Tacked to the corkboard that hung on my bedroom wall throughout most of my childhood was a giant poster of Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco. The caption on the poster read, “The Bash Brothers” and McGwire and Canseco were dressed in fedoras and black Ray-Bans, a la the Blues Brothers. At the time, McGwire and Canseco were the two hottest ballplayers in the Major Leagues. They were both with the Oakland A’s. I wasn’t an A’s fan per se, but I loved baseball in general and I loved that McGwire and Canseco were so much larger than life. That turned out to be true in more ways than one as almost two decades later Canseco himself, of all people, revealed that both of them (along with a bunch of other big-time major leaguers) were filled with more juice than a dump truck full of grapefruits.
I posit that human history has necessarily entered an age beyond heroes. Perhaps we, as a species, have outlived our use for them. Perhaps that’s for the better. Heroes in the American sense of the word, at least: seemingly infallible Earth-bound Ubermenschen who possess no discernable faults. They’re the people we want to be like, but they’re also the people we realize, with simple glances in our bathroom mirrors, we’re actually nothing like. And since we can’t be like them, since we can’t join their ranks, we do the next best thing. Worship them. But there’s the inevitable (and why, oh why, don’t we understand just how truly inevitable this is?) cataclysm—the crime, the fall, the bust, the sin. Who needs a god who needs steroids to slam homeruns, the boyhood equivalent of watching the Red Sea part? With even one speck of failure on their burnished faces, pilgrimages to their shrines—ballparks in the case of McGwire and Canseco—become an exercise in self-delusion. So it may be that quitting them altogether is the most righteous response.
I also had a collection of, watch this, Bill Cosby records. I’d hunt for them in thrift stores and independent record shops and buy them up as quickly as I came across them. And not only did I buy them, I listened to them. A lot. Sitting cross-legged on the floor for hours in front of my parents’ big record player. Recently, I mentioned to a friend my squeamishness at even admitting to owning such a collection given the rapist label that’s (let’s face it, probably appropriately) attached to Cosby these days. I understand he’s innocent until proven guilty, but as more and more allegations come out…well, let’s just say the math is working against him. My friend said, “He’s still funny.” So what if he is? I’ve been forced to become a Cosby-atheist. Those records will sit where they are: in some dark place collecting dust. Let that vinyl return to the earth from which it came.