December 20, 2012 § 28 Comments
It happened on December 13, 2012, at 10:16 PM. I would have missed it entirely had Lee Slone not posted the briefest of requiems. It was the farewell of an Internet character known by his Twitter handle as Captaintbag1. Most people called him Captain Tbag. I called him Cap Taintbag.
He accepted either appellation, and many others besides. He was a genius.
And now he’s gone, vanished into the ether, or the Home for Deleted Tweeters, or the Stumblehole of Vanished Tumblrs.
He was a genius because he did something completely new with the English language. He invented a vernacular that was idiomatic, yet perfectly grammatical even as it upended all rules of speling and gramar to create something funny, and beautiful, and most of all, new.
“There is no new thing new under the sun,” it is written in Ecclesiastes 1:9, and with the exception of electronic shifting and Prez’s color combos, it’s true. Everything that is has, more or less, already been.
But not Cap Taintbag. He was beyond rare because he was truly an original writer. He left the orbit of rarity and reached the sublime by also being witty, and powerful, and able to convey the truth in his 144-character mind-and-sight-and-sound-bites.
Hope you got to enjoy him while he was around. He was the best.
Who killed Taintbag?
Sad to say, he killed himself. His last few tweets make the reason clear: His persona, his character, his wit and his art were unsustainable.
They were unsustainable, in my opinion, because of his anonymity.
The Internet’s chief promise to many is its assurance of anonymity. All of those things you’re afraid to say because of your job, your spouse, your kids, your teachers, the police, the New National Surveillance Society, whatever…you can say them on the Internet under cover of a clever handle.
Taintbag blazed a path through the lies and hypocrisy of doping in cycling. He became an interlocutor who easily cowed and trampled the false bravado and attendant falsehoods of Vaughters and his apologists. He became a knife-like analyst who could, with a few charts and a few ungramatical mispelings, slice to ribbons the claims that Racer A and Racer B and Racer C won the Tour de D clean.
He was funny as hell, and through it all he reeked of kindness and decency and self-deprecation and humanity.
He was a wanker who you just knew was smarter at the keyboard than he was good on the bike, but somehow you didn’t hold it against him, and you loved him for it all the more.
But he learned a hard lesson: When you become a masked avenger you have to forfeit the You under the mask. You become the Dark Knight, only, since it’s reality not tveality or movieality, there aren’t any super powers or smokin’ hot wenches or fantastic successes that come with it.
You’re just an anonymous slob afraid to rip off the mask and let the You fill up the space formerly occupied by the outsized mask and the superhero get-up.
Taintbag swirled down the drain of his own creation, the dissonance between his persona and his real self eventually becoming so great that he pulled the plug himself. Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle.
I imagine that he’s a school teacher or a bureaucrat somewhere, incredibly relieved at having set his burden down. Now he can go back to his beloved MTB and tech talk, only wistfully, every once in a while, thinking about Cap Taintbag and maybe even telling himself that he can pick it back up again whenever he wants, even though he knows, I know, we all know, he won’t, and more importantly, he can’t.
Once Bruce Wayne razes the cave and tosses the outfit, he’s done.
The power of your real name
I admired and envied Taintbag. I admired him because he always took the side of right. I envied him because he was an original and a brilliant writer. He was a guy worthy of the highest praise I can muster for anyone, ever: He was a writer worth plagiarizing.
But I pitied him in his anonymity. He was ultimately a coward, a man possessed of great talent and insight and wisdom and decency who was too afraid of the truth to throw himself headlong into it, to announce himself to us so that we could thank him, admire him, and put ourselves at his feet. He had all the qualities of greatness except the one quality that would have made him so: The guts to use his name.
I’ve seen the transformative power that comes with discarding anonymity. Patrick Brady used to be an anonymous blogger who wrote under a pseudonym. One day coming back from Cross Creek I told him to quit being a chickenshit, to ditch the pseudonym, and to start signing his real name to his opinions.
He took my advice and now steers the helm of one of the most influential publications in cycling. He put aside the crippling anonymity of pseudonymous writing and let the You fill the space, then grow beyond it. That’s the power that comes with owning your opinions, with signing your name, your real one, and letting the chips fall where they may.
That’s the difference between people of character, and just plain old people.
When I read the comments that people post to this blog, and I read them religiously, I feel so much respect and admiration for those who cast aside the protections of handles and monikers and fake names and come here to announce themselves as they are, with the names given them by those who brought them into this world.
They stomp around in this Internet cycling gutter and do it in the open. They know that the real currency of real dialogue is real names.
Taintbag, I miss you more than you know. You were master of the Twittersphere, chickenshit and all. The next time you step forward, if you ever do, it will be under your real name, and no one will ever know that you were he.
But shoot me a sly wink. Then I’ll know it’s you. And we can continue on our separate ways, if that’s how it’s meant to be.
August 17, 2012 § 12 Comments
I wish Captaintbag would come out of the closet and identify himself, mostly because then I could stop having to deny I’m him. I wish I had a nickel for every wanker who’s sidled up to me and said, “Hey, dude, I saw that Captaintbag link on your web site. That’s really you, isn’t it?”
Fuck no, it isn’t me, and any idiot ought to know it isn’t.
For one, I can’t write fuggin dna spel like capn. Even if I trid I coul’dnt
For another, I don’t pseudonymize.
And for another, unlike my gasbag opinions that are founded on sand and thin air, Taintbag is a razor sharp, analytical bastard who knows the nuts, bolts, pins, needles, and science behind human performance. If you think that’s me, you’ve never fuggin ridden with me for even five minutes.
The biggest news to hit the Internet since Bukka White’s “Poor Boy A Long Way From Home” got uploaded to YouTube
Taintbag is a wicked cross-examiner because he knows his stuff and doesn’t back down. So I was surprised when Jonathan Vaughters decided to respond to him in a Twatter exchange. Of course, Vaughters considers himself a “Jedi” at indirection–his word, believe it or not–which is a kind of hubris that will serve you mighty fucking poorly when you’re lying to a skilled questioner.
Sir Jedi, in a halfhearted attempt at transparency, tried to explain to Taintbag the actual details of his doping and how it related to his career and decision to quit and ultimately cause him to become the Jedi in shining armor for clean cycling.
In a brilliant takedown of this sagging and lead-filled balloon of lies, Taintbag extracted on Twitter the key elements of JV’s explanation, and then dismantled them. Unfortunately for some readers, there were two problems with his analysis. First, it was written in Taintbagese, a language that requires years of study to understand, a special dictionary, and the ability to conjugate “fug,” and is therefore not accessible to the general cycling public. Second, although Taintbag shredded Vaughters’s explanations from a scientific and logical vantage point, there was an even bigger sleaze that didn’t receive the full attention it deserved.
So I’m going to offer my services, which is kind of like a 150-lb weightroom newbie offering tips to the 295-lb Mr. Olympia.
But since I do go the gym…
The JV post-confession confession
Vaughters admitted to doping in the Times. Then he explained on the Twatter that he had a naturally high hematocrit of 54, which limited his EPO doping to a small amount because a heavier doping regimen would have raised his hematocrit such that it would have earned him a yellow card. After locking himself into this box, Taintbag exposed JV’s contradiction that a little dope don’t help, but nevertheless that this small amount of doping drove him from the sport, as he couldn’t stand “living the lie.” Vaughters also threw in, offhandedly, that it just got “old” getting top ten placings in one-week stage races.
If that level of performance is the best you can do, he admonished the pabulum licking wank-and-file on Twatter, it’s time to “shit or get off the pot.”
Wow. And there I was hoping for a top fifty placing next week in Ontario’s 45+ bizpark crit.
And that’s when I realized that pros must really be different from you and me, even though every one I’ve ever met–and I’ve met a bunch–seem pretty flesh and blood.
And when I realized that Vaughters had made a really good point, I knew something was terribly wrong, so I did a little Intersleuthing.
How many riders in Vaughters’s current stable, I wondered, regularly pull in top-ten placings in any ProTour event, much less one-week stage races?
On the Pro Tour’s 2012 calendar, Vaughters’s squad got zero top-ten placings in the Tour Down Under, Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, MSR, Gent-Wevelgem, the Ronde, Tour of Pais Vasco, the Dauphine, Tour of Poland, and Eneco Tour. With the exception of Hesjedal’s Giro win, which was massive, the remainder of the 2012 ProTour results were a fourth, (Tour of Catalan), fifth (E3-Harelbeke), ninth (Paris-Roubaix), eighth (Amstel), sixth (Fleche Wallone), fifth (Liege-Bastogne-Liege), second (Tour of Romandie), seventh (Tour of Switzerland), and fourth at San Sebastian.
Oh, and no top ten placing at the Tour de France.
Guess it’s time for Martin, Danielson, Talansky, Wegmann, Van Summeren, and Vanmarcke, the guys with those lousy top-ten finishes, to find a new team (Oopsie! Vanmarcke just did!). And what of the bone idling, highly paid dudes who never even got a crummy top-ten? Time to get off the fucking pot and start their own transparent team dedicated to clean cycling, I guess.
In other words, that part of Vaughters’s explanation was a big, stinking pile of lying shit.
The reason it’s pointless to analyze the Jonathan Vaughters doping confession based on his NTY op-ed, his Tweets, and his “numbers”
There’s one reason only. The guy’s a complete fucking liar. If you haven’t gotten the memo by now, and your stupid hat is that tightly affixed with a chinstrap, I’m putting it down for you here in black and white: Habitual liars lie habitually.
Good. Which leads to the next step: If a habitual liar is explaining something to you that exculpates or mitigates his wrongdoing, assume that every single word is a lie unless he can demonstrate otherwise. Note that nothing in his Twatter exchange or NYT op-ed is substantiated with regard to the how-and-how-much of his doping history. It’s just his word. And what do we know about habitual liars? (Go back and review).
This methodology leads to a supplemental analysis:
- JV has a naturally high hematocrit? He’s lying.
- JV only took small doses? He’s lying.
- JV’s top-ten placings were unsatisfactory to management? He’s lying.
- JV’s hematocrit gains from doping didn’t help him? He’s lying.
- JV’s moral struggle from doping drove him from professional cycling? He’s lying.
So we’re left with a very different narrative now that we know that we’re speaking with Jedi Liar, and the new narrative goes like this:
Jonathan Vaughters was a talented bike racer. He had a normal hematocrit. When he turned pro during the Wild West of EPO use, he took massive doses of drugs with zero risk of detection. Even with a well-funded, scientifically executed doping and test avoidance strategy, and a fat salary, he couldn’t close the deal. Vaughters realized that even with a top-notch drug program he didn’t have what it took to win. He also saw the handwriting on the wall with regard to stricter drug enforcement, which would further depress his results, and increase his cognitive dissonance: Not the cognitive dissonance of a moral failing, but the dissonance caused by his fear of getting caught, and, perhaps, the dissonance of knowing that such a massive and long term drug habit might harm him. So he quit and embraced “Clean Cycling,” a/k/a Inmates Running the Asylum.
That’s the narrative, folks. And it has the added benefit of ringing true, and not requiring you to believe anything that Jonathan Vaughters says.
And now, Captain, with all due apologies, back to you…
July 5, 2012 § 11 Comments
I rarely envy the brilliance of others. I figure they worked hard to achieve it, and they were lucky enough to pick the right set of parents, and so they deserve all the glory it reaps.
Sometimes, though, someone says something that’s so profound and amazing that it changes forever the way I see the matter at hand. Take a minute and read this post by Captaintbag.
It’s elegant. It’s eloquent. And like Einstein’s theory of relativity, it reconciles a whole world of disturbing contradictions into a single, comprehensible, unified whole. Upon reading Captaintbag’s simple formula, my first reaction was that “all is now revealed.” My second was envy. My third, disciple-like, is devotion.
Stating the problem
Cycling at the amateur and professional levels has always been riven by two irreconcilable principles. The first is that cycling is sport that should therefore be played according to rules and penalties that apply to all. Sticky water bottle? $75 fine. Blood bags from Dr. Fuentes? Two-year excommunication to the golf course.
The second principle is that winners are deities.
When principles collide
These two principles lead to contradictory phenomena. Fairly applied rules means that cheating will not be rewarded. Deification of winners means that they will be deified, even if they cheat.
In the Newtonian scheme of things, sporting ethics were a constant. The quality of an athlete as a disreputable winner who cheated, or as an honorable loser who played fairly, or as a deified winner who played by the rules, could be determined by the application of immutable sporting ethics as codified by the rules, which themselves were tweaked over time to ensure that new types of play (freakish tt positions, EPO use) comported with the unchanging ethic.
Yet none of it worked. Heroes like Anquetil plainly said that doping was a necessity. Though punished for his refusal to take a dope test after smashing the hour record by having the record stripped, he remained a hero to many, even an honorable one for his refusal to lie about the demands of the sport.
The golden era of cycling, from about 1995 to 2005, was one of superhuman accomplishment driven at the point of a needle. Those most worthy of honor in that pantheon, giants like Hincapie for his record participations in Roubaix and the Tour, stand tarnished. Honorable heroes, yet tarnished cheats.
The Captaintbag theory of relativity solves all
Simply put, the Taintbag Theory of Turdy Tawdriness states that the Tour is a spectacle. Indeed, this is merely a modern restatement of Henri Desgrange’s founding principle, that the Tour is nothing if not an excess.
Sporting ethic has no role in the Tour other than as a pliable handmaiden to the brutish demands of spectacle. The Tour, as Taintbag’s formula expresses, is bloody athletes tangled in barbed wire, drug scandal, horrific crashes, noble sacrifices on cruel Alpine slopes, tragic deaths of children run over by the publicity caravan, voluptuous divas smothering sweat-drenched riders on a blow-up podium, car crashes, motorcycle crashes, snow, ice, rain, unbearable sun, cheating, lies, chicanery, backdoor deals, stage wins bartered and sold like used cars at a swap meet, and everything done on a global stage before thousands of reporters while broadcast to hundreds of millions and commentated by clowns named Sherwen, Liggett, and Roll, characters as outlandish as their outsized, drunken egos.
This, according to the Taintbag Theory of Turdy Tawdriness, is the Tour. It is not right or wrong, good or bad, hero or villain, fair play or foul. It is the violent and bloody and greedy and dollar-soaked and testosterone drenched hand-to-hand combat of crazy puppets, laughed at and cried over, loved and reviled, held tightly and discarded in disgust like just another condom whose duty is done.
Enjoy the taint. Decry the taint. Long live the taint!
April 25, 2012 § 9 Comments
Incredibly, Wankmeister’s legs were golden this epic day at Vlees Huis Ronde as he pedaled madly in his Spy Blue team kit through the anus of the Central Valley. Perhaps it was the blinding heat mixed with the nasty particulates and suffocating ozone that make Bakersfield’s air the most polluted in North America, a combination of stench, pain, and discomfort that can really only be approximated by growing up in Texas or living near Amarillo, boxes that Wankmeister has ticked off his gut-bucket list with the fattest Sharpie out there.
Perhaps it was Wanky’s new “Grind Over And Thrust” climbing technique which he has begun using to compensate for the VO2 maxiness of his betters.
Perhaps it was Wankmeister’s decision to go off-grid and just begin following the advice of his coach, Captaintbag, who, after telling Wankmeister that he should give up racing, also told him that if he insists, then JUST GO HARD.
Most perhaps of all, though, it was likely the visages of misery, suffering, despair, and disbelief mixed with the expressions of failure, humiliation, and defeat that were scrawled across the faces of everyone remaining in the lead group. Wankmeister had never lasted so far forward into a hard California road race. Here he was, surrounded by the most recidivist of the forcats de la route, and they looked like shit.
Golden legs. Brutal course. Smothering heat. Everyone else all fucked up. If the legs held, with a smattering of strategy Wankmeister could be a factor in the finish. If not, smoking all this crack sure had been fun.
We will show you mercy. Then after you look at it we will put it back in the box and kill you.
As the leaders sped up the first big climb on the second lap, Flagg of No Quarter attacked and gapped the field. Knowing that my legs couldn’t possibly hold out for a 20-mile breakaway, and that cleverness mandated conservation, I chose suicide by surging from the group and bridging the gap. We worked mightily together, with Flagg taking huge, mile-long pulls up the climb, and me taking brief, four-second pulls on the descents until the field was out of sight and a distant memory.
As Flagg of No Quarter upped the pace, I muttered, “Urgh,” or perhaps it was “Gurgle.” Whatever the sound your vocal cords make when your throat has been slit and the blood mixes with the final exhalation of air…that’s the sound I made. Flagg looked at me as I took my final, puny pull. “No worries,” he said. “You did your best.”
Then Flagg of No Quarter did his best, and vanished up the climb.
The Hand of God smites the unworthy
The field, which had once been a distant memory, now became a visible, living, breathing, fast approaching mob of the undead, with the Hand of God leading the chase. Ten thousand hundred million billion years old, white-haired, bent from the weight of the universe, bedecked in the 456 million-colored sleeve stripes on his champion of the universe jersey, THOG pushed, then pulled, then thrust the group forward until, after my ten mile breakaway attempt, I was swallowed up.
A series of droppage and catchage ensued, where I came off on the climbs and chased back on the downhills, usually with the help of Darling Todd. As we made our second and final ascent up Leibert’s Corner, the Hand of God looked back and saw the cluster of unworthy dingleberry sinners still entwined in the hairs on his rear.
THOG took out his giant Paddle of Doom and carefully inspected it for giant, rusty nails protruding from the end. Finding none, he reached into his jersey pocket and inserted several of the largest and rustiest. Then, with one mighty swat of the Paddle of Doom, THOG smacked the living shit out of the dingleberries who had, ’til then, tenaciously clung to his ass.
We were pounded loose with that one whack. The fire in my stove had gone completely out, and try as I might I couldn’t even reignite the pilot light. The other dingleberries rolled slowly up the road, dislodged from the leaders, while THOG led the remnants back onto the main road, capturing the Flagg, and bringing everyone back together.
In a matter of two miles I was 3:30 down.
The Hand of God meets the steel-toed boot of Satan
With four miles to go, G$ launched an attack into the headwind. None could follow save THOG and DJ. As the large gap filled with even more real estate, some sprunter dude gave the mother of all efforts and bridged. Just as he latched on, he took a second to catch his breath. In that second, G$ unleashed a mighty kick from the steel-toed boot of Satan.
Sprunterdude panicked and threw a chain, with G$ now hitting the bottom of the 1k climb to the finish. THOG waited for DJ to bridge, apparently unaware that the only time DJ bridges is when there are three other players at the card table and it’s his bid.
THOG unleashed the thunderbolt of doom, but too late to fend off the blow to the skull by the pointy, steel-toed boot of the devil. In a reverse of the 2011 finish, it was the devil first, the Hand of God second.
I dribbled in four hours or so later to secure 19th place, the exact same result from 2010. What a difference two years of training, a $15,000 bike, and experience make!
Back at the Suburban, Roadchamp was stitching his gums together with some baling wire, wondering why, after a 12-hour surgical procedure and losing two pints of blood, he’d not had the legs to go with the leaders. “Must have been the heat,” he concluded, carefully draping a towel around the meat cleaver trophy in the hopes that no one would notice.
King Harold came in later that night and immediately called his girlfriend to sob about the heat, the misery, the thirst, the hills, and most of all the massive cramps that soon engulfed him. We changed his didey, gave him a Wankmeister pacifier made out of granite and barbed wire, and headed home.
No one told any stories of epic danger, death, and courage in the face of utter destruction, however. We’d all just lived through one.