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Bill's Bitchin'


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Dear Reader:

I was a little puzzled by Bill Wyman's review [Hitsville, May 20] of my article on Kurt Cobain, suicide, and sport that appeared in the May 15 issue of the Chicago Tribune. While I welcome intelligent debate on any subject, I am curious as to what got Wyman so bitchy about a 900-word essay that basically asked if there was anything that might have prevented one of the world's brightest young rock stars from taking his life.

I speculated that the best parts of the sports world--teamwork, discipline, nurturing instruction--might have been of benefit even to a tormented poet like Cobain. The worst aspects of sport--domination, subservience, repression--help no one, of course, and I have written often about this fact.

But there is a structure to games that seems to help athletes cope with bigger problems. NBA player Brian Williams, for instance, was suicidal last year, but his sport, his coaches, and his teammates helped him get treatment for his depression and become productive again. In rock, who tells the superstars no? So you overdosed on drugs, just cancel the concert. Cobain's people made many excuses for the star, even denying that his near-death in Europe several months ago was a suicide attempt. The glorious freedom of rock is also its biggest pitfall.

I didn't suggest that Cobain should have been a jock, as Wyman seems to think. I said, rather, that athletes "find shelter in the fabric and discipline of their game." I only wish Cobain could have found similar comfort.

Beyond his misunderstanding of my point, Wyman used some words that I found unusual. I haven't seen "addlepated" since Dickens, for instance. And "barf"--whoa, the creativity. But as the old saying goes: those who can, write; those who can't, be critics.

Rick Telander


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