Monday, February 9, 2009

Are the NFL, the NBA, and MLB the First to Fall to Sports Armageddon?

And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.—Revelations 6:7

As I understand it, one interpretation of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is that they each represent a different blight loosed upon mankind. One for Violence, one for Famine, one for Deceit, and one for Disease. There are other, more sophisticated interpretations—I like that one.

Because it fits easily into the contemporary professional sport landscape.

Chris Jericho and his equally culpable gaggle of fans herald the coming of Violence.

You could argue mortal violence has also been done by the latest "crusade" launched by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. This time, to logic and common sense.

That's right, folks. That sinister institution known as the American Kennel Club is at it again—putting their charges in canine-bondage, trotting them out on the auction block, and then retiring to their "plantations" to breed a master race of puppies.

On the positive side, at least Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton will have a target for the next several days that makes even them look sympathetic by comparison. And one that should keep them from harassing reasonable people for a while.

Famine already has the National Basketball Association under hoof.

Al Jefferson of the Minnesota Timberwolves joined the growing number of stars that have been lost for the season or a good portion of it. His torn ACL gets him a long stretch in street clothes beside Michael Redd (torn ACL/MCL), Jameer Nelson (torn labrum), Jason Terry (fractured finger), Andrew Bogut (stress fracture in his back), Gerald Wallace (collapsed lung/broken rib), Andrew Bynum (torn MCL), Chris Paul (strained groin multiplied by several factors due to his importance), Andrei Kirilenko (surgically-repaired ankle), Gilbert Arenas (surgically-repaired shoulder), and Elton Brand (shoulder surgery).

Meanwhile, Major League Baseball has Deceit at its throat.

Bud Selig, Scott Boras, Donald Fehr, and Barry Bonds have long been promising its arrival and Alex Rodriguez' "apology" announces that day is here. A-Fraud's really earning his new list of monikers (I like A-Roid, too) because his repentance was an exercise in transparency:

"And although it was the culture back then and Major League Baseball overall was very — I just feel that — you know, I'm just sorry." Translation: "Yeah, I used. But only because everyone else was—it's not my fault."

"Since then I've proved to myself and to everyone that I don't need any of that." Translation: "That test was from the last time I ever used. Trust me, I haven't used steroids since 2003."

"It was such a loosey-goosey era. I'm guilty for a lot of things. I'm guilty for being negligent, naive, not asking all the right questions. And to be quite honest, I don't know exactly what substance I was guilty of using." Translation: "I can't explicitly say that I never knowingly used steroids because that doesn't seem to be going so well for my buddy Barry. So, instead, I'll say everything to that effect except for those exact words."

But the real danger is Disease, which has been insidiously eroding the foundation of sports for years now in the form of conceit and egoism.

If you have any doubt, listen to Ray Lewis.

Here's a man who's been compensated to the tune of millions and millions of dollars by a franchise over the course of his career. For playing football. But Ray-Ray is staring his twilight dead in the eyes and he's not hearing that his increasing age means a decreasing value. See, all those millions in the past aren't enough—he wants his new contract to reflect his past service in addition to compensate him for that in the future.

And Lewis will flirt with anyone who looks his way to make sure he gets his damn Benjamins.

Nor is he hearing the subtle message from hundreds of thousands of regular Americans (and counting) who suddenly find themselves jobless as the economy continues its historic nosedive.

Still not convinced? How about Manny Ramirez' latest pearls?

Forget that the guy remains resolute in his belief that there's a four-year contract out there to his liking. That would means he sincerely believes a club will sign over between $80 and $100 million if his litany of rejections is any indication.

Forget that rather egregious sin because of these words, "Understand me, I have goals. I know that if I play six more years, I could get to my 3,000th hit, and, who knows, maybe my 700th home run."

Yeah, we understand you Manny.

We understand your goals are all about you, your numbers, and your ego. We understand you want at least $80 million so you can dog it for a couple years and still get paid because none of the criticism bothers you.

We understand it and that's why we're hoping our team doesn't sign your malignant caboose.

But perhaps there's even more to understand.

Step back from the situation and take it all in. Violence, famine, deceit, and disease—the Four Horsemen of the Sports Apocalypse—are trampling almost every arena of our beloved sports.

The only question is whether it's too late to turn them back.

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