Scandals with Legs
Sports fans are known to have incredibly short memories.
Yesterday's scumbag can easily be today's hero. Sean Hill will just be another NHLer after serving the final 19 games of his drug suspension next season with the Minnesota Wild. Folks remember Wade Boggs as a great player, not the fellow with the "sex addiction." These days, you have to wonder if even Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich would manage to hold the headlines for more than a week. To see the way U.S. television networks glorify Ray Lewis is to wonder if they've been banned from discussing how he ever slipped out of that nasty murder investigation. And on and on it goes.
That, however, is what may be different this summer.
All of the Big Four summer controversies - Michael Vick, the Tour de France, Barry Bonds and Tim Donaghy - have the potential to have lasting impact on the athletes involved and their sports.
So which is likely to be the stickiest?
1. Donaghy and the allegations about NBA game fixing: Given that fans are screaming every game anyway about calls and non-calls, this entire story presents a terrible problem for the NBA which will have a heckuva time convincing the basketball public that this was an isolated problem. Already, last season is tainted, and referees, you can bet, will be scrutinized even more closely this coming season.
2. Bonds and the steroid cloud: If this story ended today, with Bonds crowned as the all-time home run champ, that would be one thing. But baseball has its ongoing Mitchell investigation, Greg Anderson might yet crack and there are all kinds of potential legal land mines for Bonds still out there.
3. Tour de France and doping: Right now, some are predicting this year's mess will mark the end of the Tour. Don't believe it. Indeed, once the Tour gets past the denial phase, it has a great opportunity to find aggressive ways to ensure the race is clean in the future. Maybe you lock all the cyclists up in a compound for the final two months before the race and tuck them into bed every night until it's all over. This year was rock bottom and now, if these people have any brains at all, the rebuilding can begin to make sure this famous competition doesn't turn into the Indy 500.
4. Vick and dog-fighting charges: As a dog lover, I wish this was No. 1 on this list, but indications are that Vick will be forced into some kind of plea bargain. That means no trial, and likely limited exposure as to exactly how involved the Atlanta quarterback was with this disgusting operation. Even if Vick ends up in jail for a period of time, you can easily imagine Monday Night Football heralding his return with the Falcons or whatever team he joins and fans putting aside this ugly story if their team improves its red zone production with Vick at the helm.