Commentary

A big step into Jim Rome's jungle

Originally Published: March 27, 2012
By Duff McKagan | Special to ESPN.com

RomeAP Photos/Ben LiebenbergDuff McKagan says Jim Rome's talk show has been like listening to a friend for 17 years.

Most of you may know of my personal story. You know: rock guy, booze, drugs, more drugs, yet more booze ... and then the eventual fall into the hospital. The hospital was a brutal chance for me to get a peek inside my mortality. Hello, reality. Hello, fear. And hello, trying to figure some stuff out, without the bottle and the powder and the pills.

"You drink, you die," said the doctor, after I got clear of the possibility of actually expiring there in that triage ward in a Seattle hospital. OK. What now?

I got back to Los Angeles a shaky, terrified mess. My body was beat up, and my mind was racing a million miles an hour. Panic.

One of the first things I tried was to wake up at a somewhat-normal hour. Say, 7:30 a.m. I mean, what does everyone else do? They get up early and do stuff, right? Except my workday didn't really start until 9 p.m. Oh, well, I'd get to that later.

One of the things I did to stave off the shakes from the get-go was to get on an old and rusted mountain bike that was somehow in my garage and just ride. Because there was fear of what I'd do to myself if I wasn't riding (i.e., drink!), I thusly rode for eight freaking hours a day until I was just too exhausted to do anything but eat some food (a novel idea) and drink water (something I hadn't done EVER for the previous 10 or 11 years). I was 30 years old and starting from absolute scratch.

In my quest to be "normal," or at least try, I began to listen to this sports radio show with some dude named "Rome." I have always been a huge sports fan, but more of the pedestrian and "homer" sort. Jim Rome brought a style and youth to sports talk down there in L.A. It wasn't provincial, and he took no prisoners. It was "punk rock," if you will. This show became my focus of those first days and months of sobriety. I'd be entertained by the "clones," as Rome's loyal listeners and callers are known, and riveted by Romey's guests. The show became a clarion safe place to temper the pain and struggle of what I was then going through.

As a result, I still listen to the show some 17 years later and hold it in high regard for something much more than just sports. Rome gets us through things. Things like having kids. Things like putting up with dummies in our daily lives, with a whole, heaping truckload of humor and innuendo. Thanks, Jim. Thanks, dude.

And thank you for getting us through 9/11. Sure, media of all types swerved away from their usual programming for those days and weeks following the attack, but Rome brought a humanness and emotion that spoke seemingly to all of us. It was real and brutal and deep. Those pregnant radio pauses when Rome had to gather himself were poignant beyond words.

And more to the point of why I am writing all of this stuff right now: As it turns out, I have been on a sort of media blitz for my book as of late. I've done "Good Day LA," KROQ (and about 30 other FM rock morning shows). I've done newspaper interviews and weekly newspapers interviews.

But it wasn't until I was confirmed to do the Jim Rome Show last Thursday that I kind of "gripped." I mean, hell! What if I was one of those unfortunates who froze up and Rome gave the buzzer shutdown to? What if the "clones" piled on? I was going to do this thing no matter what and at least try to convey to Jim what his show has meant to me.

We ended up having a great conversation, and he gave me the time to settle down and just talk. He made it feel like I was talking to an old friend, which is how I saw it, anyway.

My wife told me later that day that I had gotten, like, "a billion" new Twitter followers. When I went online to see for myself, I was overwhelmed by the "clones" of Rome's show. Dudes (mostly) who were all pulling for me to some degree. It's pretty cool to have "Jungle Karma" now. It makes me feel a bit more comfortable writing about sports here.

Ah, hell ... who am I kidding? I don't write about sports here. I write about that other stuff. The heroes. The in-between stuff. And yes, my Seattle teams ... which could use a little Jungle Karma themselves.

Musician Duff McKagan -- who writes for Seattle Weekly, has written for Playboy.com and now has his autobiography out -- writes a weekly sports column for ESPN.com. To send him a note, click here and fill out the form.

Michael "Duff" McKagan, a founding member of Guns N' Roses, writes a weekly column for Playbook Sounds and is a passionate sports fan. McKagan is currently playing in Loaded and Velvet Revolver, is a prolific writer, including an autobiography, "It's So Easy: And Other Lies."