Losing our religion

I questioned the reaction of the NCAA and pro leagues like the NFL to Delaware’s decision to legalize sports betting, but after reading this passage from a review of Selena Roberts’ book on Alex Rodriguez, I have a greater appreciation for why they’re raising a ruckus over it:

… Steroids have been the most serious blight in the history of the game because — unlike the gambling and cocaine scandals of the past — for more than a decade these drugs, acquired overseas in poor countries or from desperate AIDS patients (as Ms. Roberts and others have documented), fundamentally destroyed the integrity of competition.

You read that right.  In this guy’s mind, Mark McGuire was a greater threat to the integrity of baseball than the Black Sox.  That’s one breathtakingly stupid argument.

Don’t misunderstand.  I’m not defending steroid use.  The health risks are documented.  There’s certainly an issue of fairness to those who don’t attempt to enhance their physical abilities by using them, too.

But that doesn’t come close to being in the same (forgive the pun) ballpark as players fixing games or shaving points.  The only thing in common is personal greed.  Guys that take steroids do so to gain an advantage in their play.  Even if that’s done solely for the goal of personal improvement to get a better contract or merely a starting job, presumably it has the additional benefit of bettering the team.  Fixing games or points does quite the opposite.

And that’s something that organized sports simply can’t tolerate and survive.  If a sport is widely perceived as being corrupted by gambling and result fixing, it ceases to be competitive in the eyes of its fan base.  Oh, it may still exist in the sense that there’s a product on the field that some people will watch, but you can say the same thing about professional wrestling.  In other words, it’ll be entertaining, it will employ athletes, but it will no longer be a sport in the true sense of the word.

And that’s nothing short of death for baseball, or – thinking about what’s going on at Toledo right now – college athletics.  For someone like Dawidoff to miss that point is very sad.  And I guess he and others like him need to be reminded of that now and then by the NCAA and the NFL, even if the reminder takes the form of a lawsuit or a postseason ban that seems ineffectual on its face.

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UPDATE: I probably shouldn’t laugh about this, but I can’t help it.

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2 Comments

Filed under Crime and Punishment, It's Just Bidness, Media Punditry/Foibles, The NCAA

2 responses to “Losing our religion

  1. Joe

    The reason why the NBA can never reach it’s full potential and why it is not doing well right now is because of the obvious corruption among its officials.

    Of course, there have long been the “Patrick Ewing” theories, but the Donaghy thing opened the lid on what hardcore NBA fans have realized for a long time.

    I went to one of the Hawks’ playoff games against Miami. Of the three refs, one was 70 year old Dick Bavetta and another a 5’4″ woman. Seriously, who on earth thinks that those two can possibly keep up with the greatest athletes on earth? It is absolutely ludicrous.

  2. Dog in Fla

    MLB players under the nose of their players association, team owners, managers and a commissioner who is a team owner, have gotten away with fixing themselves for years. The commissioner blames it on the union. The union blames it on the owners for allowing themselves to run a pro league with no meaningful doping tests.

    While there’s no law or rules and regs against it line may not rise to the level of point shaving or crooked referees, it still provides unfair uneven competition between teams that have more fixed players.

    From Tony LaRussa not knowing anything about Mark Maguire to Joe Torre not knowing anything about Manny Ramirez. With various owners and managers not knowing anything about Sosa, Bonds, Clemens, Palmiero, Canseco, Giambi, and an A Rod and the other 100 undisclosed players on the same list as A Rod in between. Shocking.

    If it can get you $25M a year like it did for Manny, who loses $7.5M for a fifty game suspension, but will be welcomed back, where is the incentive not to do it.

    With little or no enforcement, why not take the risk because, thanks to better living through chemistry, the designer substances keep evolving faster than the testing. MLB will soon be like pro wrestling or the Belgian bodybuilders. Mickey Rourke can do the announcing. MLB would rather be like this than the NFL, which for all its faults, has strict substance abuse policies to keep the competition more predictable for its constituents, those who bet on it.