Are Pro Sports Now Just Professional Wrestling?

Sparks Of Insanity By Vinny "Bond" Marini Monday, July 31, 2006

Yesterday most Sundays, I sat down to watch the Sports Reporters on ESPN at 10:00am...I love the format of this show and most times I love the reporters they have on. The format reminds me of the show I used to be a panelist on when I lived in Boston. It is filmed "live' and broadcast without edits.."live" as it happened.

So, yesterday, one of the subjects- of course - was Floyd Landis and his positive testosterone test after the Tour de France as well as Justin Gatlin and his flunked test. Which of course, led to talks about Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Raphael Palmiero, Jason Giambi, Lyle Alzado , Ben Johnson the rest...

They hit on the subject and it got me to thinking about sports and the way we watch them and have watched them and will watch them.

How long have our sports "heros" been using these performance enhancers? It is way longer then most of us want to believe. Whether it is the "greenies" the baseball players used, to get up for a day game after a night game or for the second half of a double-header. Football players taking cortisone shots during a game to be able to play and eating pain-killers by the fist full.

Now it is steroids and human growth hormones..and it is not only baseball. Lyle Alzado died of a brain tumor.. the result of years of steroid doping. Who knows what is happening in hockey, basketball, tennis, soccer and even golf? Sports Illustrated, in it's Golf Digest special section, has been running this comic about a golfer named Stik Stikowski, who was tired of being out-driven by the other pros, so he ends up on steroids...not too far from fantasy I bet...And of course, now cycling and track and field are back in the spotlight.

So, the question was asked..and I had a hard time answering it...

How do we accept sports now?
My whole life, sports was something you put on and never knew how it would turn out - well OK, sorry...except for Jai Alai and the trotters...both "sports" where the outcome is determined before the beginning of the match/race - IMHO. No matter the sport, the results were always unpredictable and you felt everyone was on the same playing field.

Now, do we look at mainstream sports the way we look at professional wrestling (which has always been a hot-bed of steroid abuse) - or like going to the movies or a play? As just an entertainment vehicle with no real mental or physical response to the outcome?

Look, Jason Giambi, never said what he was apologizing for, but he did apologize. Then he continued playing and showed he could still be one of the dominant players in the game without the steroids... Mark McGwire could have been also - he was big...hit homers and was a great ballplayer...The man averaged 40 home runs a year from 1986-1996...then all of a sudden began hitting 70! Why was it needed...ego? Well how does the ego react to the baseball world shunning him now?

Barry Bonds
was headed to being the best ballplayer of his era...until he began taking steroids and ruined his reputation. Why did he take them? Because he was jealous of McGwire and Sosa and their home run chase! Funny...on the show yesterday and up until this point, Sammy Sosa's name was not mentioned. He slipped into oblivion...another player destined to have his name enshrined. One who always seemed to be so fan-friendly...then...the corked bat and steroids and slink away he did.

There must be a better way for out major sports to patrol themselves... Maybe by joining together to find better ways to test for the illegal substances. Basketball has always been lax on marijuana...and I tend to agree with that. Why make issues like the NFL has done with Ricky Williams over marijuana when you turn a blind eye to steroids and the overuse of painkillers? Where is the logic in that?

Then there is this portion of the tale.... Next year, Mark McGwire is going to be on the ballot for induction into the Baseball Hall Of Fame. Also on the ballot will be Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn, two major stars, who both played their entire careers in one city and who are the epitome of what an athletic hero should be. They played hard everyday, never made excuses, loved the fans and played clean. The fact they even have to share a ballot with McGwire is painful to me.

I have read many stories and it appears the Baseball Writers of America (those who vote for the Hall Of Fame) will not induct McGwire his first year. His recent fluffing off of the steroid issue, once again, makes me not want him ever in. The worst thing that could happen is to have mark McGwire standing on the stage at Cooperstown, NY, next July accepting his induction along with these two superstars.

I have always said Pete Rose (after admitting he gambled on baseball) should be allowed to be in the can not dismiss his records (all clean it appears)...But I would never allow him to have anything to do with baseball again. With McGwire, I do not want his records in the Hall- they are tainted...and he has ducked all responsibility and hid behind retirement.

Is there a way to solve this? I really don't know...but I do know I will continue to try and watch sports without the constant thought of "Well, what did he/she do or take to enable that to happen?"

Remember .. Nets For Malaria - - find the big SI's Nothing But Net logo ... Or call 202.887.9040. Every cent goes to buying nets to place over the beds of children in Africa to stomp out Malaria. PLEASE HELP.

Keep that spark of insanity kids...It helps keep you an individual.

7 Of Your Sparks

  1. Diana Says:
  2. Hun,

    Sports for me as a child (not that long ago) was surrounded by wonderful memories. My mother, father and I would sit together and watch the baseball games of old, and cheer on our favorite NY teams. However, one thing that I've noticed that the loyalty for a team is not longer there, the only loyalty is the almighty dollar. Therefore, many players such as Bonds and Landis, feel that doping will get them to a better place in the eyes of America and make them like the heroes of old. What they don't know is the records they break are meaningless because they did it by cheating. Heck, Babe Ruth hits so many homeruns, and I believe he was drunk half the time.

  3. Pete Rose...oh yeah...LOVED to watch him play! World Series between the Reds and the Red Sox...first year I sat down with my dad and watched baseball.

    Cal Ripken - love that man! What an example he is to young people! Several years ago, while visiting family in MD, took my son to see the Orioles play...and Cal hit a homerun his first at-bat. I couldn't have been more thrilled!

    Yeah, it's a shame...none of us can watch sports the same way any more. What are they taking? How are they cheating? Why has it come to this? Sheez.....

  4. Angell Says:
  5. I've been giving this same arguement to people up here for years.

    Thanks for the concise arguements.

    I can always count on you to make sense.

  6. Turnberry Says:
  7. WOOOOO--would really love to hear about the TV show!!!

    The piece is very well done Vince--clearly you care about this subject and the writing just flows. Can't agree with you more about Bonds, McGwire and Sosa.

    I love baseball--despite the spoiled brat nature of it's current "stars"--still love the game--hence my love of the minors. However--this idea of baseball as a 'virgin' game---oh my

    The heritage of baseball is anything but....I embrace the reality of the game--it's rough and raucous history-it's tension and passion-the quiet-the timelessness of it all

    That is what makes me so sick of the drugged ones --who would rob it of that very spice --the unpredictability--and try to make it some pumped up McDonald's version of a game.


  8. Anonymous Says:
  9. You already know that I regard organized sports with a somewhat cynical eye, Vince. I see the hero worship in kids' eyes and I worry what kind of signals these clay icons are sending the impressionable youth today. Not my best day for thought. Sorry. Just wanted you to know I read it.

  10. damm Says:
  11. Maybe we are making the wrong people our hero's.

    p.s. turn is a suck-up, and landis..say it ain't so

  12. Turnberry Says:
  13. Waiting to see with Landis--you just never know

    P. S. At least I'm not a LURKER


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