Monday, 16 January 2012

Special Report: Realities of Sport

In honour of Game Points' special "Realities of Sport" show on Tuesday night, here are a few topics to get the ball rolling.

- The epidemic of concussions in pro sports is the direct result of technology surpassing evolution. It could easily be summed up in an equation which would no doubt indicate we are on the wrong side of an XY intersection. If I still owned my scientific calculator from Grade 7 advanced math class, I'm sure I'd work it out in a jiffy. Players are bigger and faster. Equipment is stronger and more durable. Concussion symptoms are more thoroughly researched and diagnosed. Not to mention, society in general is turning into one big panic attack. All of these factors play a part.

Years from now, each major sport is going to have to make a choice between bringing it down a notch to the point where players can't injure themselves as much... or... maybe the players are just going to come out and tell everyone to chill the hell out. These are people who love what they do. They train their whole lives for something that others dream about and fully understand the risks they are taking.

Personally, I think society and mainstream media will eventually start decrying sports as barbaric when more people are forced into retirement due to brain injury. The hardcore fans will remain as the casual fan ceases to exist. And should a major sport decide to scale back, the immediate praise coming from the mainstream hippies who don't know the difference from a punt and a bunt will quickly give way to a backlash from the real fans who line their wallets. It will only serve notice for other leagues not to mess with the formula. Survival of the fittest will never be truer.

- Statistically speaking, there are likely several dozen homosexuals currently playing in the NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB. There have even been a handful of athletes to come out after their careers are over. Yet, no athlete has come out while playing. It seems to only be a matter of time before that day comes.

It could even be argued that the upside of a player coming out may be greater than the downside. That player would instantly become an icon and a hero for millions of people. Not to mention they could potentially have a huge pay day with endorsements. In my opinion, it all depends on two key factors: the player's star status and where he plays. It's gotta be the right city. A place like San Francisco seems obvious. I think Montreal would be fairly accepting as well. But would a deep south city like Atlanta embrace him? Or a blue collar town like Detroit? I really don't know enough to say they wouldn't but it must come into play for the player. His star power could work either way. A superstar might not want to risk a backlash. Or his status could make him feel more secure in whatever he does. A bench player could be afraid of getting blackballed. Or he might feel like coming out would give him the self confidence and edge he needs. All it would take is the right combination of location, talent and personality.

Of course, the scenario that rarely gets brought up is the most likely to occur. Some teenage athlete, growing up in a well adjusted home, will be openly gay "as long as he remembers. We've never really talked about it. It's just who I am and my parents have always accepted and loved me." The story will tell itself as he gets drafted, works his way through the minors and eventually becomes America's first openly gay sports star.

No rumours running rampant. No shocking press conference. No longer an 'if' but a 'when'.

- As soon as the dinosaurs went extinct, man no longer had a good reason to run. So he invented sports. Along with sports, came a list of rules to be followed. And about 5 minutes later, someone tried to cheat. Which brings us to steroids.

The word 'steroids' as we know it might not have always been a part of sports but performance enhancers certainly have. Almost anyone would take or use something if it gave enough of an edge to defeat an opponent. Pitchers would spitball regularly while batters experimented with corked bats even though they were explicitly against the rules. Florida State invented Gatorade to help their players and there was probably nothing illegal about it, even though at the time, who knows what was going into that stuff. Meanwhile, a laboratory that developed a blood doping technique for a whole team may not have been doing anything illegal either. Until something has been banned (by the sport, not the courts) I have a hard time blaming them.

Now baseball writers are refusing to vote players into the Hall of Fame because they've taken steroids. Mark McGwire has been on the ballot for years now. Soon Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, two of the most surefire 1st-ballot HOFers you'll ever find, will be eligible. And if they don't get in, it's time to just come up with a new system.

Athletes take PEDs in some form or another and they always will. We won't even know about it until several years later, once they've moved onto the better, newer, cleaner way to gain an advantage. As fans, the ignorance and indignation act is getting mighty old. It's time for people to simply accept that for many, PED's aren't just a reality of sports. They're a necessity.

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