I write this week's column from somewhere 30-something-odd thousand feet above the Atlantic Ocean, flying en route from Cordoba, Argentina, to Berlin. My band, Loaded, has been on a most grueling 16-cities-in-20-days onslaught that has taken us from the United Kingdom and Ireland all the way down to Chile, Brazil and Argentina.
This last leg of the tour in Germany is something I have been looking forward to for some time now: that is, playing six shows over there with the almighty Motorhead. Every show is sold out … and that is something a "lifer" musician like me still looks forward to immensely. These kinds of things -- playing with Motorhead -- are what this is all about, ladies and gentlemen.
OK. Now that I have checked in with you all, I would like to illuminate you all to a story I ran across last week in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil … and it does relate in a large way to sports.
Whether you are the pure U.S.-centric sports fan like myself or hold a more worldly view in your involvement as a fan, I think we can all agree that when the World Cup comes up every four years, we all pay much more attention to soccer. If your interest isn't piqued much by the sport, then surely some simple national pride or curiosity regarding the inane and/or bizarre news and events that take place at such a large event will grab your attention -- for instance, just how did one country add so many prostitutes when the 2006 World Cup was in Germany?
The next World Cup (2014) will take place in Brazil, and the larger cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have the bigger stadiums and, hence, more of the world's stage coming up.
On a personal note: Back in September 1984, I moved from Seattle to Los Angeles. The date is important only in that the Summer Olympics had just been there, and all the efforts to clean up the filth and crime of that city for the Games stopped being profitable to the city once those sports-tourists left. Many of the cops left, too, and when I got to Hollywood, it was once again a hotbed for unchecked vice, crime and gangs. It was all fine with me because, hell, I was only 19 years old and was up for the adventure of it all.
For those familiar at all with Rio, you may also know about the lawless and huge slum that oozes down the side of a steep hillside, stopping not far from the sugar-fine sandy beaches. It is called the Rocinha, and is famously run by "self-governing" drug cartels.
Rio itself will also be host for the 2016 Summer Olympics, and with all of this lucrative tourist dough coming down the pike to a country such as Brazil, which is one of the fastest-growing and pragmatic economies in the world right now, it seemed time for the powers that be to try to pull a "1984 Summer Olympic cleanup" type of thing.
To be more succinct, I found this little Reuters blurb in the local newspaper:
"Elite police units backed by armored military vehicles and helicopters invaded Rio's largest slum before dawn Sunday, the most ambitious operation yet in an offensive that seeks to bring security to a seaside city long known for violence.
"The action in Rocinha is part of a policing campaign to drive heavily armed drug gangs out of the city's slums, where the traffickers have ruled for decades.
"Authorities vow to continue the crackdown and stabilize Rio's security before it hosts the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. Officials are counting on those events to signal Brazil's arrival as a global economic, political and cultural power."
If history repeats itself at all, though, we probably will see a safe and pristine Rio for a couple of years. But if you are a 19-year-old rock kid in 2017, looking for a dark and edgy place in which to start a band, may I suggest Rio de Janeiro. I'm sure many of the cops will be gone by then, and it will once again be electric there for sure!
Musician Duff McKagan -- who writes for Seattle Weekly, has written for Playboy.com and has his autobiography out now -- writes a weekly sports column for ESPN.com. To send him a note, click here and fill out the form.