The bomb planted Wednesday near the Tour de France route wasn’t really necessary because the doped-up cyclists have done a good enough job themselves destroying the race. By the time they ride into Paris this weekend, the only ones left pedaling will be a few French kids on Schwinns with training wheels.
Not that we care all that much. It’s just a bike race, after all, though you do have to wonder how Lance Armstrong won so many when everyone but him was seemingly jabbing needles into their arms at every stop.
Besides, we’ve got a lot of other stuff to worry about. Things are getting so out of hand in sports that maybe Sergio Garcia was right when he claimed the greenskeeper, every other player in the world and the guy who ran the ice cream concession at Carnoustie stole the British Open from him.
Not since a group of players got together to throw a World Series 88 years ago have we witnessed such a dark time among those who play our games. The only difference is these guys make the Black Sox look like minor leaguers.
So what’s on the sports schedule this week? Don’t bother looking at your TV guides, because it just might make you sick.
One of the best players in the National Football League was in federal court Thursday on charges he and his buddies liked to throw two dogs into a pit and make a night out of betting fistfuls of Benjamins on which one would come out alive. Losers who didn’t die right away were electrocuted, drowned, shot or hung, the indictment alleges.
Michael Vick will have his day in court, but my guess is he’ll never play another down in the NFL even if he escapes a prison term. Americans will put up with a lot of things, but killing puppies isn’t one of them, and the pit bulls from People for Ethical Treatment of Animals will make sure no one forgets every Sparky, Max, Smokey and Benjie who gave his life trying to survive on Vick’s country estate.
Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy didn’t kill any puppies, though his former neighbors in West Chester, Pa., probably wouldn’t put it past him. They accused him in a lawsuit of stalking, vandalizing their property, setting fire to a tractor they owned and crashing their golf cart into a ravine.
You might think the NBA would have concluded that Donaghy had some, well, issues, that might interfere with his responsibility for making sure Kobe Bryant never fouls out of a game. But they let him referee anyway, and in the next few days he’s expected to turn himself in and answer to game-fixing charges from which the league may never recover.
It’s one thing when your players brawl on the court or get caught with some pot. But when it turns out a sport many already thought was fixed for other reasons was actually fixed for really bad reasons, it’s time to bring in the Harlem Globetrotters and make every game an exhibition.
At least commissioner David Stern seems unhappy about it all. His counterpart in baseball, Bud Selig, is about to embrace the biggest cheater of them all with a smile and handshake that not only gives credibility to Barry Bonds but also shows he has no desire to do anything to repair the damage that juiced sluggers did to the game’s integrity.
In a bizarre rationalization, Selig announced he will try to be there when Bonds breaks the all-time home run record “out of respect for the tradition of this game, the magnitude of the record, and the fact that all citizens in this country are innocent until proven guilty.” He then announced he believes in the Easter Bunny, and that he thought Paris Hilton got a bad rap.
Selig, of course, knows Bonds never will be prosecuted for using steroids so he never has to worry about that. There is, however, a good chance Bonds will be indicted for lying to a grand jury about whether he knowingly used steroids. That and the mysterious way he began hitting home runs by the bunches soon after reportedly hooking up with the BALCO folks should be plenty of reason for Selig to declare Henry Aaron’s record safe.
If he needs any more proof, forget George Mitchell’s alleged investigation. Just pick up a copy of the November issue of Playboy where Bonds’ former mistress will tell how he was so jealous of Mark McGwire that he began using steroids. Just don’t look at the pictures because besides telling all, Kimberly Bell is also baring all.
They say sports reflects culture, and the car bombings that killed at least 50 people Wednesday in Baghdad as they were celebrating Iraq’s victory in the Asian Cup semifinal offer some proof of that.
But I would hate to think we’re a world of drug cheats, puppy killers and game fixers.
We’re better than that. And it’s time the people who play our sports, officiate our games and run our leagues start reflecting it.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlbergap.org