This week we look into the saga of steroids in baseball and the admission by Alex Rodriguez, the all-too-rare occasion of integrity in sports, a promise to a mother fulfilled by Hall of Fame football QB Troy Aikman, and the unexpected death of motocross star Jeremy Lusk and why it reminds us there is a human side of sports. As always, this blog column is for you guys so any comments, questions or concerns, send to Tim Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rodriguez Admits to Use of Performance Enhancers
Everyone by now should know the story, but if you haven’t then here it is in this article. A-Rod goes on to admit that he used some form of performance enhancing cocktail, but not knowing exactly what because of his youth and stupidity. Although he apologized for it, he deflected a lot of the blame on the pressure to perform, his youth driven lack of experience, and the loose culture of the game. The interview clearly came off as an attempt to be sincere and avoid the Hall of Fame tainting escapades of Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds.
Despite his admission, I was under the impression that in order for the union to allow the investigation and subsequent publishing of the results, all players were given amnesty for any prior actions. Now, I’m not condoning A-Rod’s or any of the others players’ actions, but when is enough enough? Selig is considering removing Rodriguez’s stats and records and I think that is a mistake and definite Pandora’s Box. At what point do you stop going back and cutting things out?
Sports are an evolving process--new equipment is made, new strategies are formulated, and new workout routines are performed. This Steroid Era is just an evolution in the game, albeit a horrendously negative one, but one nonetheless. If you want to suspend the guy and fine him, by all means go ahead, but don’t start removing stats. Because once it starts there is no end. I’m sure there were some guys who drank during Prohibition. Do we continue on this witch-hunt until we get to the birth of sports?
For Golfer, Wrong Ball Turns Into Right Move
Amidst all of the controversy surrounding the Steroids Era in baseball and the fixing of games in the NBA, it is a gust of fresh air to see a professional athlete act honestly and ethically. What’s more refreshing is that he is being rewarded for his behavior and has been given four exemptions to compete on the PGA Tour. J.P. Hayes reached into his bag and accidentally pulled out an unapproved prototype golf ball. He finished his round without anybody knowing about his illegal ball and unscathed from tournament officials. Upon learning of his illicit ball, he promptly called tournament officials and turned himself in, effectively disqualifying himself from the tournament.
Hayes could have very easily continued playing in the tournament and no one else would have known he used a prototype ball. However, out of respect for the game, his fellow competitors, and himself, he alerted officials of his accidental, yet still contraband ball. This all comes at a time when sports all-stars are facing potential jail time for lying about their experimentations in the world of contraband substances, despite overwhelming evidence mounting against them. Hayes, with no evidence against him other than his own testimony, voluntarily wrote his own tournament execution. And the ying to his yang is that the PGA has given him four exemptions (spots in tournaments without earning a spot due to performance).
The real “bamboo shoot in the finger nail” part about this is that it’s not commonplace in sports for athletes to act ethically and with integrity. Shouldn’t this kind of act be an everyday occurrence instead of headline news?
Aikman getting college degree 20 years later
Let’s keep the feel-good-story train moving right along with this article about Troy Aikman graduating from college after a Hall of Fame professional football career. He returned and completed the two courses he left behind for the NFL because he promised his mother that he would finish upon ending his NFL career. I like this completion of school by Aikman because it shows that leaving school early to pursue professional competition isn’t a death sentence for a player’s education.
The window for an athlete to play at the highest level is relatively small compared with the time after the game. There are many circumstances when a player leaving school early really is the best choice for them; be it because of other players in the draft, injury proneness, or the type of year they had. For other players, the best thing is for them to stay in school through their graduation. The decision of when to leave school is to be made on a case-by-case basis and Aikman’s actions show that it’s not always greedy or selfish to leave.
Rider’s Death in Competition Points to the Perils of Motocross
Sports are a passion for some, a job for others, and an escape for many. And this article about the tragic death of motocross star, Jeremy Lusk, proves that sports cannot just be looked at as a business and should never be taken for granted. Jeremy died performing a back flip during competition and didn’t complete the trick. He hit the landing ramp inverted and landed on his head.
Unfortunately, in a world where dire events seem to be the only thing that can spark a change in attitude (a spinal injury in football, a pitcher hit in the head with a line-drive, or a hockey player slashed in the neck), there are many athletes who take their gifts for granted and taint something so central in many peoples’ lives. Now, no agent, front office exec, or businessman has taken a helmet-to-helmet collision or a hockey skate to the throat during their daily work day, and for that reason, the sport should not be considered “just a business” by the athletes. Jeremy passed on pushing the limits in the sport he loved. Just remember, Tom Condon and Scott Boras aren’t endangering their lives trying a new contract negotiation tactic. Their positions are very different. So before you embark on a business venture, sit down alone and ask yourself, is it worth it?
Don’t get me wrong, branding and financial planning are vital aspects of an athlete's career, but they shouldn’t be the reason you play and they should never ever change the person you are. As an athlete there are many people looking to cash in on your talents and it’s crucial to choose a team of advisors that understands who you are and why you play the game. A business deal shouldn’t be the reason you miss out on workouts or games (or in extreme cases, like Stephon Marbury, full seasons) because in the end league minimums are thousands of dollars above the average annual income in this country. Enjoy the game for the game. A player who sat out of workouts and games to get more incentive clauses in his contract and subsequently suffers a career-ending injury will neither get those games back nor the incentives in the contract.
An athlete’s career is significantly shorter than the careers of his advisors and therefore should be valued that much more. Steer your own ship and don’t become a puppet following the strings. The most beloved athletes are the ones who do the right thing instead of the most profitable one. A-Rod is the wealthiest athlete in U.S. sports and his agent is the wealthiest baseball agent, yet both are hated by way more than they are liked. Show your value to a club and the contracts will follow. Don’t lose sight of the human aspect of the game that enchants fans, motivates players, and brings out the best in sports.
From everyone here at Access Athletes, our deepest sympathies to Jeremy Lusk’s family and friends.
As always, this blog column is for you guys so any comments, questions or concerns, send to Tim Ryan at email@example.com.