Of all things …
As near as I can figure it, we have — according to the sporting prints this past week — reached the apocalypse and the end of all sports as we know it because of (1) Barry Bonds, (2) Michael Vick and (3) an NBA ref who probably altered the point spread on some NBA games.
Well, golly gee whiz. Where’s the nearest bucket of worms so I can begin scarfing ’em down because my life, such as it is, is ruined?
Sorry, I ain’t buying.
The Bonds “story” is just another sordid chapter in the ongoing saga of steroids in baseball. Another BALCO guy came forward and said Bonds and Gary Sheffield took steroids. No, duh. A nation’s response? Baseball attendance is up all the way around.
(Cleveland fans, such as they are, remain pretty much in the woodwork, however. The White Sox were in town last week and the best we could do was to get between 21,000 and 24,000 of us to elbow our way into Jacobs Field. This is a town where the populace doesn’t get behind the team unless it’s eight games in front. In the dictionary, next to the phrase “front-runner,” you’ll find a fan in an Indians cap.)
The Vick story is one known semi-thug (See: past behavior) operating a pit bull tournament where the losing dog is either killed by an opponent in the ring — or killed afterward by henchmen.
It’s been a long-held theory of mine that about 75 percent of professional tackle football players are pretty much whacked out on steroids, amphetamines, protein powder and an overabundance of both testosterone and entitlement and should be kept in cages in between games.
Now don’t get me wrong. These would be really nice cages. They would all live in a gated community in mansions and condos (MTV crib-worthy) — just like they do in real life. The only difference is there would be no women in this gated community to beat up or to throw down the stairs. There would be Jacuzzis and billiard rooms and PlayStations galore — just like they have in real life.
The players would have the best of everything. The only difference would be the high fence with the curled razor wire that would encompass the entire community. On Sundays a van would roll into the community, pick up the players and transport them to the stadium for the game.
Paul Brown was onto something back in the ’50s when he herded his players into a local hotel the night before a home game.
All I’ve done is to take a really splendid idea and expand on it. (As we speak, I am imagining just such an encampment being built in the city of Cincinnati for those players who already aren’t wearing black and white striped jammies and lifting barbells in The Yard.)
Given the violent nature of professional tackle football and the amount of stress and testosterone involved, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine that extracurricular activities away from the playing field would also include violence — such as girlfriend and wife tossing, stabbings outside nightclubs, shootings outside nightclubs, disorderly conduct, aggravated assault and other police blotter stuff too lengthy to cover.
The Vick thing, given the premeditation of the conduct, is beyond the pale. So much so that the only way we can imagine justice being done in this case is to put Vick and his henchmen inside a ring with a 10-foot high wall and see how they fare when the dozen pit bulls — who haven’t had raw meat in a week and whose ribs are showing — come charging into the ring. Fair’s fair.
Last but not least, we come to Tim Donaghy, an NBA referee who got in Dutch with The Mob and had to, um … alter … the point differential on some games so he could pay back the Goodfellas.
Turns out Donaghy had been under investigation by the NBA all along — and yet Donaghy was allowed to work playoff games. NBA commissioner David Stern, at his imperial and impervious best during a press conference, called Donaghy a sole renegade while tap-dancing around any questions about what Stern knew about the allegations, when he knew it or why Donaghy was allowed to continue to work games.
To me, that seems a bigger issue than whether the Spurs beat the Pacers by five one night instead of by eight, which was the Vegas line on the game. Officiating a basketball game is the most subjective thing in sports this side of judging the scores for figure skaters.
The unwritten rules for referees are as loose and as permissive as a Lindsay Lohan night on the town: Never call traveling on a star … don’t be afraid to award “makeup” calls … lean toward the home team in the fourth quarter.
The Donaghy Affair will potentially turn the league on its head should it turn out that Donaghy actually “fixed” the outcome of who won. But if he trimmed a 10-point lead into a six-point differential by making calls, well … I think everyone can survive such nefarious shenanigans.
How many times does a team that bursts to a 20-point lead actually win the game by that margin? The team with the lead goes on autopilot, and the team losing the game puts on one of those inevitable bursts to close the gap.
Does that mean the fix is in? Don’t be silly. It’s just the natural ebb and flow of an NBA game.
For my money, and I’m not a betting man, the worst part of the natural order of things is when the ebb and flow of the game suddenly stops ebbing and flowing. This occurs in the last two minutes of the game when we have to endure the endless array of regular timeouts plus the 20-second timeouts — plus TV timeouts.
This is when the natural order of the game takes on an unnatural beat. It’s a hundred times worse than watching a Dean Smith four-corner. (Which, by the way, I would love to see in the NBA. For the record, I’d also change the 24-second clock to 30 seconds.)
Truthfully, I bet that I have remote-controlled myself away from more games in the last two infuriating minutes because of timeouts than this Irish goodfella Donaghy actually affected who won a game.
A nine-point loss turns out to be a five-point loss? Yawn. That’s betting-crowd stuff. That’s a world apart. It’s a world David Stern is aware of, but when his watchdogs saw Donaghy becoming a fellow traveler in that world, he didn’t do much about it. Instead, he handed Donaghy an official’s pass for the Spurs-Suns playoff series.
For my money, that neglect was criminal.
And now, can we all just move on to something a little more startling than the size of Barry’s noggin, a football player running a dog-fighting ring, or that a five-point loss in an NBA game should really have been an eight-point loss ?
Like, say …. how our planet is being fried like an egg on a iron skillet. Global warming? Don’t be silly. There is no such thing.
Contact Doug Clark at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of all things …