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SPORTS

SIDELINE
Observations, Opinion & Occasional Silliness by Richard L Gale
August 6, 2013



MLB not alone with PED Problems
...so why do I care less about infractions in the NFL?


So the MLB finally dropped the other shoe on PED cheats. At least, they've pointed some fingers, found somebody they can make an example of and played the 'bringing the sport into disrepute' card, meaning they don't specifically have to wave a vial of blood as proof of anything. But it was at least time to act. Long overdue, in fact.

Yes, unless your eyes deceive you (and I'm not sure myself) Sideline has returned along wih the NFL preseason, and has immediately directed its attention to... baseball?

Let's face it, it's a rare occasion when baseball can steal the thunder from football, and if even the BBC News team are stumbling around trying to find out what part of baseball 'A Rod' is used for, I can at least acknowledge there's something out there other than football.

And footballers don't use PEDs, right?

In case only baseball suspensions make the news where you are, Ravens CB Asa Jackson has been suspended for eight games, Vikings OT DeMarcus Love four games, Raiders WR Andre Holmes four games, Washington DE Jarvis Jenkins four games, Giants Will Hill and Brandon Collins, Colts Weslye Saunders and LaVon Brazill, Browns WR Josh Gordon, Rams RB Isaiah Pead...

In fact, the NFL has over a dirty dozen players of its own on suspension for performance-enhancers going into the next season.

So why does the 211-game ban on Alex Rodriguez demand worldwide headlines? We've been waiting for A-Rod to be slapped with something for ages. He'll fight it, he'll wriggle, after all, the proof isn't out there for all to see (although A-Rod admitted to using banned substances from 2001-2003 in an ESPN interview). But after what sports fans have been through with Lance Armstrong, protestations of innocence are getting old. Maybe that's the news subtext here - 'American sportsmen are pumped-up fakes' - is that the glee somewhere beneath the surface when overseas newspapers momentarily report the scandals but rarely the scorelines?

But while A-Rod's association with anti-aging clinic Biogenesis of America suggest to me the taint of a league gone bad, Asa Jackson's eight-game suspension (eight games because he already served four games for a previous offense) doesn't dent my belief in the NFL. My belief in Major League Baseball is somewhere just this side of WWE. Which is a little inconsistent, and I know it.

I'm not blind to the possibility that a large number of NFL players may be using performance enhancing drugs. I'm certain that all of them are using supplements, and that it's only a matter of where you draw the line whether 'some' or 'most' of them are doing something to their bodies that they shouldn't be. Heck, it's football, they ARE doing something to their bodies that they shouldn't be, just by taking the field and throwing themselves at each other, the same way I don't need a physician to tell me that two boxers repeatedly punching each other in the head might enjoy their old age better if they ran a holistic medicine store. But they're sacrificing sense for money (and possibly the thrill of legally punching another man in the head and getting away with it - note the 'legally', LSU running back Jeremy Hill).

At the heart of the suspension of A-Rod is not what is legal and illegal, within the rules and beyond the rules, but what is fair. Do I detect a growing atmosphere within the fraternity of baseball players that the rank and file player is getting fed up with the idea that Rodriguez - the guy who landed the biggest contract in MLB history not once but twice - may be getting away with loading up and running off with all the money?

This stain of unfairness doesn't happen to the same degree in football because the highest earners are the quarterbacks, not the hitters. Until the NFL shows me that Drew Brees puts up massive numbers because he made himself bigger (by which I mean stronger, not taller, obviously), I can live with the idea that the guys in the trenches and the guys that chase the quarterback may be a little pumped. I'm not happy about it, but the NFL still feels like a level playing field, still feels like something that, for the past 20 years, was real.

I don't feel that about baseball any more. After the 1994 strike-abandoned season, sports fans were a little out of love with MLB, but baseball was re-energized in 1998 by the home run record chase by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. How bogus that feels now. Then came Barry Bonds. Now A-Rod. To be honest, I'm having a lot of difficulty getting excited about Yasiel Puig. I just don't believe it.

I believe in football. I don't pretend it's a clean sport, but I do, at least for now, believe it monitors itself sufficiently to deliver a champion each year who didn't have an unfair advantage over the other teams.

So, welcome back football. Not perfect, but good enough right now.

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