Recent scandals disgrace professional sports

Dara Weinraub ('09)/ Eastside Sports Editor

vick.jpgMission: Impossible IV: Fixing the Game.

Sorry to disappoint avid fans of the film series, but Tom Cruise is not the star in this epic movie. Instead, professional sports teams and athletes have taken the stage with scandalous behavior. But can this behavior be corrected, or is it in too deep to begin with?

In recent events, the NBA is dealing with a crisis that could ruin the league’s credibility. The FBI has investigated Tim Donaghy, a veteran referee, for placing bets on basketball games that he officiated. Donaghy has been a referee for the past 13 years. His gambling problem had an effect on the way he officiated games on the basketball court. Donaghy finally disclosed to the public that he gave vital information to gamblers, and he also told the gamblers which team to bet on. By correctly selecting the winning team, Donaghy was awarded 5,000 dollars per game. Having pleaded guilty to his crimes, Donaghy faces a maximum of 25 years in prison, plus multiple fines.

Donaghy has undermined the NBA, just as Pete Rose did to baseball. These men had the power to turn the games in their favor by making unfair calls or missing a fly ball. And all this was done for the sake of even more money on top of comfortable salaries. Disgraceful. Men like Donaghy and Rose have put a black cloud over professional sports teams that will linger forever.

But the cheating does not stop there.

Barry Bonds has finally broken the elusive record that was set by Hank Aaron in 1974. Aaron had a career homerun record of 755 homers, and Bonds hit his 756 homerun on Tuesday, August 7, 2007. But these men should never be placed in the same category. Aaron accomplished this feat with hard work, while Bonds relied on performance-enhancing drugs. Now, I will not get ahead of myself, but the facts make it painfully obvious.

The Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO), a company led by Victor Conte, sells performance-enhancing drugs to athletes in the United States and Europe. Greg Anderson, Bonds’ weight trainer, has been connected to BALCO. When Anderson’s house was searched, a list of athletes who had bought performance-enhancing drugs was discovered. Bonds’ name just so happened to be on that list. Although Anderson refused to testify against Bonds, suspicion of Bonds’ “alleged” (remember, I use that word lightly) steroid use is stronger than ever.

While “throwing” a game to win money is certainly unjust, gaining muscle without hard work ruins the integrity of the game. Although baseball is the sport in which the serious issue of steroids is most prevalent, I do not doubt that are many other athletes in other leagues that cheat their way to the top. These athletes deserve no recognition no matter what feat they overcome, for they would not have been able to succeed without the help of a syringe. When Bonds broke Aaron’s record, there was little reason to cheer. To glorify a cheater is akin with gambling on your own sport. Simply put, it is just not right.

Fortunately for the NFL, cheating has not been a prominent aspect of the past year. However, run-ins with the police have. Adam “Pacman” Jones has recently been suspended from the NFL for an entire season because he has had 10 encounters with the police and five arrests. In just 14 months, 10 Cincinnati Bengals were arrested. And most recently, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick has pleaded guilty to felony charges of dog-fighting which include funding the fights themselves. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Vick indefinitely without pay. Vick also faces imprisonment ranging from 12 to 18 months, but unfortunately for him, his judge does not have to abide by the government’s suggestions. Since the government has made a suggestion, let me make one of my own. Next time you have extra cash on hand, you should think about purchasing “NFL Ticket,” because that is the closest you will come to an actual football game.

The league commissioners sure have a load on their hands as they scramble to fix their sports’ images. For their sake, I hope the impossible becomes possible.

It is almost funny how difficult it seems to be a professional athlete these days.