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Sports Watching & Wonder

John Randolph Rogers

Manny Ramirez has left the Dodgers and their fans in a state of utter shock. He tested positive for a banned substance, which led to him being suspended from 50 baseball games. Manny is very popular and most of the fans, and many in the baseball establishment are sympathetic towards him. On the other hand, Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig seems to have a personal vendetta against Barry Bonds. All of the players who have tested positive for banned substances, and who can still play, except Bonds, are now still playing in the major leagues. It is an open secret that none of the teams will even give Bonds a tryout. He reportedly was willing to go to spring training, without a contract, to show what he can do. He did not get an invitation. The Commissioner appears to be using his power to settle a personal score.

More than any other sport, MLB reveres the statistics of its former stars. Nearly every young sports fan knew that Babe Ruth had hit 60 home runs in a season. This was a record that was expected to stand for all time. Joe DiMaggio held the record for hitting safely in 54 consecutive games. His record still stands, but the Babe's record has been surpassed by a number of players. Since it now has a comprehensive testing policy, MLB did not have to tear itself apart over the steroid issue. The typical baseball fan not only didn't seem to care what the ballplayers did, but they actually enjoyed seeing them hit more home runs. The game of baseball received more publicity. Everyone was winning, except the historical purists.

When Baseball Officials talk about cheating, they are on a very slippery slope. We can all agree that taking steroids is cheating. However, is it cheating, when a pitcher deliberately tries to hit a batter? Is it cheating, when an outfielder does not actually catch a ball, but tries to convince the Umpire that he did?

Is it cheating, when one team will sell its best players, to another team typically the Yankees? Most athletes, like the rest of us, are always taking something to make us feel better or look better. When we take this stuff, we do not know whether or not it will help us. When a player starts taking steroids, his or her performance may improve, or it may not. If you are already a good player, it might help you. If you were not a good player to begin with, then it probably won't make any difference.

It was just a few years ago that the Sideline Reporters were invented. They are mostly young ladies who will interview the coaches of each team at halftime. They will stop a coach, as he is headed for the locker room and possibly the bathroom, and then they will say, "Coach your team is ahead (or behind) at halftime. What do you plan to do in the second half of the game?" The Leagues require the coaches to submit to these interviews. So, the coach will look into the camera and say, "We will just have to execute better in the second half." Then the Sideline Reporter will say, "Thank you coach and back to the booth." Jobs are tough to come by, so I am happy that the Reporters are working. However, I have noticed that they are becoming more aggressive. They go into the locker rooms, and interview players. They also interview them on the sidelines, while the game is still being played. If these tendencies continue, we can expect to see them interviewing players on the court, while they are playing. Then, they will follow them into the showers to get any additional comments.'The sensible side of Brett Favre probably realizes that he should stay retired. His behavior reminds me of the old Boxers in my neighborhood, when I was growing up. They knew that they should have retired, but they did not have anything else to do, so they hung on as long as they could. It was sad and then, and it is sad now. The difference was, those old Boxers did not have any money, and did not seem to have any alternatives.

The Lakers offense depends almost entirely on Kobe Bryant and Pao Gasol. For the most part, the rest of the team feels as if they are just part of the supporting cast. So, unlike the backup players on the Boston Celtics or the Houston Rockets, these players cannot be counted on to come through when there is a crisis. If Bryant can't do it, then it won't get done. The major difference between the Lakers and the other teams who are still competing in the playoffs is that the younger players on the Lakers have not improved over the past two or three years. Many of the younger players on all of their opposing teams have become starters and some are on the verge of becoming stars. They have received intensive coaching, and so when they get into the game, they often make a big difference.

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