ESPN’s Hannah Storm delivered an emotional and poignant monologue on SportsCenter the other day, raising the questions: why isn’t Ray Rice in jail, why didn’t he get fired and what does the NFL stand for? I wouldn’t presume to know the actual answers to these questions, but we can offer up a fairly strong series of guesses. American professional football players are royalty, and between the money, the hero-worshiping and the regionally proud fan-base, the dark underbelly of the sport, even post-Rice, will continue on without interruption because of it.
I’ll be completely up-front about my bias in all of this. In recent years, I’ve watched my sport, professional cycling, the sport I both enjoy as a fitness activity on the road and as a pass-time on television, get dragged into uncertainty, ridicule and scandal while one of its former heroes, Lance Armstrong, continues to this day to fight a losing battle that’s already cost him all of his victories, a lifetime ban from all professional sports and, ultimately, the bulk of his fortune. The public shaming was so thick that jokes about cancer became acceptable in Armstrong’s context (evidently testicular cancer is the hilarious cancer). Yes, I get it, people think he’s an asshole. He’s also a liar, insofar as he covered up his use of performance enhancing drugs, just like all of the top contenders in his sport for the duration he was active, by the way. Using PEDs is a violation of the rules of the sport and, in some cases, a crime. But unless I’m mistaken, lying to the press and being an asshole aren’t against the law and, in fact, are prerequisites for running a Fortune 500 business or being elected to Congress.
Armstrong should have absolutely been punished for using PEDs. No question. The degree of punishment, however, far outweighed the crime, at least relative to similar activities in other sports. But to even suggest that perhaps the effort to bring down Armstrong was even slightly unfair or even vaguely lopsided given what happens in other sports is, in the eyes of most, a trespass almost as bad as the doping itself. Lance is the devil. Case closed. Now… who’s playing Monday night?
What bothered me most about the Armstrong story wasn’t that he was caught, or the disappointment to learn that he was just like the other top cycling contenders 1999-2005 who were also using PEDs, it was how loudly he was condemned by the same American public who gathers in stadiums and living rooms and sports-bars from coast-to-coast for five months every year cheering for men who are pumped full of a menu of PEDs more powerful than anything Lance Armstrong or his teammates could’ve ever consumed in a lifetime. But America’s professional football players get a pass both professionally and publicly because it’s the mighty NFL. The sport itself is popular and beloved, and the players are Sunday supermen.
Until TMZ posted a video… CONTINUE READING