The most ridiculous sports stories are all political

Joe Harrington

For the past few years it seems as if more and more stories in the “Sports Section” have a dateline of Washington, D.C., and I’m here to tell you, it’s not because of the Nationals, Capitals, Redskins or Wizards.

I’m not an idiot. I know that sports have become a multi-billion dollar business, and I know Congress loves to monitor those evil multi-billion dollar businesses, as they very well should.

But leave my freaking sports world alone.

I care more about the safety of our troops in Iraq than Roger Clemens’ steroid use. But somehow Congress wants to cut funding for the war in Iraq, with thousands of soldiers still over there, while at the same time waste time and money dragging the Rocket into a committee hearing and asking him about a conversation he had with Jose Canseco, which apparently was about their wives breast implants.

Then the story becomes how Republicans and Democrats treated Roger Clemens and his embattled trainer, Brian McNamee, pretty surreal.

The most ridiculous moments that happened in sports the past 10 years should be as followed: The Patriots go undefeated in the regular season, only to lose to a team that started 0-2. The Browns return to football, and promptly take eight seasons to become a threat. The Shaq-Kobe rivalry delivers Miami a NBA Championship. Officials steal the Super Bowl from the Seahawks in 2006. The Cincinnati Bengals make the playoffs. The NHL disappears for a year and Canada doesn’t start World War III. And to top it off, Chris Douglas-Roberts misses free throws and Steve Bartman’s hand reaches over Moises Alou’s glove to forever make them the goats of the year.

However, anyone that follows sports knows that the most insane, ridiculous, moments in the sports world over the last 10 years have been: Rafael Palmeiro pointing at Congress and basically telling them he never took steroids, and later that summer we learn he failed a drug test BEFORE the hearing. Then of course there’s Maurice Clarett – no not his gun toting escapade in Columbus – but his court battle for early entry to the NFL draft. How could I not bring up Sen. John Kerry trying to get Red Sox games for free on cable last season, which was a great story for three weeks last season. Finally, there was Sammy Sosa, a hero of mine in the seventh grade, losing his ability to speak English in front of Congress. Wow.

And I’m here to tell you sports fans, it’s not going to get any better. Politics will become more ingrained in our sports.

Recently, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said the president should partially boycott the Olympics because of China’s human rights violations. Nice strategy; the canceling of ballroom dancing will surely scare China into dropping their guns and dancing themselves out of Tibet.

In 1980, Jimmy Carter thought it was good strategy, along with many other countries. They boycotted the Moscow Olympics because the U.S.S.R. had invaded Afghanistan. Looking back at it, and I should note that I wasn’t even a thought in my parent’s mind yet, what did the 1980 boycott do?

Russia stayed in Afghanistan the entire decade, and it took Sly Stallone (in Rambo 3, which by the way makes two movies where Sly helped end Communism) and Tom Hanks (in Charlie Wilson’s War) to finally end the Soviets’ invasion of Afghanistan.

Do people realize what the USA men’s basketball team could have had in 1980? We’re talking about James Worthy, pre-lawsuit Isiah Thomas, Sam Perkins, Ralph Sampson, and the Human Highlight Film, Dominique Wilkins. Beating the Soviets in Russia would have made up for the U.S. team getting jobbed in 1972 to the Russians. But we didn’t; we sat out in 1980.

Maybe if Clinton and Carter had remembered that sometimes when athletes compete in the Olympics, they can make political statements that the whole world can see, which have a lasting impression (cough, black glove, cough, 1968 Mexico Games, cough, racial tensions in America, cough).

Then, of course, there was the fact that we didn’t boycott the most “boycottable” Olympics ever: The 1936 games in Nazi Germany. Probably the most underrated moment in sports is when Ohio State’s own Jesse Owens (a black man) broke Olympic records with Hitler looking on in disgust. That moment really embarrassed Hitler, who dreamed of a supreme race of white, blonde hair and, apparently, slow-a-foot people. But I guess sports weren’t that big in the 1930s, and the country didn’t care about boycotting the Olympics because of that thing called the Depression.

Which brings me back to today, where Arlen Specter, of Pa., wants to bring former Patriots cameraman Matt Walsh to testify in front of Congress. Foreclosures are increasing around the country and it’s driving the economy into a recession, but one of our more influential Senators wants to nail the Pats’ practice tape guy’s ass on the Congress floor. It’s not a matter of national security. It’s not going to improve the education system. It’s not going lower prescription drug costs. So why does Specter want to crucify Walsh for doing something that I don’t believe is in any article of the Constitution?

Oh yeah, I forgot, the Steelers and Eagles lost to the Patriots in the postseason.

Political oversight is a very powerful tool in our government, and they should intervene at times. But not when it’s over a game, and not when it’s obvious that steroid hearings and boycotting the Olympics won’t really impact the country and, as the past can confirm, the world. But hey, it makes for great political feathers for presidents and congressmen to boycott Olympics and yell at Mark McGwire.

I’m aware of the Charles Barkley “role model” theory that says people look up to athletes. Well, that’s why there’s a commissioner for every sport, to ensure that these athletes get punished when they cheat. Kids don’t watch MSNBC, CNN, FoxNews or Katie Couric. Most kids, and even adults, don’t understand what it means to be brought before congress to testify. Here’s what they watch: SportsCenter. Here’s what they understand on SportsCenter: Star forward Joe Druguser suspended for the season after failing drug test. They understand, “Pete Rose banned from baseball,” or, a little more timely, “Matt Walsh banned from Patriot opponents’ practices before Superbowl.”

If Congress wants to improve sports, make teams build their own stadiums instead of using taxpayer’s money. Fix the economy, so more kids can afford baseball cleats. Figure out what you’re going to do with Iraq, so they can fully participate in the 2012 Olympics. And please, do the opposite of that Woody Hayes quote about little things, and take care of the big things, because the little things, like sports, will take care of themselves.

Contact assistant sports editor Joe Harrington at [email protected].