Say it ain't so, Lenny

Venezuela's Magglio Ordonez got the support of President Hugo Chavez, who admonished Venezuelan fans for booing the major-leaguer during a World Baseball Classic game.
Venezuela's Magglio Ordonez got the support of President Hugo Chavez, who admonished Venezuelan fans for booing the major-leaguer during a World Baseball Classic game.
Posted: March 17, 2009

About a year ago, HBO's Real Sports did an interview with Lenny Dykstra. You remember the one. It painted Nails as the world's most unlikely financial wizard - a self-made, successful (and less craven) version of Jim Cramer.

In the piece, Dykstra hobbled around and mumbled a lot, but he seemed to be doing awfully well otherwise. He had an expensive house and expensive cars and traveled on pricey private jets. It was an upbeat tale about a guy who once meant so much to this city. I remember being happy for Dykstra after the Real Sports piece ran. I remember being proud that he once played for the Phillies.

I don't feel that way anymore.

Yesterday, GQ magazine released the online version of a much-hyped story about Dykstra. It was written by Kevin Coughlin, a former photo editor for Dykstra's magazine, The Players Club. The piece - titled "You Think Your Job Sucks? Try Working for Lenny Dykstra" - is either a gross, unconscionable case of libel, or a raw and revealing look at a deeply flawed man. Unfortunately, I suspect it's the latter.

The story alleges that Dykstra scammed employees out of tens of thousands of dollars (if not more) and that there are "roughly a dozen lawsuits" pending against him for failing to pay outstanding debts. The most repulsive part of the story, though, details Dykstra's alleged fondness for casually employing racist, sexist and homophobic remarks.

Coughlin outlines a meeting between himself, Dykstra and a gay page designer for the magazine in which Dykstra described a layout using a homophobic term. Coughlin writes that Dykstra later made fun of the gay employee with an equally offensive slur. Coughlin also claims he and his wife had a speaker-phone conversation with Dykstra during which Dykstra used a racist term and a sexist one when saying that no one can call him a racist because his first four covers featured three African Americans and a woman.

If you're wondering, Derek Jeter, Chris Paul, Tiger Woods and Danica Patrick appeared on the first four covers of The Players Club.

Yesterday, Dykstra emphatically denied the allegations made by Coughlin. He called them "lies." Maybe you believe Dykstra, and you think he's being viciously attacked by a disgruntled former employee. Maybe you want to give him the benefit of the doubt. I can't do that. Not anymore.

We've known for a long time that Dykstra isn't perfect. No one is. But, in the past, I was always willing to overlook his mistakes, no matter how appalling. When I was growing up, he seemed to be the personification of Philadelphia - tough and undersized, unapologetic and unvarnished. It didn't matter if he crashed his car in a drunken-driving accident after John Kruk's bachelor party - nearly killing himself and Darren Daulton - or if he credited his amazing off-season physical transformation to "vitamins." At the time, all that stuff could be excused as an outgrowth of the Macho Row era.

Problem is, his boorish behavior and impish explanations never stopped. A few months back, when a private-plane company called Halcyon Jets accused him of bouncing a $7,000 check, Dykstra tried to laugh it off. "That's my [expletive] ashtray money," he told reporters.

That's Dykstra. Flash a crooked smile, toss out a few "bros" and "dudes," add a one liner and wait until all is forgiven.

That used to work. It used to be charming. Now it's just sad.

Last week, I wrote a piece about the World Baseball Classic being a sham event dependent on artificial national pride. At the end, I jokingly suggested that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez would somehow get involved, thereby pumping more hot air into the WBC balloon and giving the media a new contrived controversy to cover.

And you know what? Yeah, that's pretty much what happened.

Over the weekend, Chavez criticized fans for booing Venezuelan outfielder Magglio Ordonez during a WBC game in South Florida. Apparently, the fans down there weren't thrilled with some of Ordonez's pro-Chavez, pro-Communist comments, so they decided to heckle him for, oh, the entire game.

"Everyone has a right to think about politics," Chavez told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. "This is shameful. [Those fans] have no shame."

As it turns out, neither does the WBC. Between Chavez and the mercy rule, someone needs to shut this thing down, pronto.

First Hank Baskett went on Snoop Dogg's MTV show Dogg After Dark, then DeSean Jackson recently made an appearance. I guess being part of the Eagles organization means Snoop will ask you to be a guest. If there's a God, Joe Banner is next in line. Watching Banner and Snoop interact would be can't-miss television. . . . MacGyver the movie is reportedly in the works. If they actually end up making the film, I'll be there opening night. I've seen every episode (and the made-for-TV movies). I'm not sure whether I should be proud of that, but it's true. . . . I still don't see why ESPN The Magazine's story about Candace Parker and her C-cups is such a big deal to some people. . . . So much for Troy Vincent getting that NFLPA gig, huh? . . . Yikes. When it concerns the ace of the Phillies' staff, you never want to see "soreness in his left elbow" and "examined by a team physician" in the same sentence. Get well soon, Cole Hamels.


Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or gonzalez@phillynews.com.

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