I can’t wait to see the Lovely Totals for this series, I will be honest with you.  While this team won’t become a contender overnight with the arrival of Buck Showalter, there is certainly a different tone to this team when they know they have an experienced, winning manager who will be around for a long time.  There wasn’t a moment where they were allowed to get complacent, and at least for now haven’t lost their focus or allowed games to fall away from them.  They aren’t as good as 3-0 just as they aren’t as bad as 35-73.  Until Showalter leads his team at least to a .500 record we can’t break out the confetti, but as a fan I will relish every win this team can muster.  A one run walk-off win to complete a sweep?  That makes it just a bit sweeter.  However, I will leave it to my compatriots to talk about these last three games, and I will try to line up for the kick…

The Lance Armstrong Saga Continues

Call me naïve, but I didn’t want to believe it for the longest time myself.  I mean, Lance Armstrong marketed himself as the clean, defiant athlete, the man who fought cancer and fought doped up Europeans on the Tour de France on an annual basis.  His wins were second nature, riding against legions of drugged, enhanced, and otherwise chemically warped competitors.  Somehow, someway Lance always won.  Even as his age has caught up with him and he can no longer compete with the greatest in the world, his legacy has still been that of unquestioned greatness.  Yet now he is seeming more like Roger Clemons than Mickey Mantle.  Disgraced cyclist Floyd Landis has become cycling’s Jose Canseco, though the sport as a whole hardly needed someone else to show that there is a doping problem. 

As the allegations mount, Armstrong finds himself in the unusual place of media scrutiny in the U.S., where he has been largely protected by fans skeptical of third-hand French media accounts that came off more as sour grapes than anything else.   Each day I am finding it slightly less hard to believe that Armstrong could be a victim of some broad conspiracy or that the stories being attributed to his behavior are simply the product of bitter rivals.  With athletes in every sport going down for doping, I just hope Landon Donovan isn’t on the cream or the clear- but at this point nothing would surprise me.

Brett Favre Still Can’t Decide, and I Don’t Blame Him

I would have loved to use this space today to highlight all the good things that Brett Favre has done for this sport even after the exorbitant media attention.  At the end of the day, I would have reminded my readers, he is still one of the most exciting, dynamic, and impressive quarterbacks to ever play the game.  Instead, I will have to explain why it is perhaps unfair to characterize him as a drama queen even after all of his annual waffling on his retirement.  Is it possible, just possible, that Favre just can’t decide?  Could it be that he is just an intense personality who feels strongly one way and then strongly the next way the next day?  I have looked at this Brett Favre decision every year and put myself in his shoes.  If football was all I knew, I wouldn’t want to step away either, but I would also be torn in determining when I had had enough.  I personally don’t think he craves the attention or tunes in to ESPN every day to wait for his daily mention.  I think he just doesn’t know if he wants to play anymore.  What’s wrong with that?  The only argument one could make is that if he doesn’t know then he should just hang it up, but I would love to tell that person to retire from their job just because some random stranger on the street tells them it’s time. 

And that’s who we are, folks.  We “fans” are just strangers on the street with no right to tell anyone else when to retire.  He doesn’t know, and I can’t say if I was in his position that I would know either.  If he was a drama queen he would make press releases about his ankle injury, he would talk to the press every day after throwing to those high school kids, he would give tantalizing quotes and grin slyly at the reporter, he would go on Larry King.  But he hasn’t.  Brett Favre doesn’t fit the model of a drama queen- he fits the model of an aging employee who isn’t ready to let go of the only thing he has known his whole life.  It might hurt the company while he is waiting to decide, but at the end of the day, he’s got to make the call for himself.  So would you.

A-Rod Hits Number 600, Please Hold Your Applause

It is a strange thing that baseball is going through right now.  It isn’t so much necessarily that A-Rod is a known steroid user for at least three years of his career and probably longer, or that that same individual is hitting milestone home runs.  It is more than he is hitting the milestone home runs after he has been outed as a steroid user.  When Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire, and Barry Bonds hit most of their milestone shots baseball was still basking in its own glory, joyfully turning a blind eye to the chemicals that expanded hat sizes as much as biceps.  Only years later did baseball fans shake their heads and felt bad about having cheered those players on for the worst years of the steroid era.  Now Alex Rodriguez and other known users are approaching moments in their careers where baseball will be forced to both acknowledge their steroid use and determine how to celebrate- or not celebrate- their accomplishments.  Personally I won’t find any joy if and when Rodriguez passes Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, or Barry Bonds, and despite the fanfare on ESPN I doubt many people outside of New York will either.  Even there, I think it will be greeted with a shrug by a fan base that never really accepted Rodriguez in the first place. 

I just hope that baseball writers and fans don’t succumb to the notion that since almost everyone was doing it that we should somehow exonerate everyone and ignore their steroid use.  While I can sympathize with calls not to be vindictive towards steroid users, I think it is more important to recognize the moral character of non-steroid users.  What’s the point in not using if users will get off on a statute of limitations?  If I am a former player I might regret not getting those extra home runs or that extra MPH on my fastball, knowing that I could have joined the ranks of players who got a free pass while I was doing the right thing.