Monday, August 5, 2013

Has it really been five years already?

Today marks a couple of landmarks in the world of The Defense Rests. It was five years ago today that the first post went out across the interwebz. And this is my 2,000th post on this blawg. So, today we won't talk about the law; instead we will talk about two of my favorite subjects - baseball and soccer.

First we go to the diamond where today is judgment day for Alex Rodriguez. Mr. Rodriguez, for those of y'all who don't keep up with such things, was implicated in the latest drug scandal to hit baseball. His name was found in records belonging to the Biogenesis clinic in Florida. Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers (who escaped punishment just a year ago) has already agreed to a 65 game suspension that will keep him off the field for the rest of the 2013 season.

Mr. Rodriguez, who has denied any wrongdoing, has refused to negotiate the terms of a suspension with MLB. As a result he is looking at a suspension that could last anywhere from 200 games to life. If he decides to sit down to work out an exit strategy he is likely to sit the rest of this season and all of next season - costing him almost $40 million.

His employer, the New York Yankees, are, ironically, hoping that the commissioner will drop the hammer on A-Rod as that would free up a lot of cash in the Bronx.

Either way, Alex Rodriguez' career is coming to an end. He is 38 years old with lots of miles on his body. He is coming off hip surgery in the off-season. He, and his salary, are an albatross around the neck of the Yankees.

Now I've questioned many times before this focus we have on players who took performance enhancing drugs. Sports is big business. Networks buy up broadcast and cable rights for hundreds of millions of dollars. They want a lot of eyeballs watching those games so they can charge their sponsors and arm and a leg for the privilege of airing a commercial or two during the game.

No one in baseball seemed to care back in 1998 when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were chasing history. The aura of the home run chase served to restore the luster the game had lost when the World Series was cancelled in 1994. Mr. McGwire looked like a freak of nature - nothing like the kid who began his big league career in Oakland.

As a result of their cheating, neither McGwire nor Sosa is likely to ever be enshrined in Cooperstown.

Then along came Barry Bonds, whose head kept getting bigger and bigger (literally) as a result of the drugs he was using to fuel his pursuit of Hank Aaron's all-time home run record. Despite the fact everyone knew Bonds was the biggest cheat in baseball, we were still subjected to the sight of Hank Aaron recording a message congratulating Mr. Bubblehead on becoming the new home run king.

Bonds was never suspended and his records still hold. It is unlikely that he will be invited to the Hall of Fame anytime soon, either. The only consolation in all of this is that while everyone who follows baseball knows what 755 means, very few folks can remember how many homeruns Bonds hit.

As the extent of drug use became clear, baseball decided to clean up its act. The owners and the players' union worked together to create a new drug policy that called for mandatory suspensions for players who tested positive for a banned substance. But, none of the players caught up in the Biogenesis scandal tested positive for anything - the evidence against them consists of medical and billing records and the statements of the "doctor" who ran the clinic out of a strip mall.

So, is it fair that Mr. Braun, Mr. Rodriguez and the other players are being punished for their alleged drug use while Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Clemens and others weren't? No, it's probably not. Of course the problem is that back when the drug scandals began, there was no drug policy in baseball and now there is. Mr. Rodriguez cheated knowing full well that he was cheating and what the possible penalties were.

Drugs brought baseball back from the brink of oblivion and the owners and commissioner turned their heads the other way so long as the money was pouring into the coffers. Now, with baseball being richer than it has ever been before, MLB wants to crack down on the practices it condoned 15 years ago.

On the other side of the world, in Qatar to be exact, a young Ecuadoran soccer player, Christian Benitez died of heart failure shortly after playing in his first match for his new club in Qatar. His death has raised serious questions regarding FIFA's awarding of the 2022 World Cup to the Arab emirate.

FIFA officials are now, all of a sudden, worried about the consequences of playing a soccer tournament in a country in which temperatures exceed well over 100 degrees during the summer. Even Sepp Blatter, the corrupt head of FIFA, is considering moving the tournament from the summer to the winter to avoid the searing heat (nevermind the havoc that will play on European soccer leagues). With all the hand wringing after Mr. Benitez' death you would think that Qatar was lush paradise turned into an arid desert wasteland in the last few months as a result of global warming.

The truth is that no one in FIFA gave a flying fuck about the weather and playing conditions for players or fans. The decision was made based on who promised to make FIFA the most money - and Qatar, a country rich in soccer tradition (or not), promised the moon.

No comments: