Tuesday, January 27, 2009

We Are Not Alone...Just Lonely

Some people go to church every Sunday. Others may ride or race their bikes, watch sports, go shopping or even spend time with family and friends. For most, Sunday is a day of comforting rituals, both public and private, allowing for reflection on the past week as well as anticipation (or fear) of the next.

While I have been known to partake in some of these activities myself from time to time, there is no more regular part of my Sunday routine than watching ESPN from 7:00 to 8:30 am. For those unfamiliar with this particular block of programming, it consists of (the Emmy Award winning) Outside The Lines, The Sports Reporters and the first half of SportsCenter. Throw in a cup of good coffee (or three) and you’ve got the recipe for a pretty nice little Sunday morning.

So…I was intrigued when, a few hours prior to the Tour Down Under/Lance Armstrong Show on VS, (the Emmy Award winning) Outside The Lines focused on performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball and the Mitchell Report. Even though the topic is old, at least it wasn’t about drugs in bike racing.

Since the Mitchell Report is basically baseball’s rendition of Operacion Puerto, it was quite intriguing that the two primary witnesses were a sketchy personal trainer/gopher and a former batboy/clubhouse attendant for the New York Mets. Gee…no wonder there have been zero convictions after 21 months and $20 million. No subpoena power equals no...nothing. Way to go George Mitchell.

While I am not intending to compare the Mitchell Report and Operacion Puerto, it is striking how many similarities I envisioned between the various players in each particular drama. From the minutia of interactions between the “dealer” and the “user” and the common goal of success at all costs, all the way up to the near-if not outright-complicity of managers, teams and even the associations who organize and run the sports themselves.

While the latter issue is a touchy one at best, the former element regarding the process of sourcing and purchasing performance enhancing drugs is much more straightforward. Last Sunday’s (Emmy Award winning) Outside The Lines comes back into the picture now as it consisted of a lengthy interview with Kirk Radomski, the self-proclaimed steroid and HGH supplier to 200-300 professional baseball players.

But whereas Operacion Puerto has bags of blood with hokey nicknames, the Mitchell Report has Radomski, who is more than happy to eliminate any pet detective work by naming names. And I mean, lots of names. All of which you can now find at your local book store in his new punningly-titled literary masterpiece “Bases Loaded.”

Must every sports-related book title have some cheesy double entendre in order to be published? I’m not necessarily complaining because some of them are clever and if I ever write a book I will probably do it too but still…what’s up with that?

Anyway, Radomski is certainly no Pulitzer Prize winner (this is a clubhouse attendant we’re talking about here) but he did manage to come up with enough material to fill a book and many hundreds of pages in the Mitchell Report. Therefore, one may be inclined to think he’s not making this all up out of his own creative genius. The fact that he goes on to snitch on the likes of Lenny Dykstra. David Segui. Roger Clemens, Eric Gagne, Mo Vaughn, Chuck Knoblauch, Kevin Brown, Miguel Tejada, Andy Pettitte and Fernando Vina, all of whom have been somewhat suspect over the years, makes his story begin to sound downright plausible.

Consider also that Radomski has served no time in prison as a result of his confession to dealing prohibited substances and that none of the players cited have pursued legal action against him despite his very public accusations. These factors would seem to indicate a high level of probability that at least a portion of his testimony and book are accurate. I can only hope his chuckling claim that over 80% of players had used performance enhancing drugs was an exaggeration.

Sound vaguely familiar?

It should be noted that Operacion Puerto and the Mitchell Report differ in many critical respects. For example, we know that the reason for George Mitchell's lack of progress was because the Major League Baseball Players Association recommended a policy of silence and non-cooperation (no active players testified), but what is the primary reason for the failure of the Operacion Puerto investigation at this point? One judge? The Spanish legal system? High-profile soccer players?

With all due respect to the CPA (eh…), we can be fairly certain that professional cycling’s “union” has not been the problem in Spain. The MLBPA is the Bentley of Unions while the CPA is more like a Huffy with a flat tire.

Anyway, we’ll know we’ve hit the big time when (the Emmy Award winning) Outside The Lines on ESPN devotes an entire episode to a bike racing scandal. Or better yet...a bike race or racer without a scandal. But until then, we can at least rest assured that ours is not the only sport being publicly disgraced. So we’ve got that going for us. Which is nice.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Old Is The New New

While cruising the InterWebs recently, I happened upon a chat room for individuals who have returned to their respective professions after various periods of inactivity. With the causes of these competitive breaks ranging from pseudo-retirement to drug suspension and even outright felonious behavior, the current and former “pros” logged into the chat room represented many professions and even more circumstances. Below is an excerpt copied from the site:

- LA (Cycling): “Hey, who else is out there?”

- MJ (Basketball, Baseball, Gambling): “I just got off the golf course, but I think I have some time to kill before my poker game with Sir Charles.”

- IB (Cycling, Procrastinating): “Hello. I am interested in learning some new and valuable lessons in this chat room. However, in keeping with my prior record I will not act on any of this knowledge.”

- A “P” J (Football, Making It Rain): “Yo, I just want y’all to know that just ‘cause you get back in the game doesn’t mean they want to keep you there. Take it from Pacman, you enable multiple strip-club shootings and people act like you’re some kind of bad person.”

- FL (Cycling, Whiskey Drinking): “The rest of you guys are bunch of crybabies. I am coming back from both a career-threatening injury AND a drug suspension. You got nothing on me.”

- LA (Cycling, Famous Woman Dating): “Hey, don’t forget the old cappuccino days Son. I’m still The Comeback Man. You may only have one hip but I only have one…uhh…well, you get my point. I’m older and have far more of my legacy to lose but I’m in great shape and apparently still have some testosterone to burn. After all, you’d be amazed how hard it was to keep up with McConaughey these last few years.”

- MT (Boxing, Cannibalism, Insanity): “Hello everyone, it’s Iron Mike and I am back from a recent trip to Bolivion. I would just like to remind everyone to eat their vegetables and make sure that they know how to use a calculator. If I had known that such a simple device could have prevented me from wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and going bankrupt…well, things would have been a little different for me and maybe I wouldn’t have had to fight so many times. I think I remember Robin Givens bringing one home that was a prop from Head Of The Class but the batteries were dead. So close.”

- LLCJ (Rapping, Loving the Ladies, Greasing Chest): “Don’t call it a comeback. I’ve been here for years.”

- BF (Football, Wrangler Wearing): “Hey y’all, I just wanted to say that I really could have used this chat room last year. I mean, I freaking cried at my first retirement announcement in Green Bay. Cried!!! How can you recover from that? Well, I guess you can’t. Between crying at a press conference and returning to play for the Jets, I don’t think I can ever go back to Mississippi or Wisconsin. Hmmm…maybe this isn’t so bad after all.

- MJ (Basketball, Baseball, Gambling): “Trust me BF, it will never be the same with your original fans but come on, they were only loyal and supportive for like 10 to 20 years. No biggie. The main point is that you served your own selfish competitive ego by going to another team, destroying their morale and ruining any chance of success in your new hometown. Don’t worry, you’re following the plan perfectly. You’ll be in upper management for another horrible franchise in no time.”

- LA (Cycling, Famous Woman Dating, Occasional Marathon Running): “So do I need to worry about losing fans now that I have gone over to a team from Kazakhstan?”

- MT (Boxing, Cannibalism, Insanity, Poetry): “Oooh, please tell Kazakhstan that Mike says hello. He was one of my training partners back in the 80’s. Praise be to Allah.”

- LA (Cycling, Famous Women Dating, Occasional Marathon Running, Texan): “What?”

- IB (Cycling, Procrastinating, Apologizing): “Yes, I too am curious if I will have lost some of the support of the tifosi. As well as the respect of all of the riders and managers I lied to, of course.”

- MT (Boxing, Cannibalism, Insanity, Poetry): “All I know is that my tifosi hasn’t been acting right ever since I had that really spicy Indian food a few weeks ago.”

- BF (Football, Wrangler Wearing, Packer-fan Killing): “Wait…lying to fans, teammates, coaches and managers is wrong? Nobody ever told me that.”

- MT (Boxing, Cannibalism, Insanity, Poetry): “I’ve done some crazy things, but the only time I ever lied was when I said I was going to eat Lennox Lewis’ children. I never got around to that. Oh well.”

- A “P” J (Football, Making It Rain): "I always say I am going to make it rain but it doesn't actually rain. It just means that I am going to throw a bunch of money in the air and act stupid. Not sure if that's a lie or not, technically."

- FL (Cycling, Whiskey Drinking, Mennonite-ness): “Okay, this is getting a little too weird for me, I think I’m going to go listen to some Kid Rock. LA and IB…I’ll see you two in Cali. I hope the rest of you get whatever medical and legal help you need."

- IB (Cycling, Procrastinating, Apologizing): “Yes, I will see you in California and shake your hand but I will not actually say hello.”

- LA (Cycling, Famous Women Dating, Occasional Marathon Running, Texan): “You may see me but not if I see you both first.”

It seems that the webpage that hosted this chat room has been changed or removed but hopefully we will gain access again sometime soon.