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Ugly side of sports coming to the forefront

Bruce Penton writes recent controversies in the world of sport
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In a perfect, innocent world, all competitive sports would be played with the end goal of determining who was better team or individual.

But lately, man, the ugly side of sports is not only rearing its head, it’s rising above the mountain tops.

Through the years, ugly incidents have been semi-regular occurrences in sports. Pete Rose and his banishment from baseball for gambling; Mike Tyson chowing down on Evander Holyfield’s ear; NBA referee Tim Donaghy fixing games for gambling riches.

Those happened every couple of years. Lately, ugly incidents seem to be popping up every week.

Take professional golfer Patrick Reed, likely the least respected player in the world. He’s got talent, but he also has a penchant for rubbing people the wrong way. At the Hero World Challenge in December, when he was in contention, TV cameras caught him blatantly violating a sacred rule of golf: Thou shalt not improve one’s lie. Not once, but twice, Reed swept sand away from behind his ball in a waste (non-hazard) area while going through his pre-shot routine. After being penalized, Reed gave it the ‘what?’ ‘why?’ ‘I’m innocent,’ ‘I’m being picked on’ reaction, further alienating his fellow pros and golf fandom around the world.

In January, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred lowered the boom on executives from the 2017 World Series champion Houston Astros for surreptitiously using technology to steal opponents’ signs. The scandal also came to involve the 2018 Series’ champion Boston Red Sox, with the common denominator being Alex Cora, whose bench-coach duties with the Astros in 2017 was an obvious benefit to him being selected to be the Red Sox manager in 2018. Caught in the collateral damage was Astros’ general manager Jeff Luhnow and field manager A.J. Hinch, both of whom were fired, and newly signed Mets’ manager Carlos Beltran, a member of the 2017 Astros, who resigned before managing his first game.

An old sports adage says that ‘If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying hard enough,’ or something to that effect, which is perhaps why the end seems to justify the means for many involved in sports. Lord knows cribbage games at the local seniors’ centre might be compromised if folding money was involved.

And then there’s Oilers' Zack Kassian and Flames' Matthew Tkachuk, whose on-ice war was elevated far beyond the standard ‘boys will be boys’ mantra.

After race-related riots in L.A. 28 years ago, Rodney King famously said: ‘Can we all get along?’ Sorry to say, Rodney, in sports these days, the answer, apparently, is ’no.’

  • Headline in the Houston Chronicle: “Caught stealing.”
  • Janice Hough of, on Twitter: “A.J. Hinch suspended for a year for cheating. Alex Cora will probably soon follow him with a worse punishment. And Bill Belichick is just giggling.”
  • Janice Hough again: “Possible 2020 slogan for Baltimore Orioles — ‘We’re been so bad, you KNOW we’re not cheating.’”
  • Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “Not really sure how this is even possible, but I think the Houston Astros just stole my WiFi signal.”
  • Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “LSU quarterback Joe Burrow won the Heisman Trophy and the national championship and now is poised to be drafted No. 1 by the Cincinnati Bengals. You know what they say: Two out of three ain’t bad.”
  • Perry again: “The average male cries five to 17 times a year, according to the American Psychological Association. What, you think it’s easy running a fantasy-football team?”
  • Norman Chad of the Washington Post:  “To be fair, replay as an officiating tool remains only the fifth-worst global problem, behind climate change, world hunger, the decline of American exceptionalism and the inability to find anything you like when clothes shopping.”
  • Michael Farber of The Athletic, on Twitter, on the firing of Golden Knights coach Gerrard Gallant: “Gallant gone. Shocking. From the outside, undeserved. The good news is it's easy to get a taxi in Las Vegas.”
  • Comedy writer Jim Barach: “Arnold Palmer will be honoured with a postage stamp this year. With the speed the Post Office works at, you would think the player they identify with more is Bryson DeChambeau.”
  • Comedy blogger Brad Dickson of Omaha: “Demi Lovato will sing the national anthem before the Super Bowl. This will also mark the first time that the national anthem singer is drug-tested on the field.”
  • Another one from Barach, after Tusk IV, the Arkansas Razorbacks’ former live mascot, died at age 10: “The autopsy report came back as ‘delicious.’”
  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel, on Cowboys owner Jerry Jones saying he hired Mike McCarthy as his new coach because “I heard bells” while interviewing him: “Um, Jerry, you might want to check the battery in your office smoke detector.”
  • Kaseberg again, on Twitter: “This just in: The Houston Astros have officially become the baseball subsidiary of the New England Patriots.”

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication. 

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