On your current sporting calendar, you won’t see a championship event in any of the big three (sorry, Hockey, but you’ve got to earn your spot back).
As the pages of the calendar year turn and we build toward the preclusion to the World Series, the kickoff of the world’s greatest game, the basketball World Championship and Tiger’s world domination, I want to talk about reasons.
The reasons why athletes do things.
Stupid, ridiculous “can-you-believe-he-did-that” things.
Especially lately, giving me the feeling that the world’s just a crazy, mixed-up place. And that most of the athletes listed below have been listening to Brad Paisely’s “Celebrity” on loop. Cheating The System
Floyd Landis cheated. Or he didn’t. You can sign me up to the conspiracy theory list of people who DO believe the French were so irate over Mr. LIVESTRONG’s back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back Tour titles that any American wearing yellow on the final day was going down in infamy.
That someone, somewhere paid/finagled/dug up the dirt to take the world’s most famous Mennonite down.
But whether you believe: whiskey, sex, naturally high T-levels or dehydration are enough to test positive or: protocol, the lab that performed the tests or sanity were thrown to caution in this juicy debate, synthetic testosterone IS synthetic testosterone.
And it doesn’t come from anywhere inside one’s anatomical structure.
We can lump:
Marion Jones, now officially out of excuses:
Justin Gatlin, who, like Landis, got creative with his (paging: massage therapists with steroid balm):
And Barry Bonds, who will likely channel his inner-Mark McGwire and limp out of the limelight after this season.
The big reason in this group? They had to.
Landis, done as a t-bone at a drunk grill master’s Labor Day celebration after stage 16 of the Tour, probably figured he’d get a boost from the needle. And while the merit of testosterone as an energy-enhancing drug continues to be debated, it does dramatically assist the body’s ability to repair itself.
And he was riding with a debilitating hip injury.
Jones, seeking to reclaim her post as World’s Fastest Woman, just wasn’t the same after her pregnancy and being publicly hanged in her previous drug-related transgressions.
Gatlin, the 100-meter co-world record holder simply sought a competitive edge on the World’s Fastest Human soapbox.
And Bonds? Well, he just thought it was flax seed oil to heal his ailing joints, right? At any rate, he was battling a sport/media/ghosts of baseball past bandwagon that he thought was a) racist 2) over-looking his already impressive resume III) in need of more reasons to hate him following 1998’s Summer of Sammy (and the Mac Attack).
But the biggest boosts these three – and any athlete who plays with needles like an insulin-dependent diabetic gets – is mental. It gives them a big head, all pun intended, and an aura of invincibility that manifests from feeling your best each and every time you train, play and dominate the competition.
The Value Of A Dollar
What’s a degree worth to you? The University of Phoenix (online) pop-up ads lay it out, layman’s terms: people with a college degree can expect to earn up to $2 million in their lifetime.
But that earning potential (or the exponential zeroes tagged on an NFL signing bonus, degree optional) didn’t stop Oklahoma quarterback Rhett Bomar from taking $18,000 from a car dealership he never even pretended to work at.
Greed and negligence of the same color was apparently added to the USC curricula last year, as Trojan stars Reggie Bush and Dwayne Jarrett either lived rent free or below fair market value.
How about the $100 buy-in fantasy football office league you just signed up for? That c-note to your median-income tax bracket paycheck is about the same as the millions of dollars John Daly, Charles Barkley and the world’s greatest basketball player/gambler Michael Jordan dump on weekend benders in Vegas and Atlantic City.
Biggest reason here? They can. They either don’t care or it doesn’t matter. And often times, it’s both.
Bomar has options: he can transfer to a lower division and play right away, transfer to another D1 school and sit out a year or sit out this season and hope the Oklahoma school board reinstates him. Either way, the prep standout often referred to as the second-coming of John Elway will play again. And you can bet he registers on Mel Kiper’s Draft Board in 2008.
USC may still face NCAA sanctions, but the parties involved in the Bush saga aren’t cooperating and they don’t really have to. Either way, after signing for $60 million and impersonating Barry Sanders in his first preseason action, do you think he cares?
Jarrett was reinstated after a firm wrist-slapping (he was ordered to pay the $5,000 rent sum owed to charity) and figures to be the first receiver off the board in the 2007 NFL draft.
And the casino hounds? High comedy. An ESPN The Magazine cover quote from Daly:
“Am I ever going to stop partying? Not until they turn out the lights for good.”
While Barkley, Jordan and any other athlete aspiring to be the next World Series of Poker champion may be a little more discriminate than Daly, at day’s end these guys are a contract/appearance fee/sponsorship dollar away from more than breaking even.
Sometimes The Glove Fits
Did you know that O.J. Simpson has been shopping his white Bronco story to the networks?
And not in an “behind the glory” or “where are they now” behind the scenes look at perhaps the greatest fall from grace in the history of planet athlete/actor/musician.
Like Bonds, you don’t have to get into many of the details when talking about O.J.
So why would anyone seemingly take a page right out of his playbook?
The only handoff Maurice Clarrett will take in his 6-by-9 is from the mess hall guards at lunchtime.
A history of stupid, ridiculous “can-you-believe-he-did-that” things now pale in comparison to Clarrett’s latest rush to the front page:
Five loaded guns, a half-empty bottle of vodka and a bulletproof vest at the end of a car-chase right out of a Grand Theft Auto gamer’s most lucid dream begs many questions.
And as we begin answering the “whys,” maybe we should take into account the fact that too many elite athletes say adios to reality at some point during their career.
Bankrolls and get-out-of-jail free cards can do that. Teams of posses, scientists/trainers, lawyers and hangers-on only infuse that aura of invincibility, patting backs and finding system-wide loopholes for their friend/family/client.
We’re not surprised when they push the on-field-performance envelope, so why should we be surprised when that same all-or-nothing approach spills off the field?
When the money, the cards to play and that aura burns out.
And there’s really nothing the lawyers can do.