What’s the Real Target?

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Steroids.

There’s the word. Big as life and twice as ugly. The connotations these days, are almost all bad, brining to mind professional athletes, big-shouldered men in shirts with too many holes, and a glut of head-hung, shame-faced professional athletes making speeches about letting people down. The word has even brought about Congressional hearings, for whatever that might be worth. (I’d like to see a Congressional hearing as to why oil/gas companies are posting record profits, but I have to pay $3.50 a gallon.)

Just in case you did not know, there are plenty of good steroids. They can be prescribed for various medical conditions, and also to recover from surgery.

Nevertheless, when you turn on AM Sports Radio, “steroids” and “baseball” will be the words you hear in conjunction, especially when discussing Barry Bonds, and there are people out there that really hate Barry Bonds. Whether you believe him guilty or innocent, there is no doubt that “hate” is the appropriate word when describing the intense anger directed at Barry Bonds. I think many people wouldn’t slow down if they saw him crossing the parking lot.

Full Disclosure: I cheer for Barry. I hope he breaks the records. Though there is a cloud of evidence, a looming, huge, ominous dark cloud of evidence over his head implicating him, he has yet to fail a test. No matter how many copies Game of Shadows sells, it does not prove Barry guilty. Plus, if you let Rafael Palmeiro into the Hall of Fame, Barry damn well better go in as well.

I won’t go so far as to say that Barry is persecuted because he is black. It does not help his case, but I don’t believe it is the reason he regarded as the demon of modern baseball. It does not help that he is routinely surly and stand-offish. If he had a more amiable public persona, he might only receive the attention that a Roger Clemens gets in relation to steroids. Nevertheless, Bonds is a lightning rod. People are already dismissing his accomplishments, saying that he will only hold the mantle until Alex Rodriguez becomes the home run king. (Never mind the fact that he could run into a debilitating injury, or become injury plagued like another player that was supposed to be in line for breaking the record.) We’ll just wait and see if more rumors circulate about A-Rod.

It’s funny that despite all this concern of steroids, I’ve heard so little about this year’s Tour de France. If you wanted scandal, this was about as good as it gets. Though hard-core cyclists (yes, they do exists) would take a security chain to my head if they read this, cycling is a fringe sport, at best, in the U.S.. Yes, we all love that Lance Armstrong (no stranger to controversy), won the Tour x-number of times despite cancer, but no one really cares enough to sit glued to the television. I would have thought that the separate scandals of Michael Rasmussen and Alexandre Vinokourov would have been huge news, billed as “Roids Go International”. Blood transfusions? How much better does it get? Hell, those weren’t even the only scandals. Yet on this side of the ocean, steroids = Barry Bonds, who has now been linked to the sinking of the Titanic.

Chris Benoit

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“There are three things which make us all Americans: At one point, we have all known the words to a Michael Jackson song, we’ve all had a Budweiser, and we can all name a professional wrestler. In fact, that should be the naturalization test, ‘Sing Thriller, define Hulkamania, and have a Bud.'” Take into consideration that this was originally uttered in 1993, so the Michael Jackson portion might not be quite as true today.

Professional wrestling, particularly the WWE is not quite the phenomenon it was around 5 years ago. There used to be shows about wrestling on constantly from the competing groups (ECW, WCW), to the trials of WWE hopefuls (Tough Enough). One of the shows in particular caught my eye. It was an episode or two of some MTV reality show about how wrestlers travel from city to city, how they have to fight to stay in shape, and how they have to battle through injury.

One of the constant points in Tough Enough and every other reality special was, “This is a difficult business that will take a toll on you, mentally and physically, but you have to put all of that aside and perform every night for the crowd.”

The current theory about the Chris Benoit double-homicide/suicide is steroid abuse. Steroids made Benoit go made and lash out at his loved ones. However, no one is looking at the toll that being in the WWE must have put on he and his family.

Imagine being on the road 40 weeks of the year (though it may be closer to 47). You have to drive from city to city, keep in top physical condition, perform physical feats in spite of pain or nagging injuries, and be able to at least simulate aggression on a nightly basis. Now imagine having a wife (or husband) and children. When you are home, you have to be a functional member of the family, spend some time with your loved ones as well as recover from the rigors of the road. Even for the most level headed family, such a life can pose a challenge.

If the “Roid Rage” theory gathers steam, will further legislation and investigation curtail the use of steroids? What will happen to people that take steroids for arthritis and asthma?

Personally, would not be surprised if Benoit was a steroid user/abuser. With the toll that his profession must have taken on him, in addition to performing with fused vertebra, I couldn’t blame for taking medication (legal or not) to keep him functional. I will also concede that steroid abuse could have further warped his mental facilities. However, to this incident solely on steroids is a sorry piece of investigation and reporting.

More about the road

An Open Letter to Kevin Garnett

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Disclosure: I am a Knicks fan, and thus, success, in any form, for any other NBA team is a bitter pill for me to swallow. After enduring the Jordan era, the Finals losses to the Rockets and the Spurs, and living through the ongoing saga of Isaiah Thomas, I hope that I have a little objectivity when it comes to NBA teams that have any chance whatsoever of success in any form or fashion.

Mr. Garnett,
The rumors are circulating that you may be going to the Lakers. While this represents a chance for you to play in a major market and play alongside another bona fide superstar, I implore you to reconsider.

There isn’t an active player in the NBA that deserves a championship ring more than you. You have held the Timberwolves afloat since you arrived in Minnesota, but if you go to the Lakers you will be in for the same headaches you have endured, only this time, it won’t be in the form of Stephon Marbury or Latrell Sprewell, but Kobe Bryant.

Once Starbury left town, you probably thought to yourself, “Thank goodness. The guy’s got talent, but he just such a cantankerous so-and-so, I’m really tired of his attitude. I’m going to get Spree on my team. The guy’s got heart. He helped lead a New York team that had no business being in the Finals in 1999, and while they were ultimately blown out by the Spurs, he did all he could.” Sadly, we know what became of Latrell. He balked at millions of dollars with the claim, “I’ve got to feed my kids.” This was after you offered to restructure your contract to get and keep him on the court.

I felt very bad for you Mr. Garnett. You did not deserve that.

However, if you go to Los Angeles (at least as a Laker), you are in for more headaches. Kobe might be a bigger head case than Marbury and Sprewell combined. This is a man who has flip-flopped on every issue throughout his career. I’ll give you a few examples:

Flagrant Fouls
A. 2001 Playoffs against the Trailblazers: Kobe is elbowed by Scottie Pippen.
“The game is pretty much already decided. To take a cheap shot like that, I mean especially if you’re gonna’, if you gonna’ hit somebody, let them know about it, don’t try to deny it. You know? I told Steve Smith, ‘If I’m gonna’ hit you, I’m gonna’ let you know.'” (hear audio)

B. 2006 Regular Season: Kobe elbows Mike Miller of the Memphis Grizzlies.
“This being our home court, people come here and think it’s Hollywood and all sorts of stuff, so they think they’ll come down [the lane] and look pretty and shoot jump shots and dunk the ball and finger-roll the ball and do all sorts of cute stuff. And we’ve got to stop that.”

Leaving the Lakers
A. Kobe on the Stephen A. Smith show when asked if there was anything the Lakers could do to make him stay.
“No. I just want them to do the right thing.”

B. Kobe on the Dan Patrick show two hours later.
“I always dreamed about retiring as a Laker. I just hope and hope that something can be resolved. Something can be figured out. Just something so I can stay here and be in this city and be with the team I love.”

I’m not even going to touch his off-the-court activity and how he was willing to use his teammates names to exonerate himself .

You want to win, you want a championship, you want a damn ring. You don’t want to join the ranks of Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing, great players who never got their gold. However, I implore you not to join a team with another headcase. You might not be able to take it anymore and you could snap and because I live in New York, I cannot promise you that I would be one of the twelve jurors that would call the assault justified.

There are other options for you, such as the Phoenix Suns. If you’re lucky, you might get on the Chicago Bulls (now you know that I’m pulling for you, because I loathe the Bulls). These teams are both on the cusp of a championship, and you could propel them over the top. While you will dramatically improve the Lakers, can you really guarantee that you will go the entire season without wanting to beat the ever-living-hell out a certain star? Make no mistake, you are a star as well. Will Kobe allow another star in the sky of Los Angeles?

Nevertheless, I wish you all the best. You’ve gotten the big contract, you’ve gotten peer admiration and the adoration of fans across America. All you need now is at least one championship (don’t get greedy). While I would love to see you in a New York uniform, I would not wish that fate upon you. Then again, it seems that the Knicks are a great retirement team, so when you are past your prime, injury prone, and no long for the hardwood floor, maybe I will get to cheer (and alternately curse you) in New York orange and blue.

All the best.