In the words of the great Vince Lombardi, "What the hell's goin' on out here?"
I mean, fake girlfriends, dear antler spray, steroids...what's next? For just once in my life, I would like to be able to believe that something in sports is REAL. When a player hits a home run, I don't want to wonder if he did it with or without steroids. When I hear about a guy with a 40% chance of living, who wins the Tour de France seven straight times, I want to be inspired, not to be filled with doubt. When I see a guy playing with passion seeping from his veins, I don't want to hear that it's all fake.
When I first started watching and playing sports, I admired the superstars, particularly the ones in baseball. My first hero was Mark McGwire. Well, we all know how that turned out. My second hero was Albert Pujols. I thought surely a guy that loves the city of St. Louis the way he does and that has a foundation for kids with Down Syndrome won't let me down. Wrong. He jumped at the opportunity to make more money. Seriously, what's the difference between $220 million and $240 million? Where is the loyalty? Stan Musial asked for a pay CUT in 1960 after a subpar season in 1959. His salary was $100,000 (one of the first in the NL), but dropped to $80,000. Yet Pujols ditched the city that loved him for an extra $20 million.
As I got older, I started to have a soft spot for the inspiring stories. Lance Armstrong's story was incredible. Given only a 40% chance to survive cancer, he not only lived, but went on and became an American icon by winning the Tour de France seven times. I was in awe again as I heard about Manti Te'O and how his grandmother and girlfriend died of cancer within six hours, then he went out and performed great for Notre Dame. These are the types of stories that inspired me to become a sports writer, find these stories and report them. You can imagine the anger I (and many other fans) felt when, within a week, both stories were proved to be too good to be true.
The list could go on and on. None of my baseball heroes, McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, were inducted into the Hall of Fame this year, and I'm not sure if they ever will be. Auburn and Alabama are linked to this deer antler spray. Alex Rodriguez, Ray Lewis and several other athletes are linked to another PED scandal. Michael Vick served a two-year jail sentence for dog fighting. Too many players to count are arrested for DWI and DUI. Penn St. went through the worst scandal I have ever seen.
So to the current and future athletes, please, I beg you, get your crap together. You need to realize that you are role models to the youth of America and of the world. Kids will do whatever you do, so make sure you are doing the right thing. My generation has lost its heroes, but there is still time to save the next generation. Just do it.
A Desperate Sports Fan