Notes From Wonderland: MLB black eyes

I love sports. Obviously, it's what I do all day. I write and talk sports for most of my waking hours. However, just when things start to go right in the NBA and NHL, Major League Baseball screws things up. Between steroid abuse, labor problems and the Mike Piazza controversy, I fear that baseball may not survive.

I went to a Diamondbacks game this weekend. Randy Johnson was on the hill. The D'Backs and the Dodgers combined for 19 runs in 10 innings and all anyone wanted to talk about was the "Mike Piazza gay thing". As I discussed the issue with my friends the overwhelming consensus was "who cares".

Frankly, it's none of my business what Major League players do behind closed doors. Unless a player misses a ball game to march in a Gay Pride Parade, I don't care. Unless his being a homosexual affects his play, I could care less.

I'm not going to lie and say that it wouldn't be a little weird to find out that my favorite pro ball players were gay, but I'd still root for them. There are actors and musicians that I enjoy that are gay. Some of my favorite writers are gay. I know sports are different than the arts. I know it is less accepted, but it just shouldn't matter.

While listening to sports talk radio, I was appalled that many listeners commented that they wouldn't want their children watching gay athletes in fear that they would want to "become gay". This was frightening, not because they didn't want their sons or daughters to be gay, I wouldn't want my children to be gay, but that they think you can be gay just by watching a gay person play sports.

Although I don't agree, I understand why people are against homosexuality. Whether your religious interpretation or social upbringing makes it seem wrong or scary, I can understand. It is different from our norms, and things that are different scare us. I understand that some believe it is a sin, but aren't a lot of other things?

Many major leaguers are quite promiscuous. Promiscuity is a sin. Are we afraid that our kids are going to become promiscuous when they watch players like Kevin Elster (who was known to seduce teammate's and opponent's wives) or Larry Johnson? Are we afraid that our kids are going to go out and impregnate women trying to emulate Evander Hollyfield or Sean Kemp?

Adultery is a sin. Do we boycott Chipper Jones, whose infidelities are well documented? How about drug abuse? Daryl Strawberry, Steve Howe, Sabastian Janikowski, the list goes on and on.

Speaking of kids emulating their sports heroes, how about all the steroid talk? With Ken Caminiti, a former MVP, admitting to steroid use Major League Baseball has another black eye. I'd be more afraid that my kid would go on the juice in an attempt to mirror a pro ball player than I would worry that he'd date a man to be like an athlete.

Caminiti believes that 50% of ball players are ‘roiding. Jose Canseco thinks the number is closer to 85%. I don't know what the number is, but I think it is obvious. I can name at least 20 players that I'd bet good money on that are doing steroids. When a light hitting centerfielder suddenly hit 50 bombs in a season, something is up. When a former undersized, weak hitting middle infielder re-appears as a power hitting third baseman, you have to wonder.

The problem is, I can't blame them. If someone offered me a chance to make millions playing pro ball by shaving off 10 years of my life, I'd consider it. I would hope that I'd never succumb top that temptation, but I'm not sure. I've taken over-the-counter supplements in an effort to get into shape and meet girls, whose to say I wouldn't go a step further if I had the chance to live out a dream.

The big problem is that there is no drug testing in pro baseball. The Player's Union has blocked drug testing. In an effort to have power over the owners, the union is willing to risk the health of its players to have a bargaining chip.

And that leads me to the thing I hate most about baseball, labor unrest. 30 years ago there was a need for a union. Now there is not. All they do is screw up the game. They can't test for drugs. They can't abolish the DH. They can't fold bad franchises. They can't create a salary cap. All because of the union. I'm not saying I stand by the owners, they are greedy and at times inept, but the union is worse. If they do strike, baseball is doomed. I came back the last time, but I'm not sure I will again.

The good news is that other sports are thriving. The NBA Conference Finals have started to restore my faith in the NBA. How good have these series been? While the style of play has been less than stellar, the conclusions have been riveting. Too bad the NBA will dash my hopes when a bunch of high school players and underclassmen are chosen over proven talents in the NBA draft.

If you haven't been watching the Stanley Cup playoffs, you'd better start. Carolina somehow managed to get into the finals and the Detroit/Colorado series has been classic. Is it me or has almost every game gone to OT in both conference finals. For those of you who claim you don't understand the sport, e-mail me and I'll be more than happy to explain it to you. Seriously, hockey is great.

Finally congratulations to the softball team and women's golf team. They came up just a little short, but had phenomenal seasons. I'll be sad to see Lorena Ochoa and Jennie Finch leave, but I wish them the best. Ochoa should compete with Anika Sorrenstam as the best UA pro golfer, while Finch has a chance to be the Mia Hamm of women's softball.


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