Elmhurst Pub Roundtable

Where the beer is cold and the conversation loud...

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Two posts in one...

Post one: Why don't the rest of you try responding or putting up your ideas?

Post two: Below...

It's truly amazing, when you sit back and think about it, how many problems there are in sports today. The past few years have seen a new era of steroid abuse and testing ushered in to all major sports, most notably baseball. Officiating problems have manifested themselves in all sports, from inept basketball officials, to questionable football officials, to weird baseball umpire calls. Now, most recently, we have gambling issues. Selfish players in all sports looking for the name on the back of the jersey, not the name on the front (I'm looking at you Kobe). This hasn't been a good year for sports overall in this sense. It all brings to mind the question of what truly is the current state of sport?

In an area like Boston, it is impossible to use attendance and ratings as a factor. People would sell out Fenway Park regardless of the level of play on the field (for the most part). Same is true in New York. But overall, baseball attendance isn't strong and steroids hangs like a black cloud over the league. Families can't afford to go to games as prices continue to skyrocket. Most recently, the Red Sox have even removed all games from free television in order to solely use NESN. Even the Yankees don't do that. Basketball doesn't sell out basically anywhere any more. Why? The NBA game is slow and boring and lacks the team concept shown in college basketball. Hockey was so irrelevant that it went away for a year and no one noticed. Football continues to capture the imagination, and is only gaining strength. It is the only true sport with a defined substance abuse policy, set penalties, and strict rules. But even they could be heading for a problem should a new collective bargaining agreement not be ratified.

The athletes of today are stronger, faster, and more "athletic" in general. But over all sports, we hear about these athletes in terms of issues of race that minority groups bring up in order to bring more "equality" to athletes, coaches, and front office personnel. Seemingly, it will only be equal when there are no whites in these positions. And don't try to mention that there are less than 10% of white, american-born, NBA players or that there are no white running backs or that only 2 starting NFL WR's are white. But be sure to mention that there aren't enough African-American quarterbacks, baseball players, and coaches. Contracts are ridiculous. We pay 8th men off of an NBA bench $7 million a year and superstars over $20 million. Pitchers, who are the most prevalent players on MLB disabled lists, continue to demand long term contracts and $7-13 million to finish .500 with an ERA around 4.30. NFL players hold out regularly, demanding to get market value. It's all causing more and more pressure on the multi-billion dollar industry that is sports.

In the past week, we've seen players pull out of the World Baseball Classic, using injury as a reason but ones that came about after it was announced that International Anti-Doping rules would be used and not those sanctioned by the MLB. One of hockey's legends is being implicated in an illegal betting ring. Imagine the outcry if HE is banned from the game? Referees have taken over the story of the Super Bowl, proving that consistent rule enforcement is necessary or this is the result. The NBA had a player banned for 2 years for abuse of a substance that can only be one of the following: heroine, cocaine, LSD. The NFL saw two of its legends - Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw - missed the parade of Super Bowl MVP's over money.

So what is that state of professional sports? I would argue for the first year in many, that it is worse than it was the prior several years. These issues must be solved, most notable those circling steroid and drug abuse. Gambling must be taken a hold of with a universal policy governing how problems like these must be handled within professional sports (excluding national and state court ramifications), ask Pete Rose about that. Race relations have to get better and we must appreciate the athletes for being what they are - excellent at their position. We cannot bemoan that they're aren't enough of X and Y in this league or that. But this is where the Olympics come in. Amateur athletes...for the most part...being their for the pride of their country, to be counted as one of the best in the world. I look forward to these next few weeks and the events that will take place. There will be no cries over race, nationality, or creed. Just athletes considered the best in the homeland trying to earn a medal (and the resulting endorsement deals).


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