Pro football needs real refs; Lance Armstrong needs to get real
BY RICK TELANDER firstname.lastname@example.org September 1, 2012 6:46PM
Lance Armstrong has to face the fact that he’s arguably the most disgraced former champion athlete in world history. | Rogerio Barbosa~Getty Images
Updated: October 3, 2012 6:16AM
Happy Labor Day weekend, laborers!
And that includes all you resting NFL officials.
The way I see it is you’re like seasonal hedge-trimmers. If the hedge looks bad enough, or somebody falls in and gets thorns stuck in him everywhere because of bad trim work — because unskilled, non-union trimmers have been hired — you’ll get called back to the hedge, pronto.
But, then, nobody gambles on hedges. They do hedge on gambles, however. And NFL hedging is huge.
I give the league three weeks.
◆ Good morning, Lance Armstrong!
“I won the Tour de France seven times,’’ you continue to say. No, you didn’t. You crossed the finish line first seven times. In a sense like Ben Johnson, Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery, et al.
Why are you so reluctant to take your seat at the cheaters’ table, friend-o? I mean, you fight everything — saddle sores, the Alps, critics, cancer. But not the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency? Not the witnesses who will be heard from soon, most prominently fellow disgraced U.S. Postal teammate Tyler Hamilton?
(Digression: Good job, U.S. government, of which the U.S. Postal Service is a part, picking your sponsorships. First you pay ’em, then you flay em!)
Nor is this to suggest USADA and WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, are without flaws and stupidities. But the sport of cycling subscribes to their policies. That means you, Mr. Yellow Wristband.
Oh, and never having flunked a drug test means what? Nothing. How many times must we say it?
Some synthetic testosterone has a detectable lifespan of 24 hours. Some EPO is impossible to detect. Same with HGH. The new rage of mini-dosing drugs craftily outsmarts testers, while effectively changing one’s hormonal ‘‘profile.’’ Machines are not nearly as smart as shrewd, wealthy cheaters and their scientists. Did we mention that Jones never flunked a drug test and still served time for doping?
At any rate, Lance, start practicing this, just like pedaling: “I never won the Tour de France.’’
◆ One more thing about Armstrong, who now is arguably the most disgraced former champion athlete in world history: a handful of powerful and skilled American sports journalists have made him sound like Jean Valjean being unfairly persecuted by evil Inspector Javert. The French, for whom Victor Hugo is a national treasure, would understand this completely, and reject it.
One of these sportswriters said the only way she would not believe Armstrong was a “good guy’’ were if he were charged with murder.
Armstrong is not a murderer, only a fraud.
◆ Major League Baseball just signed a limited broadcast deal with ESPN that is worth $5.6 billion over eight years. I quit taking math my junior year in high school and have forgotten whatever I might have learned beforehand, but even I can tell you that breaks down to an average of $700 million a year.
Baseball people talk about smoke, filth, gas and cheese? This, people, is high cheese.
◆ Texas just has to out-do everybody, don’t it?
Take high school football. We already have Friday Night Lights, the book, the movie, the TV show, the cult.
Now we have real-life Allen High School, just outside Dallas, with its new $60 million, sunken-bowl, 18,000-seat football stadium that includes a high-def video screen and free Wi-Fi for everyone.
Allen is a suburb about the size and wealth quotient of Evanston. So imagine this thing called Eagle Stadium, on about 72 acres of land, located, say, at Dempster and McCormick. Kind of nuts, right?
Here’s the funny thing. This stadium is only the fifth-biggest high school stadium in the state. Don’tcha mess with Texas, now!
◆ One of the saddest stories I’ve heard is the one about White Sox pitcher John Danks and two of his friends from high school, one of whom fell and was paralyzed from the waist down while partying at Danks’ rented Chicago condo in 2010.
Of course, it’s a lawsuit now. And the paralyzed friend is suing his own brother, who pushed him, causing the fall, and Danks, who allegedly didn’t call 911 or paramedics for several hours after the man lay on the deck unable to move. Danks and the able brother carried the victim down three flights of stairs, also contributing to the spinal-cord damage, according to the suit.
Not good, on any level.
◆ I just picked up and read, for reasons I can only guess at, a fascinating book called Hack’s 191 by Bill Chastain. It’s about Hack Wilson, the Cubs outfielder who set the major-league record for RBI with an astonishing 191 in 1930.
A legendary and incurable drunk, Wilson also set the National League record for home runs that year with 56. For much of the season, he was ahead of Babe Ruth’s 60-homer pace, and a lot of people were so focused on that race that they barely noticed the incredible amount of runs Wilson was driving in.
What is astounding is that Wilson was only 5-6 with size 6 shoes but was so stocky and muscular that he wore an 18-inch collar.
As ever, only the Cubs.