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Baseball and NASCAR land 'creative' blows

March 22, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

Morality took a big hit last week.

A big hit. A "Moe pointing to the sky before kicking Curly in the groin" Three Stooges kind of calamity.

The one-two combination below the belt came courtesy of America's two pastimes, baseball (the traditional one) and NASCAR (the adopted one).

We found out that athletes cheat.

Gasp! Next thing you know, we'll be finding out that WMD actually means Western Maryland.

And for those who didn't know that, the Naive Express has just pulled up with Santa Claus driving and Tinkerbell passing out refreshments.

No matter what we've been trying to tell ourselves for all these years, this past week just proves "Winning is everything" and "How you play the game" is for the guys who follow all the rules.

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Face it. Nowadays, the rules are nothing more than a suggestion of how the game most people would like to see them played. Those idealists also have Bobby McFerrin's Greatest Hits spinning on their CD players somewhere (Don't Worry, Be Happy).

Crew chief Chad Knaus made the statement proving that honor with mulligans is not only in style ... it's prevalent.

"Being creative (a nice way to say cheating) is my job. If I am going to get fined and penalized for being creative (cheating), then that's part of it."

So, shifting gears for a moment, baseball's "creativity" got it called to the principal's office. The revelations that came from Jose Canseco's book got Congress to step in, threatening to make baseball stay after school writing, "I will not stick a needle in my butt" 50 times on the blackboard.

While the meetings didn't accomplish anything - at least not yet - it did shed some light on some of the assumed facts that baseball fans tried to leave in the dark for all these years.

First, juiced players - not juiced balls - may have been the biggest contributing factor in the home run boom in the game.

Then, the sacred records of Roger Maris (61 home runs in a season) and Hank Aaron (755 career home runs) have all been reduced to the same mysterious status as "Why do Twinkees stay fresh for years?"

And finally, just how do those two home run records - baseball's version of the Berlin Wall - come tumbling down so quickly and so close together?

The Congressional meetings cast a huge shadow of doubt over one of baseball's beloved heroes, Mark McGwire, who may have said it all about steroid use by not saying anything at all. And it leaves one to wonder how much baseball's owners and commissioner's office knew about the possible usage and only looked the other way.

If that's the case, baseball's comeback is nothing more than a sham. In essence, baseball used drug use to bring its product back from the ruins caused by a messy players' strike and the cancellation of the World Series.

Baseball sold tickets, filled stadiums, sold concessions, hawked memorabilia and strengthened its image - and ultimately raised all the prices - with the publicity spectacle of a late-season home run derby which may have been created with the help of liquid in a syringe.

Home runs aside, take it a step further.

You have to question whether steroids have not only shaped some muscles, but reshaped the contract scales in the free agent market.

What kind of player would Jason Giambi be without improving himself with steroids, which he openly admitted to using before a grand jury? Would he have ever won the American League Most Valuable Player award while at Oakland? In turn, would he have ever been offered a huge seven-year contract by the Yankees because of that success? Or would he be just another baseball player struggling to get along?

Granted, less than two percent of baseball players have allegedly experimented with steroids. Still, it tends to turn "The Big Show" into "The Freak Show." Suddenly, building baseball players through the advancements of science waters down the excitement and drama the game is hanging its helmet on.

NASCAR, on the other hand, blew its cover, especially if you are an avid reader of this paper's Mail Call and You Said It, the two forums which are the thumbs on the pulse of local public opinion.

There has been an ongoing battle about auto racing being an honorable sport run by perfect gentleman who just work hard to win races in the name of Mom, apple pie and hot dogs.

Guess again.

Last week's incident which resulted in three crew chiefs to be suspended and points to be stripped from drivers and owners proved differently. In fact, it was implied that rigging cars for the slightest advantage is a way of life, not an obscure instance.

It makes one wonder ... Are the new young drivers who have just begun dominating the Nextel Cup circuit that good or are they a product of "creativity," just to create new fresh faces which will be NASCAR's successful identity for years to come?

This isn't an accusation, but baseball just proved that the slightest alteration can change the complexion of a sport and give a lot of people a lot of fame and fortune.

Of course, could we be so naive?




Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com

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