As the inventor of Craig Kilborn and the Espy award, ESPN has made its bones in the world of mainstream sport, often heard bragging to other media outlets in the locker room about how much the network and its affiliated websites and publishing divisions can bench-press. In recent days ESPN.com, a web portal operated by ESPN, has flexed its own muscles in the arena of digital journalism, publishing an online exclusive breaking story that Nick Dompierre is in the hospital recovering from a coma induced by a drug overdose sources say.
Now, any discussion of this type of topic ought to be prefaced with a note to the effect that we at Boil the Ocean Rims & Chrome Pipes plc hope the best for Nick Dompierre and his family, and that we sat up a bit straighter on the sofa when we seen the 360 flip at the end of his section in “Roll Forever.” As to whether or not the world needs to know of such things as celebrity/public figure drug overdoses is a matter for TMZ’s legal squadron, and the ethics of running an unbylined article based on anonymous sources is a matter we shall assume was debated hotly by those furry mascots that run the ESPN network, or so I understand from seeing some of their television ads. One can only guess that with the glare of the Olympics generally blotting out all other sporting at the moment, ESPN’s attention will be trained on non-skating athletes that make choices to imbibe intoxicants in and around competitive events, such as that skier bro who bummed out portions of the country a few years ago due to his lackadaisical partying ways.
On our messageboards and emails though the Dompierre item on ESPN has ruffled some feathers, though you may wonder why — we slurp up legends of pro-level debauchery like so many melting chipwiches when they’re related via Big Brother scans, Epicly Later’d confessionals or the odd magazine interview, relishing these partly because dudes like to think this is the type of heady, irresponsible freedom that your major-league baseball bat swinger or Olympic shot-putter isn’t able to discuss as openly, much less talk about the other pros there, what the cops said when they showed up and how much it cost to bail Antwuan Dixon out the next day. So even in the big four magazines nowadays it’s no big whoop to discuss weed smoking, beer guzzling, ecstasy and assorted psychedelics, and though powders and various injectables remain dicey, for those dudes that come out the other side the cautionary tales and recovery scars have become generally accepted gravitas.
In some ways it’s a little rich to get all high and mighty about this ESPN.com blurb, what when the online bulletin board system derives much of its perpetual motion from a volatile fuel composed partly of pro shenanigans, which alongside rumors of tricks recorded provides a grittier base to the constant froth over who is or ain’t keeping it real. In other ways though it smarts to see mainstream media outlets providing the type of juicy celeb-culture natterings that we’re used to looking down our collective noses toward when they are circulated on Slap. This is a raw and reddened zone, at a time when multinationals are outmaneuvering home-grown concerns to capture shrinking market share in the shoe biz, for instance, with Es and DVS on the ropes as Nike adds roster members as rapidly as Godzilla hangs the heads of lesser monsters as trophies on the wall of the undersea cave where he lies in repose until another atom bomb awakens him.
This article is also interesting in that Nick Dompierre’s “big” sponsor, a soda company, is presented as one authority on how he’s doing next to his mom, raising the prospect that big-money sponsors may have to answer in a public forum for transgressions and pitfalls confronted by the dudes they put on. If ESPN.com is enriched with flash-ad revenue from hits generated by this story, you could imagine a scenario where more such items follow suit, perhaps gathering momentum as the energy drink and footwear and sunglass purveyors nibble at their collective fingernails in the event a marketable talent is discovered in a compromising position (perhaps via grainy video shot in the privacy of Godzilla’s undersea lair), and resulting in some such talented bro ultimately getting the boot due to public pressure. If bros sign up for the soda company paycheque, are they signing up for a higher level of personal scrutiny? Is the real problem here somebody else airing our dirty laundry for us? Would the internet be catching feelings if TWS reported this on their website, or if it appeared in a hearsay-friendlier venue such as the beloved “Trash” column in Thrasher? Is Godzilla really “that bad of a dude?”