Monday, July 23, 2007

The Ugliness of Pro Sports

Last week a Michael Vick was indicted on federal charges relating to dogfighting. Sports Illustrated has written some well-researched pieces on the charges that give the background into the federal investigation of Vick and the three defendants who lived on Vick's property where dogfighting was alleged to have taken place. As for my opinion on Vick I am all about a person receiving his day in court before passing judgment -- the Duke lacrosse case taught us that. But after reading this, if these examples of cruelty to dogs are true then I hope the guy gets what is coming to him. People love their dogs second only to their children. I would not be surprised if the NFL faces a huge backlash from fans if the league doesn't step in and take some sort of action even before this trial takes place.

On the NBA front allegations emerged last week of an NBA referee betting on games, including those in which he officiated. This is worse than the Pete Rose betting controversy in that this referee potentially altered the outcome of NBA games, including five playoff games this past season. Bill Simmons' article on sums up the uphill battle the NBA faces to clean up its image -- although personally the NBA lost me as a fan years ago.
When news of the scandal broke on Friday, every diehard NBA fan had the same reaction. They weren't thinking, "I can't believe it!" or "Oh my God, how could this happen?" They were thinking, "Which one was it?"
Finally America's national pasttime completes the professional sports bad news trifecta as one of its most sacred records -- Hank Aaron's 755 career home runs -- is about to broken in the coming days without much celebration from the baseball world. Outside of San Francisco baseball fans don't care as no one truly believes Barry Bonds competed fairly without the use of steroids. Even the baseball commissioner hasn't committed to being in attendance when Bonds breaks the record. Until baseball owns up to looking the other way while its players bulked up to freakish sizes by using steroids, many casual baseball fans will again be turned off by the sport.

The common thread among these three events is that the incidents move the sports in directions that appeal less and less to the casual sports fan. Don't get me wrong, the Super Bowl will still be the most watched event on television. Diehard basketball & baseball fans will still follow their teams and watch the playoffs and the World Series. But in a time when professional athletes make 10, 50, or 100 times the salary that the average working American makes, scandals like these will only continue to deter people from tuning in.

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