Saturday, July 21, 2007

Our illustrious time in sports

My cynical view...

In light of recent events in professional sports, I wanted to make a few observations on this age in the pros. Over the last 25 years athletics have undergone a series of changes due to a number of things - chemistry, media, money, new workout techniques, a greater awareness of the international market have all contributed a golden age in revenue but in all other respects, what has been created is the asterisk age.

In baseball, the writers and San Francisco Giants fans are anxiously waiting for the biggest fraud since the 1919 White Sox to break one of the games most hallowed records. Sure, the man with a reputation amongst teammates for not even eating in restaurants because he wanted to know what everything was that was going into his body, claimed to not know what he was ingesting - but still admitted to juicing. But the baseball writers expect us to celebrate this feat of aided home runs? The man should be banned from the game.

Basketball for years has faced allegations that its referees control playoff games in order to create the best "ratings" match-ups in order to increase television and advertising revenue. Now it comes out that one of their veteran officials has been implicated in a gambling ring, and may have been involved in fixing games.

That's only part of the problem with basketball which continues to have problems with high-profile players like Ron Artest and Allen Iverson who have had recent run-ins with the law.

Speaking of legal, this might have been the worst off-season in the history of the NFL, and certainly the worst since the 2000 which included Ray Lewis' murder trial and the implication of now convict, then Panthers wide out Rae Carruth in the murder of his pregnant girlfriend. In spite of the fact that the arrest rate for NFL players is lower than that of the general public, the NFL has taken some major hits.

Since New Years alone, three players have died - Denver corner Darrent Williams was shot, Bronco running back Damien Nash's heart gave out on him, and Patriots defensive lineman Marquise Hill drowned - three have been suspended for repeated run-ins with the law - Titan Pacman Jones, Bengal Chris Henry, and former Bear Tank Johnson. Add on top of that two Raiders suspended for violating the steroid policy, three Dolphins with legal run-ins of their own, and the coup-de-gras - Michael Vick's federal indictment on dogfighting charges - the NFL might be weathering more trouble than any of the other leagues this year.

That's the big three. But it doesn't stop there...

Golf, on top of the fact that the golfing press and the men's and women's tours continue to promote a young female golf prodigy who has accomplished exactly jack-squat and appears to be digressing, the sport is now facing steroid allegations.

Bicycling's most prestigious event has been marred in recent years by mass doping allegations and what has appeared to be an almost vindictive, witch-hunt like approach to rooting out the cheaters. In its earnestness to catch those who cheat, the governing body of the cycling federation has made horrible mistakes and mismanaged everything from the handling of the samples, to the announcement of the results - often casting their own findings in doubt.

Hockey has mismanaged a sport that was once one of the "big four" along with basketball, baseball, and football, into something that competes in the television ratings with things like the National Spelling Bee Championship, the Nathan' s Hot Dog Eating Contest, and, on a bad day for the following, golf.

And in a way, the smallest problem in professional sports in America lies with soccer. Ideally a sport in a given country would have a homegrown hero. Soccer has had to resort to importing the biggest name in the world - the British born David Beckham. Not quite the scandal that the other sports seem to face, but still a problem.

That's my rant...I'm sure I could have spent more time and talked about things like the disparity between the small and large market teams in baseball, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, the marketing of Kobe Bryant and his illustrious past, any one of a number of other football players, the proliferation of doping issues in track and field, and the decline of tennis in America and god knows what else if I weren't just doing this off the top of my head. But this, I think, is enough to know - We're in no golden age.


Anonymous said...

It was Hill, not Green, that died. Though I think Green has also been involved in helping out Katrina victims.

Kevin Smith said...

my apologies - you're right. My fault for blogging right after a 4 mile run...the oxygen gets a little thin going to the head. Thanks - changing it.

Anonymous said...

I read many online articles relating to the NFL and happened upon one of yours recently. This is the second post I've read of yours and so far I've been impressed. Keep up the good work.

Kevin Smith said...

Thank you again. It's always nice to have another reader.