After a couple weeks of everyone bitching about how there's been no good sports stories to write about, good lord! I mean this NBA Ref Scandal, and Michael Vick dogfighting indictment, not to mention Bonds getting to the point where he's about to break the most sacred record in American sports in the next week or so (bringing the Steroid controversy to the forfront), is just an unprecedented amount of sports-related news. This is like the 1919 Black Sox scandal, Mike Tyson rape indictment (back when boxing mattered - and hell no I didn't pay $50 bucks to watch Winky Wright and Bernard Hopkins fight), and Roger Maris's home run record asterisk in 1961... but this is all happening in the course of 10 days! Unreal...
Interestingly enough and contrary to a number of polls I've read, the NBA scandal is by far the least important of the three scandals. Here's why. The reason that Major League Baseball and the NFL have reached unprecedented levels of popularity over the past decade is largely based on the issues addressed by these scandals. The Sosa/McGwire home run chase and Bonds's and Clemens's performances over the past 10 years at advanced ages have been a major reason behind the resurgence of baseball after the destructive strike in the mid-90's. And guess what? All of that is potentially, if not almost definitely, directly related to illegal and unprecedented steroid use. Look at the statistics on players in the late 80's and early 90's. Players would be near the top of the league with 30-35 home runs! Can you even imagine that today?
And for football I don't think that people realize that this Michael Vick scandal and Pacman Jones suspension represents a lot more for the sport than people realize. What is unprecedented about the players in the NFL today is the amount of immoral and illegal behavior that is tolerated and even encouraged in middle school, high school, college, and into the pros than ever before. Yes, the NFL has always been a haven for the toughest and craziest of American athletes, but shoot-outs in strip-clubs and electrocuting innocent animals??? I mean this shit is insane and if you think that this isn't only the tip of the iceberg, you're crazy. I've said this before, but I can't wait until the Jose Canseco-esque autobiographies about this era in MLB and the NFL start coming out in about 10 years. If you think the stories about the '86 Mets doing blow in NYC and a roided up A's team in the late 80's is interesting, I can't wait to hear what comes out about what's happened in the last 5 years in sports.
The main problem is that these athletes today have been protected from the minute they showed the potential to throw a football 60 yards and run a 4.4 40. And even worse a lot of them have been encouraged to act this way. The crazier you are, the tougher you are and the farther you are willing to push things the better. I've had friends who played State Championship level football in high school in Texas in the 90's talk about doing roids and coaches essentially encouraging it (to the point they ended up dropping out of high school because of drug abuse); I went to a strong sports high school and saw a star running back who went on to play D-1 football slap the shit out of a girl in front of about 20 students and everyone laughed and no one said a thing. I had friends who played Division 1 football in college who were suspended for steroid abuse and buddies who were walk-ons being asked in detail about fights they'd been in as if it were their entry-pass to making the team. This is really, really sick and while there's little question that football is almost incomparable today to what is was 15-20 years ago in terms of the skill level, size, and speed of the players. But what's the cost?
While we are dealing with these deep-seeded societal issues in baseball and football, this NBA scandal appears at the outset, at least, to be a rogue referee who carefully and intentionally carried out a deliberate scheme on his own (meaning without other NBA players, refs, or administrators) and I suspect will be severely punished for it. This behavior has been common-place in sports for years. Boxing obviously is one example with a history of corruption and blatant violations of players shaving points in college football and even premiere soccer leagues in Europe have occurred quite recently as well. When sports and money are involved these are the risks that are run. This current NBA scandal doesn't reflect anything but a single person's weaknesses and greed. Not a huge deal. The second Lebron starts throwing dunks down next year and Wade comes back at full health this will all be forgotten. I mean people joke about the Ewing draft envelope being frozen or creased or god knows what else so that the Knicks amazingly ended up with THE NYC center for the decade. If that were true, that would be a WAY bigger scandal than one ref shaving a few points over the course of a few years without anyone noticing. Not to mention the fact that the baseball and football scandals truly involve deeper societal issues about the acceptance of cheating in our modern society, winning at all costs, and coddling high-performing individuals to unprecedented levels.