Last mission to repair the Hubble telescope Hubble space telescope discoveries have enriched our understanding of the cosmos. In this special report, you will see facts about the Hubble space telescope, discoveries it has made and what the last mission's goals are.
For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Johnny Damon's fame has mushroomed since Boston's World Series title.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 22, 2005
BOSTON - Johnny Damon is here today to tell you he is a regular guy.
And to tell you about the book he wrote, the commercials he taped, the big-time TV talk shows he guested on, the MTV Cribs shoot he hosted at his Orlando estate, the Fever Pitch movie cameo he made, the Entertainment Weekly magazine cover he posed for, the rock star friends he made, the weeklong wedding party he staged and the other dozen or so cool things he did.
And there's the long hair and beard that set him apart from the rest of the major leagues.
When Red Sox Nation takes over Tropicana Field this weekend, Damon will be in centerfield and at the center of attention. More than any other player, Damon has benefited from Boston's glee party, parlaying the renaissance of Red Sox success and wild popularity into his own.
If Damon was a cult hero last year for bringing his Jesus-like looks into the cathedral of baseball, he has emerged now as a full-blown cultural icon and a rapidly expanding commercial entity.
"Johnny's probably not quite a superstar on the field," Boston pitcher Bronson Arroyo said. "But he is a superstar off the field."
Some players can get so involved in outside interests they become corporate and calculated, more concerned with protecting their image than anything. In New York, critics say Alex Rodriguez is so insincere, he comes off like an actor playing the role of a baseball star.
Then there's Damon, talking about being an idiot and discussing where the next night's party is. He is having way too good a time to think about changing anything.
"I think it's been wonderful," Damon said. "I think the fans needed somebody like me. Somebody who's refreshing. Who's okay to joke about himself. Who will go bald in one commercial and pull my beard off in another. Someone who doesn't really care so much about the negativity that could be surrounding every moment."
What's funny (now) is that this all started in a very negative way. Still feeling the effects of a concussion sustained in the 2003 AL playoffs against Oakland, Damon was too lazy to cut his hair or shave during the offseason.
The reaction he got at a December 2003 players association meeting made him think he was on to something, and he made quite the entrance when he showed up in Fort Myers that spring in a hirsute way.
The look caught on, and by the end of the Red Sox's magical 2004 season, Damon was everywhere.
Grown men started showing up at games wearing wigs and fake beards to look like Damon, and women brought signs propositioning him. Other donned white robes, sat behind him in centerfield and called themselves Damon's Disciples. T-shirts with his face and biblical connections - WWJD, for What Would Johnny Do; and Johnny is my Homeboy - became hot sellers, especially among teenagers.
"It's all been very cool," Damon said. "I think the coolest thing is driving around Little League fields and seeing kids with long hair and having their own style."
As if the look wasn't enough, Damon used the postseason stage to make what turned out to be a very smart move, calling himself and his teammates nothing less than idiots.
The catch phrase not only stuck, but it became something of a rallying cry as the Red Sox came back from a 3-0 AL Championship Series deficit against the Yankees and went on to their historic World Series victory.
And it ended up the title of the hot-selling book (No.10 on the New York Times bestseller list) he wrote with St. Petersburg-based veteran author Peter Golenbock: Idiot: Beating "The Curse" and Enjoying the Game of Life. Plus, Damon appears on the cover sticking out a tongue that could rival that of KISS' Gene Simmons.
"He is the face of the Boston Red Sox," Golenbock said. "He is smart. He is ambitious, and he is uncommonly honest, which is one of the reasons this book works so well. He doesn't know how to do anything else but tell the absolute, flat-out truth about anything."
Promoting the book has led to even more attention, including a signing in New York where the line stretched three blocks and a contract clause that prevents Damon from cutting his hair until he completes his promotional appearances.
"We'll joke with him once in a while, "Hey, Johnny, turn something down,"' Arroyo said. "But I think it's outstanding."
"He deserves it," Boston designated hitter David Ortiz said. "He's a good kid. He worked hard. We're happy for him."
Damon knew going so high-profile would lead to some criticism, including a few barbs tossed by his ex-wife and former high school sweetheart, Angie Vannice, after Damon detailed some of his womanizing ways. Some Boston media kept tabs on his extracurricular activities under the label Planet Damon.
"There's a lot of people now who want to see me fail. They want to say he's struggling because he did all this stuff," Damon said.
"I was very sensitive, and I knew there'd be some drawbacks, with a lot of people giving their opinion. But I understood I'm not a controversial guy. There's nothing that needs to be hidden. I understand how my life has evolved. There's been some not-so-glamorous times. But I've definitely gone on and gotten better with every aspect of my life."
Since the end of the World Series, Damon has been a guest on Saturday Night Live, stopped by the Today show and hung out with Letterman, Conan and Regis and Kelly. He visited with the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy crew during spring training. He made a cameo in the new Red Sox love story movie Fever Pitch and did some publicity shots with stars Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon.
After being rejected by Disney for a commercial (because, he said, of his long hair), he was honored by his hometown of Orlando with Johnny Damon Day and had a thrilling experience of riding in a pace car at the Daytona 500.
He signed to do commercials for Puma in which he runs around in his underwear; for DHL delivery service in which he "removes" his beard for delivery to the Hall of Fame; for Sprint in which he watches highlights of himself on his cell phone; and - most humorously - for Dunkin' Donuts in which he is "caught" by general manager Theo Epstein putting a long-haired wig over his bald head.
And then there was his Dec.30 wedding to Michelle Mangan, part of a weeklong Orlando area celebration for nearly 200 guests that included concerts (Damon is friends with guys from Sevendust, Alter Bridge, American HiFi and AC/DC's Brian Johnson), comedy shows, golf and fishing tournaments for the guys and spa days and a "naughty" party for the girls.
Then he took a bunch of friends to Jamaica for a honeymoon party. It was a big enough deal - along with the 8-carat yellow diamond Mangan wore - to be featured in People magazine.
"Everyone who attended left there saying there was no way anything would ever top that, and that's actually what I wanted," Damon said.
For Damon, who played the first seven seasons of his career in relative anonymity in Kansas City and Oakland, this attention has been a new - and fun - experience.
"He likes that rock-star status," teammate Kevin Millar said.
Damon is 31 and in the last year of his contract with the Red Sox. With his future uncertain, he has taken the attitude - no surprise - of maxing out every opportunity and enjoying it while he can.
"I am amazed by all the interest," he said. "I also understand baseball is the reason why I'm here. If I weren't a big-league baseball player, none of this would happen. And once my playing career is over, I'll go back to being an average guy."