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Sports, news converge with drug, crime, labor issues

Would you like to know the difference between watching ESPN’s SportsCenter and watching a local or national news program? Well, at the moment there really isn’t one.

The fact is that many stories that are reported by SportsCenter anchors are also reported by the likes of Tom Brokaw of NBC, Peter Jennings of ABC, Dan Rather of CBS and even CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

There have always been problems in professional sports, but today those problems are taking precedence over actual sports stories having to do with actual athletics.

Let’s start with what’s been dominating the news lately. Actually, it goes both ways in terms of baseball. Many are anticipating the start of spring training games and the eventual start of the 2004 regular season. However most, while also anticipating the start of the season, are thinking and talking about steroids.

Performance-enhancing drugs have been linked to many players in the past, but it wasn’t discussed to a great extent. Two former players, Jose Canseco and Ken Caminiti, both admitted that they took steroids a few years ago, but it still didn’t make anybody think that it was a serious problem.

It was only in the last two years that steroids have been the topic of social debate in this country. With the investigation into BALCO (Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative) allegedly handing out steroids to high profile athletes, and the alleged story that Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds all accepted the drug, the subject has finally made it to the front pages.

Football has been having the same problem with steroids, and a number of other illegal drugs that are banned by the NFL Substance Abuse Policy, which by the way is more strict than any rules that baseball currently has about foreign substances (but maybe that will soon change).

The culprits here are mostly lineman who want an added edge during a game. While that may be the case, many of these players, including former all-time sacks leader Mark Gastineu of the New York Jets, lost years of their careers by using. One player, Lyle Alzado, cut short a promising career during the 1970s and early 80s short by using anabolic steroids. He would later develop brain lymphoma, a type of cancer. Many doctors, and Alzado himself, believed that steroid abuse had something to do with his condition. He died in 1992 at the age of 43.

The National Hockey League also has a problem, but not with drugs. The NHL’s problem will be playing a 2004-05 season. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed in the middle of what was supposed to be the 1995 season. The season was only 48 games, but things have been looking up ever since, at least until this year. What dominated the news in Major League Baseball in 1994 and 2002 will happen again as NHL owners are and will be meeting with player representatives to try and iron out a new deal for next season. However, many experts say that there will be no NHL next season.

The NBA is a different story. It hasn’t dealt with collective bargaining for as long as I can remember. Also, there have been no cases of drugs being abused with the exception of your common, everyday addict, which occurs in every sport.

The NBA just has a lot of criminal issues. It came up for the first time a few years ago when many top NBA ballers were caught going in and out of The Gold Club, a gentleman’s club in Atlanta, Ga. The club was, and still is, widely known for illegal sex acts and drug dealing. After that, team owners and league officials had a reason to keep tabs on their teams. The worst incidents in past years have been former Nets forward Jayson Williams possibly obstructing justice after accidentally shooting his chauffeur, and Kobe Bryant’s alleged infamous encounter with a young woman in a Colorado hotel. What’s happening in the NBA is not uncommon for the other aforementioned sports. All four sports have their share of felonies being committed by those that many of us once thought were role models.

Hopefully, there will be a time where we can watch ESPN for sports news, then switch over to a news broadcast to see what’s happening in the real world. Sports is not the real world. It is made to entertain, not to inform. It’s supposed to make us feel good, especially when one team or athlete reigns triumphant. It would be nice if we could watch sports without a care in the world except for what is actually going on in the given venue. Let sports and news be separate for a while.

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