Pumping Up America's Sport

It’s an exciting time in sports.  Both the NHL and NBA playoffs are in full swing, the baseball season is closing in on the All-star break, and the World Cup is only a few months away.   So…….why are my thoughts on the NFL?  Football, the truly American sport, has never been more popular and Roger Goodell and company would like to keep it that way.  Baseball has earned the reputation as America’s pastime and never has that been truer than it is today.  Baseball is the sport of the past.  Your father’s sport, your grandfather’s sport.  Football is this generation’s bread and butter.

The reason that baseball has taken such a dive has a lot to do with steroids.  The steroids situation, the long dormant elephant in the room that took the main stage of sports media in the early 2000s, has horribly crippled the pastime’s image.  Why cheer for any player or root for any team when they all are a bunch of cheaters?  And by the player interviews I’ve read, there seems to be a conclusion that most players are juicing.

Steroid use was not the only reason that baseball has taken a seat as the second most popular (maybe third) in America.  Baseball’s popularity was waning even before the elephant awoke.  It was just a heavy hit to the already crippled league.  This is a downfall that takes time.  It’s something that could never happen to a powerhouse like the National Football League…….let’s hope.

The NFL has had a near untainted reputation and is known to crack down on players that break conduct policy.  This has caused steroids to be a non-issue in football.  That is until players started getting caught.  It’s not that steroid use has been non-existent in the past, but it seems to be an issue going into this 2010-2011 NFL football season.

In 2006 Shawne Merriman of the San Diego Chargers was handed a four game suspension for violating the league’s steroid policy (He also missed out on winning a Defensive Player of the Year Award, which was his to win).  At the time this didn’t seem like a big blow to the NFL, and in hindsight it probably wasn’t.  The man did the crime and he paid the price.  Action, reaction.  This is the way the NFL disciplines and it seems to work pretty well.

The failed tests that should make the NFL nervous are the more recent ones.  Kevin Williams and Pat Williams were both handed four game suspensions for their violation of the league’s policy; they have yet to serve the suspensions because of the ongoing investigation (both Williams appealed to the league).  Whether they did it or not, it is important for the NFL to crack down on this steroid policy and make it a non-issue once again.

Houston Texans’ outside linebacker Brian Cushing will not be playing the first four games of his sophomore season due to his failed drug test in September.  It is still not known to the public what the drug was that got him the suspension, but the substance did break the NFL’s performance enhancement policy.  This is a big deal because of the star power and his youth.  He was named last season’s Defensive Rookie of the Year (like Merriman).  The NFL has to watch the young generation of players.  We all know the guys in there now aren’t taking them.  The NFL’s record has been too spotless.  We all know Peyton Manning isn’t juicing it between plays  (Wouldn’t that be a story?!?!).

America’s (new) team is finding themselves in some hot water too with this whole pain-killer story.  I don’t know if any allegations are true but I know it’s not a good thing for the Saints to have to deal with after winning the Super bowl.  It makes the honeymoon a little more than uncomfortable.  If it turns out to be the case that the Super Bowl Champion Saints have been stealing painkillers, that would put a real damper on the mood.  And man, would that put the NFL in a tight position?  I mean, what is Godell supposed to do with that?!?!

The NFL is too big to fail……maybe; but whether it is or isn’t the Commish needs to nip this thing in the bud.  The cleaner the NFL looks, the better it fares; that’s why the league has flourished.  And that’s why Major League Baseball has taken a turn for the worse.  People have always liked a fair fight…….unless of course they were on the winning side; then it doesn’t matter as much.  Like the winning fans of any World Series in the last fifteen years or so; but if everyone was juicing, what’s the problem?  The steroid era is not over in any sport and it will last as long as the professional leagues let it last.

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