Why Wilt Was Right (About Sex)

by npiller88

Numbers 11,289, 90 and 91

Wilt Chamberlain famously claimed to have had sex with 20,000 women.

What often gets lost in the cascade of awed reactions (dropped jaws, admiration of teenage boys, and repulsion from the more uptight among us) is the fact that Wilt the Stilt never got married. He was a lifelong bachelor. That’s not to say his philandering shouldn’t be critiqued, just that he was never legally beholden to another woman while he had his fun.

Pause. Just meditate for a second on the magnitude of this claim. Assuming honesty (humor me), lets take a look at the numbers. Now, I’m sure its possible that Wilt began his escapades at a tender age, but for the purposes of this examination, lets assume he started at 18, and continued at the same rate up until his death, at age 63. That’ s 45 years of sex, or 16,425 days ripe for getting down with a different woman. Of course, he would have had to double or triple up several times to make the 20,000. Given that this rate is probably unlikely, we shall assume that there were a few orgies in there (because Wilt would never lie).

But this isn’t about Wilt’s impressive virility. This is about the politics of marriage in pro sports.

Deadspin recently ran a story that published the unedited, anonymous testimony from some NBA player on the subject of marriage among pro athletes, and the power of temptation in arenas of privilege, access and glamor. ESPN runs a column called “Player X,” which features an anonymous pro athlete speaking candidly about a hot-button issue in his sport. The column tends to focus on the athlete experience: What escapes the media, and what goes on behind closed doors. In this instance, the topic at hand was the Tiger Woods sex scandal, perhaps unparalleled in magnitude among similar sex scandals in sports (and particularly upsetting to many, given the sterling image Tiger boasted before his downfall) This player’s anonymous status allowed him to wax sleazy about the realities of off-the-court flirtation (and more), but the finished version came with several tantalizing nuggets redacted. The unedited copy made it on to Deadspin.

Tiger’s 15? No big deal. I know NBA players who are, right at this moment, working 15 girls–Married guys and guys with girlfriends. Guys at the highest levels.

Ok, so maybe you are all saying “duh.” But it does beg the question, why did we crucify Tiger? Maybe he was just the one who got caught. Really badly. Or maybe it was just some good, old-fashioned, self-satisfied celeb-bashing fun. But there’s no doubt that more revelations could out lesser (but still hugely famous) star athletes for egregious infidelity, to the extent that if all were revealed, the stories would cease to be “stories.” We would all be desensitized.

In my mind, Woods fucked up in one way: he didn’t sign a pre-nuptial agreement. You may think your relationship will last, but it won’t. You may think you’re not going to cheat. But you will. If I had to guess, 85% of sports marriages fall apart.

The solution, given the maddening temptation, brutal schedule, and time away from home? According to player X, who indicates that the players who are “respectful of their wives” are the ones who ask for permission before they cheat, is to open up the marriage:

And just so you don’t think I’m a Chauvinist, guys, let your wives play too. Watch her get pounded. See how that makes you feel about her. Maybe you’ll learn some lessons, make some changes. Maybe your relationship will be stronger for it.

Ok, so maybe subtlety isn’t Player X’s strong suit. But you’ve gotta hand it to him. At least he’s offering SOMETHING up as a solution. He goes on to say this, which wasn’t redacted, for good reason:

And it’s not just us athletes. You’re all cheating. You’re all getting divorced.

But here’s where Wilt comes in. One of the few athletes historically who either realized ahead of time how impossible it would be remain loyal, or one of the few who cared enough NOT to enter into a marriage, Wilt is a throwback, in every sense of the word. Tiger isn’t in his twenties anymore. But he was still young enough to remain a perfectly acceptable bachelor before he wed Elin. The same goes for every young, married NBA player who thinks he’s found true love, or worse, who marries but plans to cheat. Sadly, I would bet that given the out-sized egos pervading every corner of the NBA, down to the last scrub at the end of the bench, that the latter is the more frequent case. In any major sport, there exists the caliber of self-inflation that makes husbands believe they have a right to cheat, given what a great catch they are, what with the talent and access, not to mention the parade of groupies reinforcing their greatness in their ears on a daily basis. But Player X is right. These days, marriages everywhere fail more rapidly than middle east dictatorships. Still, Wilt’s wisdom shouldn’t be discounted: Perhaps today’s NBA players don’t have to go their whole lives aiming for that 20,000th woman while remaining a bachelor for eternity, but if you know you want to play around, WAIT to get married. At least for a while.

But love is a strange thing. There are good ones who do cheat, but probably didn’t plan on it, and might regret it (or might not). For the rest, who planned to cheat before marriage, try waiting a bit. You’re still young!

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