Of the three major sports, my interest has always been in the following order: 1. baseball (Yankees) 2. basketball (Knicks) 3. football (Steelers). I've followed all pretty closely, but baseball and basketball have always taken the cake. I followed the Knicks during the terrible years (1980s) through to the glory years (1990s). I've recently lost a bit of interest in the Knicks not because they've sucked for so many years, but because I'm disgusted by James Dolan and Isiah Thomas. They have ruined the organization with their greed and mismanagement.
I've never left the Yankees. I grew up with them and have followed them game-by-game for over 25 years. It's extremely rare that I miss a box score. With today's easy access to updates, it's rare that an inning goes by and I don't know the score. The Yankees are in my blood. Yeah, they've got the highest payroll in all of sports, and I completely agree that baseball is unfair, but it doesn't matter, the Yankees are my team.
The last week or so has felt like a massive blow to the stomach. And that blow has come from three (and a half) people across all three sports: Michael Vick (football), Tim Donaghy (basketball) and Barry Bonds/Bud Selig (baseball).
Michael Vick: The allegations against him with respect to his dogfighting ring have angered me beyond words. The brutality that he and his scumbags leveled on these defenseless animals is beyond comprehension. And to add insult to injury, I've heard countless NFL players defend Vick, while *joking* about the charges against him. If the allegations are proven true, Michael Vick should never player another game in the NFL, he should serve jail time, and his massive contract should be donated to the ASPCA or a similar organization.
Tim Donaghy: I was already down on the NBA following the Pistons/Pacers brawl, the arrogance and stupidity of stars like Lebron James and Kobe Bryant and the disaster that is the New York Knicks. Now we know that Donaghy bet on games and likely did his best to FIX games. I don't think that I will ever look at the NBA the same way, or any sport for that matter. Could umpires be doing the same in baseball?
Barry Bonds/Bud Selig: Barry Bonds is days away from breaking arguably the most sacred record in sports. And he's about to take it away from Hammerin' Hank, a man who was pure class. Barry Bonds has scoffed at the media his entire career and likely illegally improved his body and output by pouring drugs into his body for a good percentage of his career. That said, I don't entirely blame Bonds. Baseball's commissioner, Bud Selig, was KEENLY aware that this was going on during his tenure. He road the coattails of the McGwire/Sosa/Bonds era because of the revenue that it was bringing baseball. He knew that they were cheating and turned a blind eye. He is equally, if not more responsible for the steroid era. Many argue that *nothing* has been proven. I ask you this: When's the last time you heard from or saw Mark McGwire? Why do you think he's gone into hiding? If Barry Bonds is innocent, don't you think (given his brash personality) that he'd be VEHEMENTLY denying these allegations and suing everyone who's written about his drug use for slander. Yet he's done nothing. Why? Because he's guilty.
Why do these incidents which may be isolated to a few individuals eat at me? Because it's corruption. For some reason, it seems to mirror what's going on in our government right now. Some folks who gain power will grasp onto that power with such ferocity that they lose sight of everything else. And this is a part of American life that absolutely disgusts me.
Sports has always been very dear to me. When Louisville basketball won the NCAA Championship in 1986 I was in tears. When I witnessed Tino Martinez's unthinkable home run against the Diamandbacks in the 2001 World Series, I felt euphoria that was previously foreign to me. When Patrick Ewing stood on the scorers table after beating the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals and finally bringing the Knicks back to the NBA Finals, I felt such joy that I called almost everyone I knew, whether they were sports fans or not.
I miss those days. I miss those moments. Given the state of sports these days, I wonder if I'll ever experience those feelings again. I hope I do.