"Another Blog on the Fire" Michael Dashiell
Contact Mike at email@example.com
Michael Dashiell (that's me) is editor of the Sequim Gazette. He has a Bachelor's Degree from Western Washington University, has worked at the Sequim Gazette for about 10 years and enjoys writing — occasionally. He and his wife Patsene live in Sequim; their two daughters are in college. He will write about anything, but particularly enjoys sports, arts, breaking news and news-of-the-weird. He also enjoys writing about himself in the third person.
Whitney and The Kid
Published on Wed, Feb 15, 2012 by Michael Dashiell, editor
Whitney Houston and Ken Griffey Jr. Photos via Wikipedia
I can’t say I’m among the millions who are mourning the passing of Whitney Houston. All the same, it seems a tragedy that someone with so much talent and relatively young (48) would suddenly be gone, like that.
I remember — this was before Kurt Cobain changed all the rules with, like, one modestly good song — that in my youth I found Whitney was about as popular and likable an artist around. This was the 1980s. The Stones were old, the Beatles passé (hey, I was young, OK?), Madonna was just scary, rap was scarier and a guilty pleasure that hadn’t really refined itself.
Then there was Whitney. Beautiful, gorgeous voice, and by all accounts, nice. Innocent.
I’m always thinking about pop culture and how it relates to sports. For me, Whitney Houston is the sports equivalent of Ken Griffey Jr.
Let me explain. Minus a few years lag time, these two have pretty similar careers.
For a while, there was no better singer than Whitney. We’re talking six Grammy, 30 Billboard Music Awards, 22 American Music Award wins, a whopping $170 million in sales. Nice. She was a big deal by the time she was 15, singing background for Chaka Khan.
Griffey Jr.? A can’t-miss prospect by his early teens, he was a 13-time All-Star and the 1997 AL Most Valuable Player (should have won more of those, BTW). He won 13 Gold Gloves, seven Silver Slugger awards and was home run champ four times. He’s in the top 20 in home runs (fifth), total bases (12th), RBIs (15th) and is top 50 all-time in a slew of other categories. And he did it clean, as far as we know, unlike his steroid-popping colleagues.
For those home run-crazed fans that gorged themselves on the long ball in 1998 with guys named Sosa and McGwire, it was Griffey who hit a clean 56 — just five back of Maris’ record — and was basically ignored. What a shame.
For my money, he was one of the best players of all time, and at his peak, perhaps the best in the game.
And yet, they both seem like talents never quite fulfilled. For The Kid, it was injuries that some Seattle fans would claim is simply Karma for forcing a trade out of the Emerald City to Cincinnati on Feb. 10, 2000. He was never quite the same, reaching 600 at-bats in just two of his eight-plus seasons with the Reds.
Even a revisit to the American League (first with the White Sox in 2008, then with the M’s in 2009 and that ill-fated 2010 campaign) couldn’t bring The Kid back to his former glory.
For Whitney, the end seemed to start when Bobby Brown began — and this, frankly, is where the comparison falls apart a bit, if it hadn’t already. Not long after they met, Houston starred in “The Bodyguard” and, despite monstrous success with the soundtrack, her acting earned a Razzie. She had some success in the 1990s, and her acting improved, but by the late 1990s she was putting out Greatest Hits albums, a kind of death knoll for artists.
In 2000, she got nailed for marijuana possession. Rumors about Houston and Brown being linked to drugs carried for years after that, eventually admitting to cocaine use. Her commercial success, like Griffey’s on-field exploits, seemed to diminish the star.
Further, despite the commercial successes, Houston always seemed to play a bit of second fiddle to other big name female pop artists, from Madonna in the 1980s to Mariah Carey in the 1990s (Baseball equivalents? Mark McGwire or, fittingly, former beau Jose Canseco for Madonna, Sammy Sosa for Carey.)
Of course, Whitney seemed to bring plenty of problems upon herself, while Griffey’s struggles were predominantly with injuries (although there was a report of his attempted suicide at age 18). But what would Whitney’s career been had she not hooked up with Brown, the pop icon-turned-reality TV star?
In terms of incredibly talented stars who saw their greatness surpassed by crummy fate and overshadowed by contemporaries, Houston and Griffey are two of a kind.