Sunday, July 1, 2012

AZ's Slant on Sunday - EVERYONE HAS A PRICE

But in all seriousness...

I read an "unusual fact" on Twitter a couple of days ago. It read: "65% of former NBA players & 80% of NFL players go bankrupt after a few years of retirement."

We have officially confirmed that the recession is affecting everybody in the country. We don't need to name the athletes under fire, of course, but you can clearly tell that there are athletes out there that are afraid to retire from the sport out of fear of running out of money.

In today's day and age, we may think of the argument of what I like call "The Old Yeller Complex" which I had talked about on The Sports Nut Blogs last year. In a nutshell, there are arguments such as: if there are athletes that are still healthy and want to play despite their age, they should play; or if older athletes still hang onto the game, it eliminates the chances of younger guys getting in the game and forming their own careers and legacies. In this era, it doesn't matter about how much you love the game and how old you're getting; in this terrible economy, it's either work or wither.

Our economy. It's beautiful, isn't it?
Some athletes are fortunate that after retirement they are welcomed back by sports organizations to work in the front offices or in recruitment staff. There are others that are incredibly fortunate and even get a job in broadcasting regardless of how terrible their analyses can be. Not to sound partial, but issues like this totally suck for people like me that just recently got out of college and are looking for a job/additional experience (because God knows some don't have enough for anybody). But in being impartial, these athletes have worked for years and years and received a hefty paycheck. However, when they stop working, they're not getting a viable source of income, and taxes start spanking them around the spanking court. Let's not get into possibilities that there are underground practices, because that could be killer on the bank account too. Anyway, they may get benefits post-retirement, but it might not have the same perks like if you were a military retiree or a big businessman that is stepping down after so many years.

You may also have to configure the psychology on how big of a hit bankruptcy can be on a big athlete post-retirement. Sometimes moving backwards isn't always smiled upon, especially if the money that was spent at the time of "gaming," as I call it, was on cars and condos and what have you. When you see the big drop they take after losing so much money due to taxes and inactivity, you can feel bad for them. That's why they have no choice but to go back and do anything possible. Most of the time, you'll see the lesser known retired people taking broadcasting or front office jobs, and then you'll see the bigger guys take on the endorsements and television deals. Some of it isn't terrible, but it's a dog-eat-dog world, and everyone has a price.

I'll admit, once these guys become professional athletes, they're always gonna have a foot in the door, so if there's any danger of bankruptcy, there's always a way to rebound. It might not seem like it, but they have it pretty well. Too bad they have the two things they can't avoid: death and taxes. For those guys that take their foot out of the door, they can downward spiral into some dangerous stuff. Yaaay, economy! But in some cases, the foot in the door can eliminate the chances for other non-athlete workers to get their chance in the spotlight. If a guy wanted to do analysis for the NBA and has been working hard for nearly ten years to get there, I'd think he'd be pretty angry if he lost it to Charles Barkley. That would be turribul.

For people like us, it isn't fair. However, it also isn't fair that there are guys that have worked their bodies to the point of falling apart just to lose it all once they retire due to national policies. Trust me, I wouldn't really want to see a guy like Curt Schilling working at a Walmart. That would just be awkward. At the same time, it would almost be degrading for him because he was at the top of the world at one point, and stupid stuff happened where he just lost everything he practically earned over the course of 15 years. If I had a ton of savings due to a lavish broadcasting career with some sports news outlet, I'd be pretty mad too if I lost it all in a matter of minutes.

Welcome to the vicious cycle that we call life, sports world! Enjoy the ride through the Tunnel of Rejection and Financial Crapolla!


Unnatural Selection - How Substances Ruin Sports as We Know It.

In the past month, two MLB players have been handed 50-game suspensions for testing positive for PED's, or performance enhancing drugs. Over the past few years, issues like this have been common not only in baseball, but in football, soccer, MMA (Remember Cyborg?), and even "professional wrestling."

There's so much caution today. This is such an awkward era. And it's for a stupid reason too.

Every single time you do something important you have to give a urine sample or a cotton swab of some fluid to make sure you're "clean." Why? Because you don't want to play unfairly, do you? Sometimes, making bad choices can not only ruin you as the athlete, but it can also give your sport a bad name. The problem can also be blown out into major obnoxious proportions.

Do you want an example? This one is super fun to talk about.

There's this goofball out there in the world of baseball named Jose Canseco. Most people in the global village know him as a pompous finger-pointer who calls people out on Twitter just to feel manly. (He even put his phone number on a tweet once looking for a fight. I'm not making this up. I laughed for an hour over it.) Back in 2005, Canseco released a book called Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits; How Baseball Got Big which wound up accusing numerous baseball players that he had crossed at one point in his career to have used illegal substances. Some of these guys included Mark McGwire, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, and Jason Giambi. After this book was released, the media began swimming in dirt and baseball around the world as we knew it started covering from heavy fire. There was a blacklisting almost as scary-looking as Senator McCarthy's Communist blacklisting in the 50's. Players who were prominent in the game were then placed under suspicion for usage. It was almost like prohibition all over again.

It was so bad, even the tabloids had fun with it.
The link RIGHT HERE is a personal favorite cover page (somewhat NSFW).

Oh no, it gets worse than that too. Canseco released another book in 2008 called Vindicated where he called out Alex Rodriguez on using steroids. After the accusation, more court cases went underway. Numerous guys were convicted of steroid use (hey Mark McGwire, how are you doing?) and some were even accused of perjury soon afterward (Roger Clemens, is that you?). It seemed like a well-cared-for sport was working underground operations for at least 15-20 years, according to Canseco. In retrospect, it's completely obvious that a lot of the players that were accused of drug use were juiced in their careers. When Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs in 1998, you knew it wasn't natural. When Barry Bonds hit 73 in 2001, you knew even more that something wasn't right with that. When Roger Maris hit 61 in '61 (ha ha ha) it just seemed more natural. I also think of how ridiculously bulky some of the guys were back in the day.

Look at the vein popping out of Lenny Dykstra's right forearm. That is all I have to say about that.

The problem I have with the publishing of Canseco's book is that out of nowhere, some washed-up dude who obviously had a problem just went and published all of this knowledge without warning. I would have totally understood if there were previous speculations on a couple of players, but instead it was just like:

"WHAMO, here are some names thrown out there because I'M JOSE CANSECO! BWAAAAAHHH!!!!"

Some of the suspension cases are extremely unfortunate. Many dieticians and physical therapists and doctors have been charged with giving athletes supplements that are traced with illegal substances. There are issues in which these people come under fire that include the doctor or whomever it is not telling the athlete of the instance that there may be something questionable in the medication that they have been prescribed or in dietary pills that have been recommended.
The most unfortunate of cases come from other....let's call them "practices." About a week ago, I looked up online that there can be cases in which substances can actually be transferred through...sexual intercourse. Yes, people, the birds and the bees can get men in trouble in more ways than one! If a woman is taking medication that contains some sort of steroid or additional hormone (i.e. birth control pills), it can be physically transferred and may actually be traced on a drug test. Trust me, I saw that and was shocked. Apparently it's rare, and the exposure has to be prolonged.

Okay, before I begin "the talk" from out of nowhere, let's move on from that.

There are different kinds of what people call "illegal substances" or "performance enhancers." One of the more common ones that is heard nowadays is HGH, or Human Growth Hormone. It pretty much speaks for itself. There are also different kinds of steroids that are meant to affect muscle build and bone structure. Also, there can be substances that increase the level of testosterone in the system, ultimately affecting strength and other features. Of course, there are side effects from these things, which include the body practically falling apart, and something called "roid rage" where the additional chemicals from the steroids whack out the brain. Bad things have happened from that--especially when head injuries may be involved with it.

One form of "enhancement" that has been a shaky subject as of late is eye surgery. The most well-known player to have gotten it is Brian McCann. A lot of critics claim that this is a physical form of performance enhancement as it clears the vision and adds more detail to an individual's vision. Guys, what is Lasik Eye Surgery then? I know people who have gotten it; their usage compared to steroid use is apples and oranges. If there is an issue with someone's eyesight and they're a professional athlete, I'm more than certain that eye surgery should be a healthy resort.

Babe Ruth did it on hot dogs and beer, for goodness sake. Why do we need man-mones to achieve greatness? [Religious rant alert] If God (or Allah if you're a Muslim) gave you this body, you should use it to your fullest extent. You shouldn't have to add additional stuff that shouldn't be there just to bump up your performance and getting a heftier paycheck. I know it forces the overall game and sport into fourth gear, but let's also think and consider this: What does it show the kids? What does it do to the prospective players that want to play? They shouldn't have to take performance-enhancing substances to be good or to keep up with the other guys. Stupid things like this kill the sport.

This is why we can't have nice things. People have to try and "cheat" for greatness, and for what? More media coverage in the form of a court case? Settlements that cost millions of dollars? It's not worth it. What has to be taught to the kids and the current high school/college athletes is that athletes are made through hard work and determination, not through a pill or a syringe. If the issue is to correct a problem such as eyesight or lack of cartilage, then I would think that's alright. If it's to build muscle or strengthen bones, it's called calcium and protein--simple as that.

Performance enhancement is a poison...It's always going to be around in a sneaky way and it's always going to hurt someone and something when least expected.