Thursday, March 01, 2007

Sports Juice and Classic Video Games in the News Again

Well, this week we saw a federal drug bust in the on-going investigation into the distribution of illegal performance enhancing drugs. In the wake of this week's bust in the Deep South, several names have come up - Evander Holyfield, The Pittsburgh Steelers, and former journeyman outfielder Gary Matthews, Jr., who coincidentally had a career year last the suspect age of 32.

Somehow I'm less than concerned about the use of human growth hormone in boxing. The sport stopped being interesting sometime ago - but that's a whole separate rant.

The Steelers ownership right now is doing their best to distance themselves from a long-time team physician that was on the customer list of the pharmacy busted as a distribution center for the illegal substance (like steroids, HGH is only legal to possess for valid medical reasons and requires a prescription).

But the interesting one here is Matthews, who, of course, is denying any wrong doing and publicly questioning how his name made it onto the customer list. Until last year Matthews never batted higher than .276, but at 32 years old he hit .313 - almost forty points above his career high, and over sixty points higher than what his career average was before the start of last season (from 1999 to 2005 Matthews was a career .248 hitter).

I invite you to draw your own conclusions, I already know what I think.

On a related note, Game of Shadows was just issued in paperback with a new section detailing Bonds growth since joining the Giants. According to the book, based on information from the Giants (part of the reason to be nicer to the clubhouse workers than Bonds has ever been) the man's shoe size has increased from 10.5 to 13 and hat size has increased from 7 1/8 to 7 1/4. So his feet grew two and a half sizes and head by an eighth of an inch, or one hat size.

I don't know about anybody else out there, but I'm on the verge of turning 37 and I've had the same hat and shoe size for 20 years. Don't even try to tell me it's because he got bigger as he got older - I weighed 142 when I was 16. I'm 180 now. Foot and hat sizes just don't change unless you're altering body chemistry - that's not circumstantial - it's fact. You don't believe that - talk to a doctor.

Bonds apologists can continue to deny Bonds's use of performance enhancers all they like, but they should consider this one immutable fact (and this goes for the same people that defend Mark McGwire). Since the publication of Game of Shadows (and Jose Canseco's Juiced), not a single fact, not a single accusation has been challenged in a court of law. There was sabre rattling when the books hit, but no one - Not Bonds, Not McGwire, Not Palmiero, not anyone else named or implicated in these books has filed libel suits against the authors. Bonds attorney challenged (unsuccessfully) the rights of the writers to publish grand jury testimony, but never once challenged the allegations.

I don't know about anyone else out there, but if I was a pro athlete and authors were writing that I was cheating...I'd have them in a courtroom before the publisher hit the first full week of sales. Think what you want - but the lack of any attempt to recoup damages is pretty damning.

Number 9, Number 9, Number 9...

No, I'm not talking Beatles, I'm talking Pacman. On Wednesday the Tennessean, and later on, reported that Pacman Jones is now facing obstruction charges in Georgia from an incident from last year. Right now Marvin Lewis has to be breathing a sigh of relief that there's actually someone on another team that makes Chris Henry appear to be a model citizen.

I don't know for sure that this makes a ninth incident (according to the report there have been 10 run-ins with the police which includes four arrests), or if this was reported on as one of his eight since entering the NFL, but I do know that we're looking at Lawrence Phillips territory here. Phillips, for those who don't recall, was a talented athlete with enough off-field problems that the Rams, who drafted him, kept him on a short leash before cutting him.

In a three season career (1996, 97, and 99) Phillips was cut during his second season due to his issues. He played his most in his rookie year, playing in 15 games, then was cut by St. Louis after 10 games in 1997. Was subsequently signed by Miami and was cut after two games. No one touched him in 98. In an effort to restore his image and get one more shot he played for the Barcelona Dragons in NFLE. San Francisco gave him that shot but he appeared in only eight games for the team by the Bay.

In subsequent years he spent time playing for teams in Canada, but was cut by both for insubordination.

The nature of his off-field transgressions? Multiple run ins with the law for assaulting women (including domestic abuse charges) and sometimes children. His fate? He's facing 20 years in prison after his 2006 conviction on seven counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

It's hard not to see Adam Jones heading for the same fate.

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