October 24, 2014
Around the big top

Oh how the mighty have fallen

By Tim Barnum|Staff writer
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Posted 2/11/09

The past two weeks have been jam packed when it comes to news in the sports world.

But of course, none of it was positive, since we have America’s Olympic sweetheart Michael Phelps shown in a not so appealing photo hitting a bong and Alex Rodriguez getting the whistle blown on him for failing a drug test in 2003.

And like all negative sports stories, these two issues have dominated to airwaves, proving once again what the sports media loves more than a comeback story – demonizing sports heroes.

**Disclaimer – I’m not here to defend what these two guys did. There, I’m covered.

Let’s start with Phelps. This is a bit of a repeat offense for him, since after the 2004 Olympics he was caught for driving under the influence. A story that sort of slipped through the cracks four years ago, since he won six gold medals, not eight.

In my humble opinion, Phelps should have been scrutinized and criticized much more for that lapse in judgment than he is now. In the latest debacle, Phelps was caught via modern photography doing something that could potentially harm **his well-being, not that of hundreds of people on the highway.

However, being crowned as possibly the greatest Olympian of all time, and establishing himself as a mega-rich endorsement machine, Phelps’ lapse in judgment is now being criticized much more sternly. He has already been dropped from Kellogg’s and is now the tagline of cheesy one-liners such as “Man, no wonder he eats over 10,000 calories per day – the munchies.” Phelps is also being slammed in the blogosphere by sports purists (who never make mistakes, apparently) and soccer moms who are worried their own children have been so neglected when it comes to teaching them right and wrong that the moms, whom I guess told their kids to use Michael Phelps as a moral compass, even after a DUI, are obviously worried their little angels will follow in Phelps’ footsteps.

Prosecutors are even talking about pressing charges, which is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. There is no way they could ever prove Phelps was actually smoking marijuana from that picture. All they could prove is that he did something in public that he shouldn’t have done, but that wouldn’t waste as much money.

Next, we have A-Rod. As soon as the alleged drug test failure was reported in Sports Illustrated, ESPN picked up the ball and began to run with it like they always do, talking about what is obviously a sensitive subject in baseball, but something I could care less about – the Hall of Fame.

A-Rod admitted his mistake, and even admitted to taking banned substances – possibly preventing his life of becoming the immortal circus of denial that will now be Roger Clemens’ and Barry Bonds’ life. But what is ridiculous about A-Rod’s inicident is that the drug test he took was part of an MLB-wide test that was supposedly “anonymous.”

But of course, when the government stuck its nose in sports, it seized the test results and of course, breached the ideal of privacy and anonymity.

A few analysts have brought this up, since A-Rod was on a list of 104 players whose names haven’t even been close to being released.

And why would they? The other players aren’t the best in the business. That’s the way the sports media does it. Need proof? Who are the two names everyone associates with the Michell Report? Did you say Chuck Knoblauch as one of them? No. You probably thought of Clemens and Bonds.

Who else tested positive in 2003? You don’t know. I don’t know. We only know one. The best – A-Rod.

What really burns me up about the positions both of these athletes is that the same sports media that builds them up so highly, exalts them and puts them on pedestals, is the one that will saturate the sports world with knocking them down. Multiple Olympians are stripped of their medals every year. They get a line on the bottom of the screen. Phelps is in an embarrassing photo, in a photo where he is in no danger of being stripped of his medals, and we get 12 hours a day of “He should go on Oprah and cry” or “He should teach a class to kids on not doing drugs.”

No, he should apologize and then ignore the rest of the storm. And the sports media should stop trying to tell him what to do, since as soon as he does it, all the analysts will tell him he should’ve never done it. Let’s not forget he’s thinking of walking away from the sport of swimming. Personally, if I was in his shoes, I would.

And of course the 12 hours not devoted to Phelps will be devoted to A-Rod (until Brett Favre holds a press conference). He apologized and confessed fairly quickly, not wanting to be the 2009 Pete Rose, so his future is still slightly alive, Hall of Fame or no Hall of Fame (does anybody really care about this in any sport other than baseball?).

And like Phelps in relation to stripped medalists, A-Rod will be on the big screen and the other 103 players who failed the test in 2003 will be a line on the bottom.

Too bad it wasn’t heroin these two were involved with. Then we could talk about their great comeback and courage and heroics, just like the baseball media did with Josh Hamilton, the home run derby king of last year, whose recovery was more celebrated than John Lester’s, even though Lester, a pitcher from the Red Sox, survived cancer and came back to be a dominant force, even throwing a no-hitter this year.

So, to try to get you up on par with some of the positive things going on it sports, I’m doubling the efforts of ESPN. I’m giving you two lines.

Pat Summit became the first college basketball coach in history to win 1,000 games when her Lady Vols from Tennessee helped her achieve the milestone last week.

You’re welcome.

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