Breakdown, The Improbable Rise and Fall of The Master.
I’ve tried to write this story a half-dozen times, in as many different ways. I tried to craft a “Brian and the Boz” style comparison piece in one version, and attempted to create our own “This is Spinal Tap” in another. This tale manages to break out of every box I attempt to put it in, and I suppose that’s appropriate for the subject matter. The “Breakdown” in question is about more than a single player, it is about the game as a whole. This story is about Tapey Beercone going beyond what we expected for the first time. It is about the shattering of our understanding of our roles in the continuing life of this game. This is our Heroic Epic, our Odyssey, our Gilgamesh. Herein, I tell the tale of “The Master”. His Rise, his fall, and how he changed the game forever.
This story began, as many things in the Buckos Nation do, as a joke. “The Master had it all”, we laughed. “Money, car, woman, you name it. The world was his burrito.” And every word of it was true! Wrapped in a jest, but truth nonetheless. “The Master” was the un-contested champion of the Buckos Nation. He was the standard to which every other player was compared. Sure, some players were faster. Some could hit for more power. Some could drink harder, jump higher, and do simple math, but “The Master” could do it all with seemingly effortless grace. For those halcyon early years “The Master” reigned supreme. In the tight cloister of those first two seasons, nobody doubted that he would continue that domination for years to come. In the early half of Season Three, “The Master” produced some of his greatest achievements, including the invention of the “Bait and Swig”, a tactic employed to inebriate another player at the cost of one’s own sobriety. Those first five years were the age of myth for the Buckos Nation, and a time for heroes.
“The Master” came from humble enough beginnings, raised by hippies in the back woods of Garden Valley, California. Of course, “The Master” moniker would come later, in those days he was known simply as “Brian.” He was identified as special from an early age, as a small child he was able to tame and ride a llama previously though un-tamable. His parents took this as portent for great things and threw him headlong into his education. By his teenage years, Brian had total command of his tools. He had honed his body into a karate weapon and sharpened his mind in the tutelage of the Best Philosophers and Musicians the Georgetown Divide had to offer. Present at the legendary birth of PineyPinecone, Brian’s contributions to the progenitor of Tapey Beercone were storied and numerous. After leaving the sanctuary of Garden Valley, Brian took his talents to some sort of Polytechnic University. There he learned… something, returning for holidays speaking gibberish about electrical brains. His mind was being molded by evil robots and, after his consciousness was merged with Skynet in 2129, he became the dominant presence in the collective. But that is a story for another day.
By the time Brian ventured to The Ranch in January of 2009, he was in peak physical and mental form. He was a god among other gods. According to noted 21st century Buckos Nation historian, Saint Greg Gumbel, “Brian swungeth his Axe Handle with such finesse, he was truly the virtuoso of the hickory.” Some Buckos retained their nicknames from the days of Piney Pinecone, but on that weekend, Brian became “The Master”. “The Master” swang his way to the very top of the world, both figuratively and literally, as he was the undeniable MVP of Season 1 and 2 of Tapey Beercone, and was also a member of the Buckos Nation expedition to the Arctic Circle, where it was proven that man can live on gin, tonic, and beer alone.
The rest of the Buckos Nation, though competitive in their own right, accepted “The Master” as their champion. He was the greatest the game had ever seen, but behind the scenes cracks had already begun to form. “The Master was spending money faster than he could print it,” says Randy Newman, “He was taking batting practice from the ghost of Walter Johnson using Fabergé Eggs as Beercones.” The Master quickly fell deep into debt to the Yakuza and was forced to make several humiliating trips to children’s birthday parties to maintain his extravagant lifestyle. As Season 3 of Tapey Beercone dawned, “The Master” was poised to continue his dominance of the world of sport, but his private life was in shambles. He was simultaneously addicted to The Double Down (A Culinary abortion of a sandwich formed by two pieces of fried chicken rather than the more usual halves of a bread roll) and Bacchus Z (A North Korean energy drink purportedly made from juiced unicorn huevos and drywall mud). By the mid-season break, The Master had fallen. “He couldn’t hit, couldn’t pitch, even his angelic singing voice was ruined,” according to Sting.
These troubles were made even worse by the rise of “The Natural”, a foreigner from Placer County, who had taken the Tapey Beercone world by storm. “The Natural” was the product of intensive industrialized training. Rigorous 10 time per day training sessions, designed by former soviet scientist Ivan Drago, had built “The Natural” into a mountain of a man. 7 feet tall, he was, with arms like tree trunks, and tipping the scales at 316 lbs. “The Natural” was said to have an eight foot vertical leap, and was rumored to have been genetically engineered in a secret laboratory deep beneath the Auburn K-Mart. In a match at the halfway point of the season, “The Natural” dazzled the assembled Buckos with raw athletic prowess. His speed, strength, and drinksmanship surpassed any rookie of the time. During the match, “The Natural” nailed “Deadweight” Dave with a line drive in the ribs. Dave immediately fell to one knee. Stalwart though he was, Dave was no match for “The Natural”’s seemingly limitless power. Inebriated onlookers posited that the superficial wound may have eliminated Dave from the rest of the season, and “The Natural” was overheard commenting, “If he dies, he dies!” (Dave did not die.)
The media outlets lost all interest in “The Master”. His second album, “Plus plus Plus equals Asterisk” barely scratched the top 100. His favorite deli renamed his signature rye and turkey sandwich to “The Natural”. His dog even refused to call him “Master” any longer. “The Master” fell into a deep depression. After a particularly bad bender of Double Downs and Bacchus Z, he awoke on the streets of Mumbai, robbed and in a daze. Stranded thousands of miles from home, without a dime to his name, he was forced to revert to his birth name. Brian performed several menial odd jobs, including leading Mumbai Cricket to Ranji Trophy victory, performing in a one man show about the life of Andre the Giant, mowing lawns, and smashing pots in people’s houses.
Eventually, Brian earned enough rupees to purchase his transport back to the Buckos Nation. Upon his return he was all but forgotten, for Tapey Beercone is a fickle beast. He would have to fight his way back to the top. “The Master” rejoined the Game of Kings a diminished figure. The remainder of the season he was forced to battle his demons both in his mind and on the basepaths. Things looked bleak. As Season 4 drew nearer, “The Master” had hit rock bottom. Staring up at a Piggly Wiggly sign from the gutter of a Birmingham, Alabama sidewalk, “The Master” was visited by the astral projection of Oprah. She inspired him to get off the Chicken and Bacchus and rededicate his life to the Game.
A dramatization. The actual footage of Brian was even more bad ass!
The Master returned to Tapey Beercone in the Second Game of Season 4, and while no longer the godlike figure he had once been, his natural talent had been tempered by the fires of his trials. He played with an intensity he had never before exhibited. “The Master” was back! That Season, “The Master” took part in one of the greatest achievements the game had ever seen, the full game shutout, when paired with “The Mechanic” he blanked the opposing team that included his nemesis “The Natural”. Brian would also end the season as the first recurrent player to bat .800 for a full season. “The Master” remained a force to be reckoned with into the 2040’s. In 2041 he had his legs replaced with a horse and became the first player in Tapey Beercone to break the Centaur barrier.
The Parable of The Master is taught in schoolhouses across the Buckos Nation. His tale of perseverance in the face of personal failings is an example to children of all ages. There is reason to his being remembered as a great of the game. He kept step with giants, contributed flavor and flair to the Game of Kings, and did it in style.