t believe they got me to put on that stupid Quaker hat. Lloyd had a deal with Malt-O-Meal.
Of course, all that was tarnished last week by reports in Columnists Illustrated revealing that during my best years, I was juiced. It’s time to come clean. It’s true. In one urine test alone, I was positive for caffeine, nicotine, Visine, Anchor Steam, liver sausage, Pop Rocks, Captain Crunch, Sen-Sen, Preparation-H and Smith Brothers cough drops.
It would be inappropriate at this time to address accusations implicating my old rival, Lloyd Omdahl, of lutefisk abuse. But one look at his bronzed, chiseled physique should tell you all you need to know.
I’m not proud of any of this, but in my defense, I never bet on newspapers.
I know the critics say I am now in my “Fat Elvis” period, skating by on reputation and the fact I still look fabulous in a white jumpsuit. I realize this sordid juicing scandal may well bar my admittance to the McIntosh County Historical Society Column Writer’s Hall of Fame but, if so, let it serve as a cautionary tale to you kids out there. Sure, I made hundreds of dollars, rode in shiny pickups in parades and became a legend in a three-county area. But there’s more to life than fame, glory and free drinks at the bar in Lehr. And when I figure out what it is, you will be the first to know.
There’s a lot of pressure in the spotlight. The grind gets to you. Seven hundred words, week after week. Remember, much of this took place before there was “cut and paste” and spell check. We used Wite-Out, Smith-Coronas and something we called “a dictionary.” Sometimes my wrists ached from carpal tunnel syndrome, but you learn to play hurt because the fans are counting on you.
I’ll never forget the day at the hospital when that kid with a bad case of hives said, “Hit one out for me today, will ya, Tone?” That’s pressure. But, with a half a tube of Icy Hot and two Advil, I went out there and wrote an award-winner about changing a diaper in the parking lot of a Chinese restaurant.
One day you wake up in a gutter, with a roll-of-Tums-a-day monkey on your back. It’s all you can think about. After awhile, you don’t even care if you get your favorite fruit-flavored Tums. Sometimes, I bought the store brand in bulk and ate them right out of the bottle. When I couldn’t get my fix, I made Christian Bale look like a pacifist. I hope you realize that wasn’t me. It was the Tums talking.
Soon, I was guzzling Pepto-Bismol, but it turned my stools black, and that scared me straight. You know how Joe Namath got hammered and started hitting on an NFL sideline reporter on national TV? Hitting bottom was like that for me. And I wish Joe would stop calling.
So what’s left for me now? In golf, they have the Seniors Tour, but there’s nothing like that for old columnists. I have my AARP card, so I suppose I could devote my column to prostate and liver spot issues. Maybe I’ll just fade away — just a disgraced old columnist who looks good in a white jumpsuit.