I turned twenty-two in the year 1990. The wildness of my
early years had dissipated somewhat, the hormones beginning to
get a bit diluted, and I thought to myself that this would be
a good time to go for the World's Professional Slack-Ass Championships.
Age has a way of creeping up on us, you know, and I thought I'd
better do this now, before I get too old and lose my edge. My
boss at work urged me to quit and devote myself to this quest
full time. He said it was a sure thing, that I had a bright future
in Pro Slacking. That was encouraging, and with the enthusiastic
support of family and friends I decided to go for it.
So I quit my job and went into training, long days and nights
of not doing a damn thing, often not even getting out of bed
for weeks on end. This isn't easy, no, this is not a sport for
the faint of heart! Even for those of us to whom slackardliness
comes natural, competition slacking takes long years of discipline
and training and experience.
I knew I could win the big one.
Several months into my training routine, I was really coming
into form. I could feel the wonderful softness in my muscles,
the exquisite fog in my head. I could make myself do nothing
for weeks on end. I had to hire a man to come and cut my grass
for me so the city wouldn't condemn my house, make me have to
move, and ruin my training regimen. I sought inspiration. I listened
to blank tapes, spent hours, then days watching an unplugged
TV. I had posters of my heroes on my walls. A couple of times
I woke up and saw them.
I must say, all modesty aside, that I was good. I mean, I was
DAMN good! I was in my prime, I was motivated, I was ready, I
was going to show the world! I was going to bring Pro Slacking
into the public awareness. I was going to go down in the record
books as the worlds greatest slackard, the next time I woke up.
Hell, I was so good the sanctioning body let me skip the National
Slack-Offs and go straight to the Worlds. That was what I wanted.
This was almost too good to be true! I was going to be famous,
rich, sought after for endorsements!
Alas, victory was not to be mine.
I went to the Worlds. Well, I should say I was delivered to the
worlds, no way I was going to make the effort to walk over there
all by myself. Thankfully, I had a good, faithful, devoted coach
who had this marvelous full suspension gurney to wheel me around
on, with a handmade Reynolds 531 frame, chromed lugs, Campy hubs
and a wonderfully long wheelbase and relaxed geometry and 650B
tires. He could have pushed that bed all the way from Compiègne
to Roubaix in an April snowstorm, and I would never have known
a thing about it. It even had a split down the center of the
mattress, to save my manhood, long before that became the next
We went through the registration, met the officials, met the
timekeepers, had the rules read to me, and spent the next couple
of days preparing, getting psyched down, planning strategy, and
just generally not doing a damn thing. On the start day, my coach
gave me a good, totally boring poop talk, and we went to the
championship's venue ready to show the world just what epic slack
is all about. At the appointed time the official starter, a droopy
eyed old coot over in the corner, whispered “bang”
and we were off. I shuffled my way across pit road, climbed into
my gurney all by myself, for the first time ever, and immediately
collapsed, utterly exhausted.
I was doing well, confident of the win, and slacking down a storm
when a fly got into the arena and landed on my nose. It apparently
stayed there a long time, several days at least, but finally
started crawling around and found it's way to my ear, at which
point I could not lay still any longer, the buzzing in my ear
was too much. I rolled over and swatted and cursed, and that
was it for me, my run at the championship was over. What a disappointment!
All the training, all the preparation, the long practice sessions,
all down the tubes just in a moment. And that was essentially
the end of my career as a Pro Slack Ass. I just kind of lost
interest after that, and haven't felt that old competitive urge
in a long time now. Nowadays I just lay around the house, drinking
rum and decaf and looking at the TV (I've plugged it in now)
and thinking about turning it on, and reminiscing and grieving
for the big one that got away.
And the other contestants, the ones who outslacked me. They all
went on to break the existing world record times, but when the
last fellow finally woke up, he soon asked for “another”
benny. In an unusual display of astuteness, the line judge opened
an eye and asked “what do you mean 'another' benny?”
Now, it's quite common and accepted for a world-class slacker
to ask for a little boost to help get going after a long, gruelling
slack. It's frowned upon, but quite legal as it is considered
merely a “recovery” aid when taken after the end of
a competition. But this guy blew the whole game when he asked
for “another.” A couple hours later the drowzy champion
said it again, and the line judge opened both eyes and started
asking questions. The listless champion started babbling and
blubbering and eventually the truth came out...he had been doing
Now, I'm like you, wondering what the Hell does a champion slackard
do taking benzadrine, but eventually we got the full story. What
we learned is that these guys had been using amphetamines in
training as a sort of reverse carbo loading. They would get stoked
up, and keep a boiler full of steam going for maybe three or
four weeks, timing their peak so that they came down just before
the start of a major event. Then they were virtually guaranteed
a long, smooth, championship coma. It seems to work; one guy
from the '87 South East Regionals is still asleep.
A series of urine tests disqualified three of the fellows who
finished after me, and that would have moved me into first place
and a gold medal, but it took endless months for the Union Internationale
Slackiste to sort out the mess, and for the Slack Arbitration
Council to make their decisions. Meanwhile I was hungry, had
run out of money, needed to pay the guy for cutting my grass,
and had no choice but to take a job cleaning slabs down at the
morgue. When the sanctioning authorities learned of this, when
they learned that I was working, they stripped me of my professional
status and there went my medal and with it my potential endorsements
and fame and riches.
This is all very disconcerting, especially to one who believes
in fair play as I do. Part of me wants to scream out against
the dopers and cheats, but then I have to face the fact that
we all do it to some degree. What really is the difference between
cheating at the world championships versus taking a busload of
Valium to get you through your phys ed class at school? Or downing
a couple bottles of Gin just before an important job interview?
Besides, I must reluctantly admit that once early in my career
I yielded to the temptation to experiment with the dark side,
and nearly OD'd on Perry Como, golf commentaries, and Chamomile
tea. Never again!
The next time I get up, I'm going to launch a world wide crusade
against artificially enhanced slackitivity and the use of performance
diminishing drugs. I hope you'll all get off your lazy asses
and join me.
Thank you for your time.
I have been a follower of professional bicycle racing since the
early 1970's. There was a time, back in my bike shop days, when
it was fun to open a box, pull out a bicycle, and find the frame
tubes wrapped in Belgian newspaper, then find that the newspaper
was the sports section full of bike racing results! I was in
my twenties and discovered bicycle racing during the Merckx/Gimondi
era. I naively believed that doping began and ended with Tom
Simpson. Stupid me!
As time went on, though, I began to be disapointed with the ever
increasing suspicions and revelations of doping within the peleton.
Just little things at first, such as Bernard Thevenet's cortisone
injections, then Moser broke Merckx's hour record much too easily,
and eventually admitted to blood doping. Then Delgado's "look
what I got away with" Tour de France win in 1988. Then came
the nineties and EPO. How many young cyclists died from EPO use
before their handlers and "doctors" learned how to
make it work?
The athletes themselves are nonchalant about the whole issue.
I love this quote from Felice Gimondi, interviewed here:
" 'It was way too hot. At that time there were no anti-doping
controls, so we were free to take what we wanted. The anti-doping
controls started the next year, in 1966' [Anquetil led a rider's
protest against them that year]."
I've argued with myself for years now over these issues...what
is the difference between artificially enhanced performance during
the day versus artificially enhanced recovery at night? Remember
the PDM team's departure en masse from the 1991 Tour de France?
And what exactly is the difference between an athlete enhancing
his ability to do his job and me drinking coffee to get started
in the morning and then drinking wine or brandy to relax at night
in preparation for another round tomorrow? I have a glass of
wine here with me now as I write this.
This becomes a sticking point for me. Forget the legalities of
whether a certain chemical is ignored today then banned tomorrow,
it becomes a more simple matter of, "Do I compete in my
workplace to the best of my natural abilities, or do I compete
using artificial enhancements?"
Really, it's all about MONEY.
It's all about being competetive in your chosen workplace, be
it in a cubicle, in a classroom, on a factory shop floor or a
bicycle. Do you need to get your truckload home on time? Hell,
take little white pills and your eyes will be open wide...someone
will even write a song about it! Don't feel like singing your
songs in front of several thousand fans tonight? We've got something
in the little bag here that will help the music go out and the
money come in. Got an all day conference call going? Take a pill.
Can't get get to sleep afterwards? There's a pill for that, too.
Can't cope with the big bad world full of mean people? Just relax,
we've got bottles and pills and syringes to make it all OK.
We can take this a bit further...in a job market that favors
younger, sexier workers, a balding man gets hair replacement
treatments, a woman gets breast implants.
But employ an artificial enhancement to help pedal a bike or
row a kayak, jump higher or run faster than your competitors
in that particular workplace and you're in trouble...if you get
caught, that is. Some athletes can't take one little injection
without getting in trouble, others enhance their way through
their entire career without ever failing a dope test. Funny how
that works, don't you think?
It's all about MONEY.
We can dope ourselves up and down, our entertainment stars can
do it, our friends and co-workers can do it, our parents and
our kids can do it, but our athletic "heroes" can't.
Think about it.
I'm neither condoning nor condemning all of the various sorts
of artificial enhancement available to us in all walks of life,
and in all of our endeavors. I'm just sitting here thinking that
it's not a simple black/white, right/wrong matter.
Anyway, just to keep the record straight, the little story
above is not totally autobiographical...I've never worked in
©2011 Henry Slater