Wednesday, July 25, 2007


"Sports do not build character. They reveal it." -- John Wooden

Or perhaps the lack of character. I don't talk about sports very much here but I'm pretty much a sports nut ... especially baseball. Lately, it seems like the sports world is in some kind of bizarro universe and I'm not at all happy about it. My takes:

Michael Vick -- If the allegations that Vick participated in and approved of the activities that he has been accused of (and the preponderance of evidence seems to indicate this), you cannot kick him out of the league fast enough, in my opinion. Vick's black, but his tastes in the use of dogs is straight-up white trash. Anyone that will torture a defenseless animal and call it sport is the lowest sort of human being. And it is usually a pretty good indicator of how they will treat other humans.

About the only time that I wished I believed in God was when it comes to figuring out what circle of hell would be most appropriate for the type of people that torture any other living thing.

To make it worse are other retarded NFL players who seems to think it's no big deal. Clinton Portis when asked about it:

"I don't know if he was fighting dogs or not," Portis said in the interview. "But it's his property; it's his dogs. If that's what he wants to do, do it."

Portis, a native of Laurel, Miss., added: "I know a lot of back roads that got a dog fight if you want to go see it. But they're not bothering those people because those people are not big names. I'm sure there's some police got some dogs that are fighting them, some judges got dogs and everything else."

And someone else who should really know better, Emmitt Smith:

" ... Now, granted he might have been to a dogfight a time or two, maybe five times, maybe 20 times, may have bet some money, but he's not the one you're after. He's just the one who's going to take the fall -- publicly."

Tim Donaghy (NBA ref) - Anyone that watched the Spurs-Suns (MY Suns!) series this last year know that the Suns absolutely got jobbed by the refs in how fouls and technicals were called and how players were suspended. But after the series, there wasn't a whole lot that you could do about it. Just lick your wounds and go on and that would be the end of it. Try again next year.

Well ... not so quick. Turns out that one of the refs that worked that series is the very same Tim Donaghy, who was revealed this week to have been betting on games that he was officiating and to be associating with the mob. This is an ugly, ugly situation - probably the ugliest the NBA has seen. Even if it turns out that Donaghy was the only ref involved, it calls into question every game that he was involved in and ultimately the outcome of the playoffs.

Barry Bonds - Barry's about to break one of those records that most people thought was unbreakable, the career home run record, held by Hank Aaron. It should be a time for celebration, for remembering the sluggers of the past and to pass on the mantle to the new one.

But it's not. You know why? Because this man doesn't seem to understand that achievements done through cheating, through circumventing rules, through permanently damaging your body are not really achievements. Or, at least not ones to brag about. Bonds had all the talent in the world. He had proven that he was going to go into the Hall of Fame even before he started using steroids. But that wasn't enough. Hubris born of stupidity and arrogance (hmm ... where else have I seen that?) blinded him and started him down the path that will eventually strip him of everything that he has worked for and perhaps even his life. Congratulations Barry.

I could get into yet another biking doping scandal or the ridiculous circus that is Beckam, but I've grown weary. Is it wrong to long for the days where the worst that players would do was maybe play drunk?


Laura said...

I can't agree more with the quote. I also think that class has a lot to do with it. In our current society where the gap between classes is getting wider, the only way out for a lot of men in the poor and working classes is through sports. Sports can get you into and through college, it can make you a star, but it can't change your character. These types of things like animal fighting happen in poor areas. I'm sure there's reams of sociological studies as to why - but that's the case. So as people from the classes of people more likely to engage in this behavior turn to sports as a way out - they take that behavior with them.

It's disgusting and inhumane and I don't think the penalties are stiff enough. There's been articles in the Tribune about people going around stealing dogs from yards or unattended on the street to use as bait to train fighting dogs. It's horrific. I simply don't understand it.

I also think the big salaries and the media frenzy around sports over the past 20 or so years has pushed athletes to do things they shouldn't - like juice up - because that way they get more press and more Nike deals... it's all economics.

Donna said...

I don't know that it's necessarily fair - certainly it's no longer accurate - to say that animal fighting happens in poor areas...I'd like to believe that poor people are just as capable of recognizing and condemning animal cruelty as rich people are capable of making a high-tech, high-stakes sport of it. In the end it has to come down to an individual's character and what s/he is willing to do. Vick's repulsive behavior has at least put the spotlight on a sick inhumane practice and hopefully some good can come out of that.

Juicing happens for a number of reasons, all related to performance and therefore salaries, but I don't think the size of the salaries is really the issue. Quite frankly, football players deserve the salaries they get because they get beat on hard and the league basically forgets them and their health post-retirement. Football players will juice to recover from injuries and strain on their muscles more quickly and get back on the field at full capacity faster. Track and field and biking folk juice because freaking A - everyone juiced before them and now there's no way to beat all the juicy records except to juice some more. Baseball players - yeah I still can't figure out why they juice - as I've said in my blog, home runs alone don't win you pennants and every real baseball fan I know would rather have a pennant for their team instead of some dubious juiced-up shot at breaking one of the all-time great *legitimate* records.

Great post in general, dbackdad. The Bonds cartoon made me snort and get depressed all in the same moment. Damn, but that guy is an asshat. Did you read Game of Shadows? I got halfway through before being too disgusted and depressed to continue.

Laura said...

Oh, I'm not saying animal fighting happens exclusively in poor areas. It just seems to happen more there (rural or urban) than in other areas. Certainly there are dicks on every side of the socioeconomic split that participate in it. In urban areas it's more associated with gangs and drugs - which are both linked to poverty. I'm not sure what the rural links are. But I do know that in inner cities, animal fighting is usually discovered by accident during investigations regarding weapons, gangs, and drugs.

dbackdad said...

Great comments by both of you. Donna, I have not read Game of Shadows yet but it's in my ever-growing book queue. That was a great post you did, BTW:

Sports and Sociology, or Who the Hell Voted for Barry Bonds for the All-Star Game?

Some general comments (not necessarily in response to your guys' comments):

The world of sports is a lot like the world of pop culture - celebrity doesn't make you a better person. If you are a vacuous socialite or dumb white trash (Paris and Britney), you'll still be those things with fame. You can't polish a turd, as it were.

Similarly, those with a little more upstairs (Clooney, Jolie) also have their true character revealed in a positive way.

I see the importance of class and your station in life when dealing with opportunity and perhaps education. But wrong is still wrong no matter where you were born. I grew up poor but I still knew that torturing is wrong. But, as you say, there are plenty of rich people who don't know that.

Laura said...

There was a pretty good editorial in the Sun Times today about all this too...