Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sad Day In Sports

I follow sports very religiously, as noted in the title of this blog. I try not to make fun of sports I don't follow too much, and try to be as passion filled as I can for the things I love. I grew up a football and baseball guy, but in moving to Portland, I discovered a love for basketball that called itself Blazermania, and over the past few years, I've found a love for soccer. I love my teams very much, and get happy when they win, and sad if they lose but it never changes how I feel about the team itself. But every once in a while, things happen that make me look in the mirror and wonder if it's time to rethink the passion..

The Rose Garden today announced that they will begin the bidding process next year to select a corporate sponsor to name the arena. The arena, now 12 years old, has been one of six that currently bears no corporate sponsorship, and when it was first built, the team was adamant that it would remain a non corporate named entity. But between then and today, we've had the run of the Jail Blazers, near death of the fan base, a complete roster turnover, new leadership for the team, and the team being put up for sale then pulled off the market. And let's not forget the PAM debacle that was recently cleared up. The arena was put in bankruptcy to get the team better rates, but the bankruptcy court ended up not liking the holding company Paul Allen put together to buy the arena for a lesser amount, and so the arena decided to try and run itself. Allen ended up buying the arena back, and making good on the amount owed, but the move smacked of corporate greed and maneuvering. Yea, it happens a lot in the business world and more now in the sports arena world, but in Portland, we've always done things differently. The team is now on the rise, playing well, and has a bright future. And now, suddenly, the time is right to have our arena be just like everywhere else in getting a cold static corporate name. I wasn't a huge fan of the Rose Garden name when it was first proposed, but I grew to like it as a symbol for the Rose City and our sports team. And now, just like so many other things, the past is thrown out the window at the pursuit of more cash flows.

The Mitchell report was also released today, implicated dozens of players in the steroids mess that baseball is in. It's pretty obvious to anyone following the sport the last 10 years that players are getting bigger and stronger, and in some cases, unnaturally big. We've also seen increases in rotator cuff injuries, torn knee ligaments, and other assorted injuries as the rush to be bigger and faster seems to put more and more strain on bodies. I could see where a guy not using steroids might think he needs to do to keep up with the other guys, but that smacks of taking the short cut. Baseball has always portrayed itself as America's game, with a rich past of great history, apple pie, small town games, and embracing the new age while paying attention to its past. But in doing that, the game needs to live with itself and keep its integrity in place, because if the fan can't believe in the game and the people that play it and run it, it runs the risk of becoming irrelevant. The NBA is dealing with referees and gambling, the NFL can't fund pensions yet can build new stadiums all over, and MLB has its drug cloud that it can't seem to get past.

Mitchell's report essentially blames everyone involved, from the commissioner to the teams to the players to the agents in this mess, as many folks looked the other way while guys took shortcuts to make themselves stronger and faster in the pursuit of money and glory. It seems empty now to look at these players and think was it natural talent that let them do what they did or was it the drugs? Baseball has survived many scandals over the years, but at what point do the fans just walk away and say I've had enough. If you don't have integrity to show the fans that you are there to play hard, play by the rules, and do things the right way, then you have nothing. Winning may be nice, but if it's done above everything else and without regard to consequence, can you really say that it's worth it. I for one say no, it's not, and while I may still follow the game, it probably won't be as close as it has been. Quite frankly, I've got better things to do with my time..


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