"Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel"

My new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" is the follow-up to "Illegal Procedure" and "Roughing the Passer" and is now available in print and in e-formats at amazon.com, smashwords.com and iBooks. Follow me on twitter @kevinkrest.

Monday, February 29, 2016

SPORTS: SUBSTANCE OR HYPOCRISY?

It seems to me that we seem to be expecting a lot from our professional athletes. They need to fit a certain mold, project a particular personality and meet all of our expectations both on and off the field, court or ice. We justify those potentially unrealistic expectations by asserting that their high salaries and even higher public profiles demand that they should somehow be held to a higher standard. Yet there are a lot of people in this country and throughout the world that make a lot of money and frankly, have far more influence over our those things that really impact us on a day to day basis, that somehow escape the scrutiny through which we put our athletic achievers. In fact, the very media that reports every minor indiscretion would probably be hard pressed to undergo the same level of evaluation. I'm not talking about the criminal activities, which is generally inexcusable no matter who it is. But for some reason Robert Downey, Jr., Miley Cyrus and Charlie Sheen, to just name a few, can demand millions of dollars for their talent despite outrageous behavior, yet Cam Newton comes across a little surly in a post-game interview and all of a sudden he's no longer worthy of our respect as an exceptional athlete. Are you kidding me?

We have CEO's of major corporations that could buy and sell these supposedly highly paid athletes and not even worry about how to pay for their mansions, cars and other toys. Athletes, particularly football players, have prime earning years of maybe five or six years if they're lucky. Soccer is longer, so are basketball and baseball. But unlike the players that play the game, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is making in the $30+ million range, yet the guys who actually do all of the work are prohibited from making that amount of money. As much of a sports fan and commentator as I am, there is a certain amount of hypocrisy that pervades the entire industry. Owners complain when a player tries to "maximize" their value, yet those same billionaires think nothing of holding a community hostage when trying to get the best stadium deal available. In college, coaches can jump from school to school, yet the athletes have to sit out a year if they want to transfer, even if the coach that recruited them bails for greener pastures. Really? How can anyone possibly argue that there is justice in that scenario?

And what about the NBA,  that for no apparent reason, has chosen to ruin not just their own game, but the college product as well by making kids go to college for a year before they're eligible for the draft. Really? Who exactly, other than John Calipari, is this benefitting? The kid who would otherwise get drafted right out of high school gets denied a year of earning power while the college coach that signs him has to figure out a way to build a team knowing that the kid won't be there beyond his freshman season. If a school pays a kids room and board for a few months, clearly knowing that they won't ever aspire to earning a degree, it diminishes the entire scholarship argument. I don't know the exact best solution, but I can certainly tell when the current one isn't even close. From the AAU programs killing high school basketball, to the one and done's killing college basketball and to the fundamentally unprepared players entering and killing the NBA, there is really no good level exhibiting solid and entertaining basketball. One of the reasons I believe the Golden State Warriors are so dominant is that they, along with the San Antonio Spurs, are one of the few teams that actually play basketball the was it was intended to be played.

And going back a few years, the best example of total hypocrisy was the steroid era in Major League Baseball. Are you kidding me? In an effort to rebound from the lost 1994 season, MLB decided to turn a blind eye to the performance enhancing drugs permeating the game. Instead, they promoted the home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, two obvious juicers, which eventually forced more talented players like Barry Bonds to join the fray so they could remain competitive. And in the ultimate insult, the league then leaked drug testing results which ultimately villified Bonds and others, including Alex Rodriguez and Roger Clemens, for alleged acts that at the time weren't even against the rules. If you think that's insane, it only gets better. Then we have the Hall of Fame voters who arbitrarily decide who gets in and who gets left out based on unsubstantiated claims of innocence when it comes to PED use. How do they know who juiced and who didn't? Okay, Bonds ended up looking like a Zika virus baby, but most others didn't have quite so obvious a manifestation of the effects. I don't believe John Smoltz, Dennis Martinez and some of the others in the latest HOF classes were PED users, but how do we really know? In the prime of their careers, there was no testing and by the way, as I mentioned before, it wasn't against the rules. So how does anyone really know, and great players like Barry Bonds and roger Clemens, both HOF caliber players even before the steroid years, get left out.

And yet, despite of or perhaps because of all of the hypocrisy, we still watch, we still listen and we still comment on the action. Because at the end of the day, it's what happens on the field, on the court, on the ice and on the course that holds our interest. Athletes come, they play and they retire, to be replaced by the next wave. And still we cheer, groan, cry and rejoice at what happens. It's sports and it endures.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first two, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel" and "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and SmashwordsTune into www.WPFLRADIO.com at 8:40 am EST every Friday for my Beyond the Commentary segment on "Lou in the Morning" with Lou Vickery and Jonathan McMath.