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A mind is a terrible thing to waste

July 11, 2002|by DAN KAUFFMAN

I know what you think. You think writing a column is easy. Nothing to it. Just spout off about this sport or that, and - presto! - one sparkling column to go with your morning coffee.

Oh, if it were so.

Some weeks, columns magically appear out of thin air into the inner workings of the mind (my mind, my colleagues' minds, any sportswriter's mind), there to float through the fingertips to the keyboard, onto a computer screen and into print, where our unending hope is to cause a reaction - positive or negative, it doesn't matter as long as there is one - from our readers.

(Actually, we must be doing something wrong. What I thought was a great column by sports editor Mark Keller on little league all-star teams generated - I still can't believe this - only two responses. Positive ones at that.)

And some weeks? Like this one? Let's just say there's more magic in Disney World than in my noggin.

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It's not that there aren't any issues out there. It's just, well, you see, I have this respectable, yet annoying, ability to see both sides of an issue. This week in particular, this straddling of the fence is driving me insane.

For instance, there's the whole Sammy Sosa/Rick Reilly feud over steroids testing. Once the steroids story broke after Ken Caminiti was interviewed by Sports Illustrated, Sosa said he would be "the first in line" for testing. Reilly, an SI columnist, called him on it last week, giving Sosa the name and address of a place in Chicago to go get tested. Sosa, to put it mildly, got a little hot under the collar.

The obvious conclusion is Sosa has something to hide. Maybe. However, whether Sosa gets tested or not, he's still innocent until proven guilty ... even though, after all of his 500-foot blasts at Monday's home run derby, I kept wondering if he really was on steriods. As, I would bet, most of you were.

The other conclusion, as written by other columnists elsewhere, is Reilly put himself in a win-win-win situation on purpose - if Sosa gets tested and is found clean, and other players follow his lead, Reilly started the movement toward testing; If Sosa's not clean, it's Reilly who gets the credit for turning Sosa in. And if Sosa refuses to get tested, like he did, that's a story in and of itself.

The problem I have is this: Who am I (and who is anyone else) to say what Reilly's motives were? What gives me (them) the right to say, as if it were fact, what Reilly was thinking? Am I (are they) inside Reilly's head? Only Reilly knows what Reilly's motives were, simple as that.

I don't know if Sosa's on steriods or not, and I don't know if Reilly's motives were entirely selfish or not. Therefore, it's impossible to choose a side.

Want one more example? How about the All-Star Game itself, which ended in a 7-7 tie after 11 innings. Yes, both teams ran out of pitchers, and yes, no one wants to see an injury happen. But fans paid good money (and lots of it) to see a result and were left kissing their sisters.

Personally, I think baseball fans got a raw deal. But - am I really going to say this? - I can see why Bud Selig stopped the game. Not that I agree with it, but under the circumstances, I understand it.

(However, I wonder why fans around here would react in surprise at a tie. Doesn't this happen all the time at state high school soccer finals?)

Indecision kills a columnist. To get a response, you have to take a side, argue it passionately and convincingly, and you have to accept - and even enjoy - the controversy you may cause.

Doesn't sound so easy anymore, does it?

I promise, two weeks from now, I actually will have something to write about.

Dan Kauffman is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131 ext. 2334 or kauffman@herald-mail.com

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