The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

August 6, 2007

The public determines who’s good, bad in sports


Here’s a baseball trivia question almost guaranteed to get you beaten up in the barroom after you ask it.

Who’s the only person to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team, the New York Rangers hockey team and the New York Knicks basketball team?

The answer is Gladys Gooding, that wonderful woman who played the organ at Madison Square Garden and Ebbets Field.

OK, it’s a trick question, But there’s nothing really tricky _ or for that matter, trivial _ about the next question.

Who holds the Major League Baseball record for most home runs in a season?

The answer is Roger Maris, who hit 61 in 1961.

Who says so?

I do.

Don’t be telling me that Barry Bonds holds the record with 73 or that Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa have each hit more than 61 homers in a season. I don’t want to hear it.

It is my considered opinion that Bonds, McGwire and Sosa used steroids. It is also the opinion of anybody else who has a brain.

The players are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, but in the law of common sense they are anything but innocent.

In short, they’re cheaters. They didn’t come by all their home runs honestly.

It has often been said that life imitates baseball (and, I suppose, vice-versa). Both have their heroes and their villains _ good guys and bad guys, if you will.

Bonds, McGwire and Sosa are bad guys. Maris was a good guy, even if he did shoot the fans at Yankee Stadium a bird one night while they were booing him.

Hank Aaron is a good guy, too, and the answer to another trivia question.

Who will hold the record for most Major League career home runs when the current season is over?

Again, don’t talk to me about Barry Bonds, the poster child for "Better Ballplayers Through Chemistry."

Bonds is a jerk, a vainglorious liar undeserving of any cheers he receives from misguided fans.

Aaron will be the real record-holder until Alex Rodriguez hits his 756th home run sometime in the next decade.

When Aaron played, he was all about class and dignity, much like the players who joined him in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown last weekend, Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn.

McGwire, whose cowardly, feckless testimony to a congressional committee about his steroid use was painfully embarrassing to witness, was denied entry into the Hall of Fame during this, his first year of eligibility.

He is unlikely to be elected next year or the year after that by the sports media members who vote on who gets inducted.

Neither should Sosa or Bonds when they become eligible, because, like McGwire, they are cheaters.

It’s very simple, really. Aaron, Ripken and Gwynn are good guys. Bonds, McGwire and Sosa are bad guys.

Baseball, of course, hasn’t cornered the market on bad guys when it comes to professional sports.

Right now, the most vilified person in the whole country may be Michael Vick, who plays quarterback for the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons.

Well, more accurately, Vick used to play quarterback for the Falcons.

Soon, he’ll be playing defendant in a Virginia courtroom.

A federal grand jury in Richmond indicted Vick and three other men on charges related to a dogfighting operation on property owned by Vick, who has unconvincingly denied knowing what was going on there.

The 19-page indictment says that Vick, one of the NFL’s marquee players, was at the vicious fights and bet on them.

Tony Taylor, one of the men indicted with Vick, has already made a plea deal to testify against the quarterback.

The indictment alleges that in April, Vick and co-defendants Purnell Peace and Quanis Phillips were incredibly cruel to dogs that didn’t fight well enough.

The men "executed approximately eight dogs that did not perform well in 'testing’ sessions by various methods, including hanging, drowning and/or slamming at least one dog’s body to the ground," the indictment says.

Vick was also allegedly consulted by Peace before Peace electrocuted a dog.

If Vick were a drug dealer or wife-beater or some other plague on the human race, it’s unlikely there would be the furor we’re seeing now.

But woe unto anyone in this country who abuses an animal, especially a dog.

Vick’s lucrative contracts with Reebok, Nike and Rawlings have been suspended or canceled.

He is unlikely to play for the Falcons this season, and even if he’s not in prison, his career is in deservedly serious jeopardy.

The American public has determined that Michael Vick is a bad guy.

For disillusioned fans, making certain they’re cheering for good guys has sadly become anything but a trivial pursuit.

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Sam Pollak is editor of The Daily Star. He can be reached at spollak@thedailystar.com or at (607) 432-1000, ext. 208.