Friday, May 15, 2009

The Dark Ages of Sport

Manny Ramirez of the Los Angeles Dodgers is just the most recent example of what's wrong with professional sports. Though TV ratings and gate receipts will say otherwise, the aura of walking into the stadium or turning on the game for a favorite sport just isn't the same.

In case you haven't been keeping up, here's a quick update on America's beloved sports leagues:

America's past-time (baseball) is being overrun by tiny testicled, huge cranium'd bodybuilders who are sending the MLB's credibility down the shitter. The NBA has a lack of competitive disparity (there's no Cinderella Story), yet an overflow of ego ('roid rage?). Too many burly NFL athletes (steroids?) are putting themselves in the spotlight ... of a police squad car, that is. The NHL ceased to exist (What? Wait!? The NHL is still around?). The MLS is the jayvee league of pro soccer (maybe they need steroids!).

And yet, most every athlete (with the exception of MLSers) lives within an almost separate realm of existence. While most Americans are facing paycuts or unemployment, athletes (alongside their greedy agents) keep digging deeper into the owner's pockets (I know, it's the owner's fault for conceeding); there's rarely a half-way decent role model in the bunch; and what "grinds my gears" more than the rest is how athletes are seemingly above the law.

Jason Giambi, Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez are KNOWN steroid felons, and yet, despite a slap on the hand and some name-bashing in the media, repercussions have been few. These "athletes" have made millions of dollars from lying and cheating. And yet the powers that be in the MLB, do absolutely nothing. So Manny is suspended for 50 games without pay. Great. But what about the last 5 years of his career? How about recouping some of those funds, which come from fan-paid gate receipts, fan-purchased product and taxpayers?

I know it's a stretch, but how different are Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez from Bernard Madoff? Aren't steroids baseball's version of a Ponzi scheme? Cash by the carload has been arriving in the bank accounts of these undeservedly accomplished athletes, fooling owners, investors and fans alike into spending money to keep them around, and instilling faith through PR agents that all is just and fair.

Maybe baseball needs to go the way of the former WWF and stop touting their sport as a sport. It's no longer pure. It's no longer legitimate. It's a bunch of juiced-up freaks using needles and hormones to mask the truth. Something needs to be done. Most every big name they try to tout as the best in the business, those heralded as "what's right with the sport," turn out to be a fraud (see McGuire, Mark; Bonds, Barry; Sosa, Sammy; Clemens; Rodriguez).

In my mind, the biggest downfall of this egregious development is that it makes me question whether the problem stops with baseball. Is Tiger Woods juicing? He's got quite a bit different frame than most every other player on tour. Rafeal Nadal? The kid avoids injuries and has more "oomphf" is his backhand than most have on a serve. LeBron James? They say he's just a rare, exceptional human specimen; maybe he's just downing HGH with his Vitamin Water.

These days, who's to say? I used to believe that I was witnessing one of the greatest eras of sports in history. Now, I'm just waiting to wake up from the nightmare that it has all become.

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