Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Woe to the Snake

I just got finished reading Ken Stabler's autobiography "Snake" for the third or fourth time since it came out in 1986. In many ways it's a great book, easy to read, informative, hilarious. But also, it's a revealing book. A rather full chapter is devoted to discussing his dad Slim Stabler. This was a guy who kept it all inside and reading between the lines, didn't show his love for his son. Slim was a troubled fellow with booze. We feel for young Ken who really wants a good relationship with his dad but it's unavailable except in intervals. They bond over cars, sports, but in the long run Ken doesn't feel he got everything he could out of his dad or measured up to his father's expectations, whatever they might have been. Ken was always striving to win his dad's approval. This was a motivator for him to excel in sports.

When Ken was a rookie he bailed on the Raiders training camp, bummed he was sitting third on the depth chart (behind Blanda and Lamonica), he drove all the way home to Foley, Alabama. His dad told him he'd be a fool to let the opportunity slide. After thinking it over, Ken decided his dad was right and drove all the way back across country to Raiders training camp to give it another shot. Makes you wonder if all that couldn't have just been handled with a telephone call! Anyway, Madden was irked at Snake but everyone knew the potential in Ken so they allowed him back. Things would have been very different for Raiders history without Slim Stabler around.

It's amazing the charisma, chemistry and mojo the Raider teams of that era carried. In so many ways Snake symbolizes that old guard Raider mystique. Everyone loved Snake and he fed off that to create a larger than life persona. The man got laid at will, could out drink the hardiest of souls, brush it off and go win a professional football game all in a span of a few hours. This was consistent with him as a way of life, his motor was always running. Snake does so much traveling at high risk on so many toys (cars, boats, etc.) and is drunk so much the time it's amazing he has never been in a major accident, knock on wood. Everything about him smacks of fun and a need to ride the razor's edge. Sadly, now in a different era entirely, it's those very qualities which have gotten Snake into some trouble.

People look at his recent DUI and think, "oh well that's just Snake, he's been like that for years." It's true he dug his own hole but you know what is interesting is that nowhere in his book is the word alcoholic or alcoholism mentioned, not even when discussing his dad. Other terms are used such as "the drinking" but confronting the alcoholism is absent as far as I can tell. Some 20 odd years after this book was written I wonder where he is in his own head with figuring this out. I hope he does not have a strategy to run himself into his grave from booze.

I don't preach to other people how to live their lives. I like to drink myself. We all have our vices, some of which we can quit but others are more difficult. Booze is tough to kick but for Ken's sake I hope that is the path he is on. I won't do him the indignity of re-posting his mugshot from his latest DUI arrest. Let's not beat around the bush. Ken, you look like hell. It looks like father time has done you wrong. My take is, there's still time for him to fix his life if that is what he aims to do.

You know, each of us have our threshold when we think we have had enough of our old ways. I've never met Ken or pretend to be anything than a voice from the blogosphere. I do wish anyone who has a problem with booze to understand the difference between drinking for recreation and drinking out of need. I know Ken's smart enough to see the difference.

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