There’s a reason your parents spanked you and your teacher put you in timeout when you were a kid. It’s not a tough concept to grasp: If you break rules, you’re going to get punished.
Or at least you should.
Some people believe rules are meant to be broken. When it comes to sports, I strongly disagree.
Recently, the sports world has been inundated with cheaters, some of whom have been dealt with properly; the rest have received mere slaps on the wrist.
Although it pains me to say it, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick got caught cheating in September by means of the now infamous ?Spygate.? (I’m aware of the Super Bowl XXXVI allegations, but in this country we have a policy known as ?innocent until proven guilty?). Belichick broke the rules and subsequently paid the price for doing so, compliments of rookie NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Belichick was personally fined $500,000; the Pats had to pay a separate fee of $250,000, plus the loss of their 2008 first-round draft pick.
Although I bleed Patriot red, white and blue, I tip my cap to Goodell for putting his foot down and sending the message that cheating in his league will not be tolerated. I’d be willing to bet that neither Belichick nor New England owner Robert Kraft ? nor anyone else in the league, for that matter ? will ever (or at least for the foreseeable future) think about illegally videotaping another team. For as NFL fans know, losing a first-round pick is like losing a first-born child, if not worse.
Point, Goodell. All others, take notes.
As noted last week by former Atlanta Braves relief pitcher John Rocker, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has been turning his back on the widespread use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs for years. In addition, Selig allowed the MLB Players Association to become so powerful that until 2004, there was no punishment for first-time (caught) juicers. It wasn’t until 2002 that players could be tested for steroids without ?probable cause.?
As if they were dealing with the police.
Selig was lenient (to say the least) with cheaters until very recently. And look what happened.
Baseball is a mess; the integrity of the game is ruined, and former role models have been deemed criminals and liars. And we, the fans, are left in the dust, wondering who to believe and what to think, all because Selig turned the other cheek or said ?bad boy, don’t do that again.?
And instead of worrying about a war that?s becoming Vietnam Part II or the current economic crisis in this country, Congress has to worry about steroids in baseball, a game that used to be America?s pastime.
Does that seem ridiculous to anyone else?
Monday afternoon, I sat in a room in the University of Wisconsin?s Humanities building as Selig addressed a small group of media members. Just feet away from him, I listened to him talk about how baseball is about to re-break the attendance record for the fifth season in a row. One local media member asked the 73-year-old commissioner what made him accept his recent contract extension. Selig explained that it was the owners? persuasion that kept him from retiring before 2012.
Of course the owners want Selig to stay. Ticket sales have been through the roof since the emergence of the steroid era. Home runs sell tickets.
It?s impossible to argue that Selig didn?t sell tickets; he did. He just did it unethically. And now we?re left with this disaster.
Last week, Indiana basketball coach Kelvin Sampson renewed his membership in this fraternity of cheaters and liars. In 2006, Sampson left Oklahoma with a tainted r?sum? after making 500-plus illegal phone calls to recruits. Still, IU Athletic Director Rick Greenspan decided to give Sampson a second chance last March, as he introduced Sampson as the new Indiana head basketball coach, one of the most prestigious titles in sports.
Apparently Sampson didn’t learn his lesson. He’s now accused of committing five ‘major’ recruiting violations at Bloomington, while serving a probation sentence from his first offense.
At first thought, it’s easy to point fingers at the Hoosiers’ floor general. After all, he did cheat. Twice. But after getting caught the first time, Sampson basically received a Selig-like sanction.
So can you really blame him for trying again? He did get freshman phenom Eric Gordon out of it, right?
Yes, those who cheat deserve the blame, just not all of it; the rule enforcers are at fault, too. If your mom didn’t spank you for throwing the football in the living room, you’d do it again, just like Sampson.
There’s no place for lenient rule makers in sports. Athletes and coaches alike are pampered enough as it is.
USA Track and Field (USATF) has the right idea. In October, multiple Olympic gold medal winner Marion Jones admitted to using steroids in 2000 and 2001. Jones was immediately stripped of her medals and is currently serving a six-month jail sentence.
USATF made an example out of Jones for taking steroids and subsequently lying about it. Think track athletes are going to have second thoughts about taking steroids now? You bet.
Now, the NCAA has some decisions to make about Sampson. Should Greenspan be stupid enough to give Sampson a third chance, it will be up to the NCAA to provide the proper spanking.
Recruiting violations are a big deal; they should not be taken lightly, especially for second-time offenders. A one-year ban doesn’t seem out of the question to me.
NCAA, make an example out of Sampson. He deserves it.
Derek is a sophomore majoring in economics. If you think Sampson should be given a third chance or perhaps you’d like to defend Bud Selig, you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.