Friday, July 27, 2007

The Darkest Week in Sports

Friday mornings at work are good times for a few thoughts on the sports world. A lot has happened in the last week and I can't even begin to formulate drawn-out treatises on everything. I hope that this will suffice.

  • My week started on Monday (most weeks do) with my reading of Scott Fowler's editorial column in the Charlotte Observer. Fowler mailed in a Bonds column that probably took him about 10 seconds to write and five seconds to proofread. At this point in the week, I was pepped, energized and ready to kick some butt. Why should Fowler take the easy way when it's summer, he has nothing else to do, and there are so many more insightful ways of broaching Barry Bonds other than "he's a cheating jerk, damn him." I sent Fowler an email calling him out on this, and he replied generously. I felt good about being a proactive journalist with a nuanced viewpoint who could seemingly handle all of these controversial sports issues. But that was just Monday.
  • In the next three days, several more witnesses came to the public testifying about Barry Bonds' steroid use. Michael Vick didn't even publicly denounce charges of dogfighting as the NFL's biggest superstar was dragged into court by the feds. The always stoic NBA commissioner David Stern addressed the public about reports saying that former NBA ref Tim Donaghy gambled on games that he was officiating and had ties to the mob. Stern was broken and defeated...a public that had always joked about refs cheating their teams out of games took a collective gulp. A Tour de France event that I had been convinced had seen its worst hour became even darker as pre-race favorite Alexandre Vinokourov was kicked off for a banned blood transfusion. On Wednesday, the Tour started awkwardly as an amateurish protest by several members of the peloton was proceeded by a Basque terrorist bomb exploding in the woods near the course and ended with Tour leader Michael Rasmussen literally being grabbed from his bike as he finished the race and told that he was gone...four days before the championship would have been his. Oh and did I mention that another NFL player was arrested for pointing a gun at a girl outside a strip club?
  • Even if we didn't have these events to show us explicitly, it is obvious that sports are the medium through which our culture now expresses itself and propels itself through time. Issues of race are played out as supporters of PETA fight with supporters of due process outside a courtroom in Virginia. It's not a stereotype when a numerical count of the adamant Vick supporters were 95% black and the adamant Vick haters were 90% white. Issues of innocence, guilt, cheating, gambling, punishing, forgiving, cheering and hating are all being wrestled with in an emotional vat that is eternally churning. Other generations have had wars, politics, business, music, literature (all previously separated entities) test them and teach them about themselves. Now all of those things have been thrown into the vat of sports, the once innocent games that we played and watched growing up.
  • And this was all before Thursday afternoon at 3pm when we learned that 56-year old Skip Prosser, head coach of the Wake Forest men's basketball team, had collapsed and died on an innocent jog on Wake Forest's campus. Prosser was known to many for his energetic coaching style and love of life. He loved his job as an educator and a mentor and he was extremely influential in so many people's lives. Prosser's untimely death marked the blackest exclamation point on the worst week of sports in the history of this country. I am not usually one to mourn for things that can seem so distantly attached, but this morning I cannot help but feel really sad for all that we have gone through.

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