Sports fans are famously superstitious, illogical, and, some might say, dumb. We waste time reading, watching, and listening to talking heads blab about their favorite team or sports. Are they naïve as well? The supermen and superwoman who spend most of their lives trying to be the best athlete are just people who want to win. Some will compete and enhance themselves legitimately; some do not. Some will go to Germany to get their blood spun and put back into their knee. Some will just take human growth hormone (HGH) because it is easier and faster. Some coaches will try to recruit questionable players or some will turn a blind eye to the obvious infractions just to win now and keep their jobs. The upper management, the owners, and the school presidents are just trying to stay one step ahead of the rule enforcers but most importantly make more money.
Why do we still pretend that sports matter? Most major sports do not have a drug problem; they have a cheating problem. They want to be the best no matter the cost and, only when your team is not winning, does it seem unfair.
The Baltimore Ravens just won the Super Bowl with Ray Lewis probably taking something to help him recover quicker than almost all other athletes who have ever had the same injury. Just a few weeks ago Alabama won another NCAA football championship but they have also become the poster school for over signing (to sign more players than the 85 scholarships you are allotted by the NCAA). The San Francisco Giants won the World Series despite the loss of their best hitter Melky Cabrere. He failed an MLB drug test. Despite the Giants winning the National League West by eight games and allowing Melky to play for half the season, one wonders if it would have been closer if Melky had been clean all year or not played at all. John Calipari won his first national title for the Kentucky Wildcats in his “first” Final Four. This is not to say he has not been to the Final Four before. In fact, he has been two other times. However, these journeys have been wiped from the books because of recruiting violations.
Cheating is not a new phenomenon, just look at the 1919 “Black” Sox or Dora Ratjen, a man from Germany competing in the women’s high jump in the 1936 Olympics. In 1970, Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter and later claimed he was high on LSD. The 80s and 90s were full of steroid use in MLB and the early 00s had HGH. Despite all of this, we still think our teams or sports have worth and dignity.
Do we throw the baby out with the bathwater? How does the collective sports society reconcile this? A game is meant to find out which team is better on a level playing field. However, players and coaches keep finding newer ways to make it less balanced, gain the advantage. Maybe it does not really matter; maybe what makes sports great is it is our last vestige of childhood. Perhaps, it is that sports are our way of trying to remember the pure joy and the absolute agony for something we do not have any control over. It is a way for us to bond with fifty-thousand people in a stadium that we share nothing in common with except our love of our team. I love my Royals, my Chiefs, and my Jayhawks. I still get overwhelming joy from remembering the Jayhawks winning the 2008 National Championship. No matter how hard I try I cannot forget Lin Elliott missing three field goals and the Chiefs losing by three in 1996. I am naïve and I am okay with it. I will try to love my team more than a player or a coach because it is harder to corrupt a group than a single man. Plus, it is impossible to corrupt my memory of those teams.