Dave's Sports Views

Analysis, humor and opinion on the sports world

Location: Dallas, Texas, United States

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Bush Leagues

Three announcements came out in the past two days, encompassing the three most prominent team sports leagues. I don't understand any of them.

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Item: Bud Selig has commissioned an investigation of past steroid use in the major leagues, and he has named former senator George Mitchell. (I'm inserting a cheap plug for a fellow Bowdoin grad.) Mitchell, also a director for the Boston Red Sox, supposedly will be given free reign to analyze the facts and make determinations. Translation: Baseball is about to psychoanalyze itself. Because, quite honestly, the evidence against Bud Selig, Donald Fehr, the owners and other leaders in the sport is far more grievous than anything that Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams have on Barry Bonds.

Baseball stood by while Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Bonds assaulted the home run records while turning their bodies into lab experiments. Now they want to investigate them and anyone else who might have stained the game while its leaders cast a blind eye their way.

So Selig is lying when when he says that the "specificity of the charges" in "Game of Shadows" is the reason for the investigation -- it all comes down to sponsors threatening to run from any association with the league and Bonds' effort to break the home run record. Yes, this is all about statistics. The most hallowed record in the sport is under assault. And Bonds' countdown will also be Mitchell's.

The "damned lies" in the headline above would refer to BALCO founder Victor Conte saying that much of what is contained in "Game of Shadows" is untrue, and that he plans to provide evidence to the contrary.

This ought to be interesting. Conte is the guy who supplied athletes with enough drugs to mutate them into pigeons, then went on national TV to out a bunch of them so that, in his words, children wouldn't be harmed. In the history of Americans, Conte's rank on the honesty continuum would rank below the likes of Washington and Lincoln. It would also be below Benedict Arnold, James Frey and Andrew Fastow.

Grounds for Celebration Eliminated

The NFL competition committee passed a measure that puts limits on end zone celebrations. Using props is no longer allowed, nor is going to the ground to do some sort of animated show. Spikes are fine. Dances are fine. Even the Lambeau Leap was spared (perhaps because the Packers didn't score a lot of touchdowns last year).

What's the point? What harm do these celebrations cause the game? The NFL is positioning this as a players' union request, which is really a way to deflect attention from what is clearly a power play by the league. End zone celebrations are one of the signatures of the NFL. It's where players have the freedom to display their personalities and the joy they have for the game. Football is an emotional sport. How would you prefer the players release their emotions?

Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer praised the move, saying, "The game is about the team, not the individual." That's fine -- so let's go a few steps beyond that. Let's take last names off the jerseys. Those direct fans to the individual. Let's take names out of the boxscores. If Willie Parker runs 75 yards, the newspaper can just say "Steelers 75-yard touchdown." Yes, football is a team sport, but the talent -- and the expressiveness -- of individuals are what make it so exciting. This was really a needless decision by the league.


Here's the most bizarre story of all: The NBA is banning tights. I guess they're worried that this might become the latest gang trend, in which the "Robin Hoods" take aim on a street corner against the "Hamlets."

NBA players have consistently stated that they wear tights for health reasons, whether it's muscle efficiency, injury prevention or improved blood circulation. I doubt there's a player in the league who wears them for the look. The NBA will require a doctor's notice before allowing a player to wear them, beginning next season. Sounds like something you heard in seventh grade if you dared fall ill on the day of an exam.

David Stern is the king of rulemaking for rulemaking's sake, but he's entered the theater of the absurd.

For the record, ESPN.com published a list of players spotted in tights this year as a sidebar to their news story. And let me say, that team would be VERY deep at the 2-guard.



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