2004-12-24

Sports Story of the Year


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It's time to start doing the video scrapbooks of the big sports moments, and selecting the "story of the year." The Boston Red Sox will get many votes, as will the Olympics.

For my money, this is the year that cancers of all sorts, that have affected all sports, came home to roost.

In Baseball, just as Barry Bonds was closing on the 700 home run mark, the BALCO investigation has become the latest and most damning steriod evidence to cast an ever-growing shadow over Bonds, Jason Giambi and the rest of MLB. 2004 should have awakened once and for all the few stragglers out there who harbored illusions of MLB integrity.

Baseball is hardly the exclusive domain of the steriod menace. Many are proclaiming the Olympics a rousing success because they were terrorism-free. Perhaps the terrorists were sent home early after failing their drug tests like a troubling number of athletes.

In basketball, Detroit Piston fans recently went to a street fight in hopes that a basketball game might break out. As a result, the big story of Christmas weekend is that Jermaine O'Neal will get to play in Pistons-Pacers rematch after having his sentence reduced. The arbitrator felt, and the judge agreed, that O'Neal's punishment was too harsh considering that his assault and battery occurred on the playing floor rather than in the stands. Cut the guy some slack already!

Finally, in the NHL ... *crickets*

What NHL? Normally I don't follow hockey that much. This year, no one follows hockey, because it isn't there to follow. Everything is shut down while the owners and players try to bridge a wide gap in their pursuit of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. It appears very likely that the entire season will be lost, bringing to mind a host of "if a tree falls in the woods" references.

Fine, fine, FINE! You want a positive story ... Lance Armstrong. He won his sixth consecutive Tour de Franz, once again overcoming tremendous obstacles, pain, etc. With this being a "story of the year" story, the fact that this was six in a row shouldn't matter. What has happened in previous years should be irrelevant.

But ths impressive string is exactly what works against Armstrong every time annual accolades come around. Winning the Tour de Franz is a tremendous accomplishment no matter what the year. It reveals individual physical and mental strength of unimaginable proportions. Armstrong has anesthitized us to the enormity of winning one Tour, by making it look routine.

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