What do Sandy Koufax and Guns N Roses Have in Common?
Today marks the 300th post in the history of this blog. That’s a lot. Probably too many. Probably like 100 too many as this blog peaked a while ago and probably should have quit while I was ahead. But what occurred to me as I stretched this thing out for as much milk as I could get was this: The things in life that are truly great are short and almost perfect and stop before they create any other impressions. Now this can encompass a lot of things, but in the realm of sports and entertainment the prime examples, oddly, are Sandy Koufax and Guns N’ Roses.
Though Kofax played for twelve seasons, nobody really remembers much about him before 1961 when he won 18 games for the Dodgers. For the next six seasons, and especially the last four, he was far and away the most dominant pitcher in baseball, winning over 25 games three times, notching 3 Cy Young Awards (in an era when it went to only one pitcher in all of baseball) and one MVP. It is a legacy of domination that has never been matched in such a period, and may never be seen again. And then, after pitching in the 1966 World Series, a season where he won 27 games, Koufax called it quits citing his arthritic left arm. So while his career totals will never be on the level of Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson or Roger Clemens, all of them would gladly trade fifteen of their years in the big leagues for one of
As for Guns N’ Roses, well, I have heard it argued that they are the greatest rock band of all time. And while I’m not sure whether or not I agree with that statement, there is a very simple reason why it is arguable: While some bands are great and continue to make music well after they are eligible to collect social security, most of them have had a bad album or five. As a matter of fact, I’d be hard pressed to think of a single legendary band that didn’t make at least one album that was wholly forgettable. Guns N’ Roses? They never even made a bad SONG. Essentially they came out with three albums (if you count Use Your Illusion as 2) and an EP (Lies) and I don’t think there’s a song on any of them that I skip. And after 1991 they never put out another record.
And not like Nirvana or Hendrix or Janis Joplin where they did it because someone died. No, they did it because Axl Rose is crazy. But maybe he knows something we don’t. Maybe he saw that his band couldn’t continue to make some of the most unique and hard-driving rock ever for decades, and saw no reason to keep on doing it. Or maybe he’s just an egotistical whackjob. Who knows? The point is Guns N’ Roses left us all with nothing but good music. There is no regrettable reunion album. There is no tour where they want to play some “new stuff” and everyone gets up to go to the bathroom. No. Guns N’ Roses made three and a half of the best rock albums ever and then said “Fuck it. We’re done.” So all we remember is the greatness.
I think money and greed keep a lot of people from going out on top. They see the opportunity to get more so they put out a mediocre product and their legacy is tarnished. I am not comparing myself to either of the aforementioned entities, by the way, just using them to illustrate a point. In my mind, the greatest things in life are almost perfect for a short period and then disappear. Leaving us with only memories of the good, and not holding on to create memories of the bad.