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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sports Figures Facing Justice

This week, we've seen two sports figures put on trial and come away with very different results.

Roger Clemens, a pitcher with Hall of Fame statistics, was on trial for lying to Congress about whether he had violated baseball's rules and used steroids.  Due to weaknesses in the Government's case, most notably Andy Pettitte's admission that it was 50% likely that he misunderstood a conversation with Clemens regarding HGH, Clemens was acquitted. 

Once again, we are reminded that in the United States, an accused is presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  Maybe the Rocket was juicing, maybe he wasn't, but clearly the testimony of Brian McNamee, who had credibility issues of his own, was not enough to lower the boom on Clemens. 

On the other hand, we have Jerry Sandusky.  As of this past Friday night, this "man" was convicted of molesting an obscene amount of young boys on the Penn State campus, who were there under the auspices of his charity, "The Second Mile."  Some may say that the testimony of a now-grown man as to what he recalls Mr. Sandusky doing to him decades beforehand is not, in and of itself, unassailable proof.  Memories could be faulty, stories may have been rehearsed, and someone might be "out to get" the defendant.  Only problem is, there were 48 separate counts of him doing this!  Sheer numbers and congruent consistency have away of overcoming uncorroborated and dated testimony.

Regardless of the result, both men exemplify what happens when sports set the wrong example.  Baseball, in its purest form, does not require its players to lift weights and bulk up.  Pitching is governed simply by control and accuracy, while hitting is governed by speed, timing, geometry and physics.  Throwing and catching are governed by simple speed and skill -- while it's always thrilling to watch a center fielder try to throw someone out at home, smart ballplayers use the second baseman or shortstop as the "cutoff man" to ensure a greater degree of accuracy.  Point being, THERE IS NO REASON TO USE STEROIDS IN BASEBALL, BECAUSE THAT MUCH UNNATURAL POWER IS NOT NEEDED TO WIN. 

Sadly, this game has changed in the last 25-30 years, so that performance-enhancing drugs are sometimes needed to give players an "edge."  A 98-mph fastball, home runs that only hit the upper deck and above, and golden arms that can throw someone out in Yankee Stadium when you're playing cross-town at Citi Field are the tools of championship teams now.  Some players feel the need to inject chemicals into their veins to freakishly enhance the skills that already made them Major Leaguers, without regard to the unspeakable side effects that steroids cause, or the fact that their use is illegal.  It may take another ice age before the game is restored to its natural and untainted perfection.  Until then, this former Red Sox pitcher who may have only joined My Yankees to get himself a ring will always be convicted in the court of public opinion, and his phenomenal stats will never see Cooperstown.

Football is a sport rich in tradition and honor.  Players are taught to be fierce, bold, courageous, and aggressive to an extreme, but to always respect and honor those in positions of authority above them.  The decision of the coach, or his assistants, are never questioned, but are followed in the same chain of command as the military.  Notwithstanding the knowledge or tactics that they possess, the players, and all others who work beneath the coaches are taught to respect and revere them.  This is because they're the ones who foster and encourage the qualities that will most likely make their players winners.  Unfortunately, this coach used the shield of his position, and the respect that automatically comes with it, to abuse future players for his own gratification, and to convince them that they would have no recourse against him.

In his wake, the entire Penn State football program is irreparably tainted.  Many recruits will now reconsider whether to accept scholarships from this institution, or even be associated with the program.  The huge amount of deference reserved for this position seemed to prevent any serious inquiry into Sandusky's activities once rumors began to circulate.  In fact, this deference was so strong that any eyewitness to one of these acts foreclosed himself from taking the proper actions because he was concerned about ensuring that the internal chain of command was followed to a "T."

Bottom line, the traditions of both sports unfortunately need to give way to common sense.  Here's to hoping that one day they do.

No video tonight, it's late -- get one to you this week though.