What to Believe?

How are we supposed believe anything anymore?

Performance enhancing drugs have seemingly taken over everything that is special in sports.

Melky Cabrera was suspended 50 games today because he tested positive for testosterone. Out of nowhere, the Melk Man had transformed himself into one of the game’s best players over the past couple of years. He currently leads the MLB in batting with a .346 average.

Steroids…of course.

That’s the easy explanation these days. Anytime something extraordinary happens, it can’t be natural. It is guys like Melky Cabrera that are making people lose faith. As expected, Cabrera was a fan favourite in his first year with the San Francisco Giants. No one could have foreseen him slashing .346/.390/.516 even after a career year with Kansas City in 2011.

I am not going to vilify Melky Cabrera. Oddly enough, he admitted to his wrongful use of performance enhancing drugs. Melky Cabrera is just another example of the sad truth of not only the baseball world, but the sports world as well.

We can’t believe anymore.

In all likelihood, Melky Cabrera isn’t the only star player receiving some sort of unnatural aid. There are others out there that haven’t been caught and will probably never be caught. The technology of the drug is always ahead of the technology to test for it.

The London Olympics brought awe-inspiring moments and moments that you will want to tell your grandchildren about. Seeing Usain Bolt dominant the 100 metre sprint was magical but it was as suspicious as it was magical. No one can be that good, can they? Despite being a 6 foot 5 freak of nature, running that fast with that much ease might be too good to be true.

Shiwen Ye, you know, that Chinese female swimmer who swam her final 50 metres of the 400 IM faster than gold medal winner Ryan Lochte. Ye beat a world record set by those fast swimsuits in Beijing regardless of the fact that she appeared to only swim her hardest for the last 100 metres of the race. Her performance was truly unbelievable but not in a good way.

These days, living by the innocent until proven guilty motto is about as realistic as communism being instituted into western society. It is impossible to have faith in athletes when we are constantly being reminded why we can’t.

Former BALCO owner Victor Conte said to the London Times that the more rigorous drug testing is easy to beat and estimated about 60 percent of the Olympic athletes at the London games were doping. Yeah, you read that right, 60 percent!

Steroids are supposed to be out of baseball yet two of the National League’s best players in the last two seasons have been found to have tested positive for a banned substance. One is being suspended and the other got off on a technicality.

The reason why sports are so appealing to the masses is that we can be amazed at the unbelievable. Most of the general public cannot fathom doing what these athletes can do on a daily basis. Special actions by athletes subsequently create special reactions from fans. However, the enchanting lure of the athlete significantly diminishes when the feat is accomplished through artificial means.

In 2012, the special has become the questionable.

We want to accept what we see as real but when we are given every reason not to accept, it becomes harder and harder. No one enjoys being deceived yet that is the feeling that surfaces every single time an athlete is exposed for using performance enhancing drugs.

I wonder how Cabrera’s legion of Melk Men feel now.

Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Marion Jones, Shawn Merriman, Bill Romanowski, Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, the entire cycling world.

It has never been harder to accept the extraordinary than it is, right now, in 2012.

There is only one first thought that comes to mind these days when anything special is witnessed in sports.

Unfortunately, it’s steroids.

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Agree? Disagree? You can also e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

Hating on Howard Will Stop

It’s a match made in heaven that even eHarmony could have figured out. The Hollywood personality finally getting a taste of what Hollywood life is.

Dwight Howard and Brooklyn never really seemed right.

Now it’s time for the public to stop hating on Dwight Howard. I’m not telling them to stop hating. Rather, I’m saying it’s only a matter of time before Howard starts to feel the love again.

People are already starting to forget about the whole ‘indecision’ saga and are envisioning the Lakers sexy starting 5 of Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta Word Peace, Pau Gasol and Superman himself. They are talking about whether the Lakers have the depth to match up against the likes of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat. They are dreaming of alley-hoops and comedy sketches between one of the all-time great point guards and one of the most athletic 7-footers to ever step foot on an NBA floor.

I said all the way back in March that Dwight Howard will only be booed by the Orlando fans. Heck, that might not even be the case anymore by the time the Lakers take the court in Orlando next season.

The sports world is a very forgiving one.

A lot of guys would now rather have a beer with Tiger Woods, for reasons you can imagine, than condemn him like so many did only a couple of years ago. Michael Vick has gone from dog fighter back to NFL fan favourite, you know, when he’s not injured. Lebron James is no longer a villain simply because he won a championship and, apparently, winning cures all that ails.

People were appalled when Tiger Woods was caught cheating with 896 women. They were disgusted when Michael Vick was found to be cruel and unusual to man’s best friend. Clevelanders and non-Clevelanders burned jerseys and tore down posters when Lebron somewhat predictably spurned the Cavs.

However, people seem genuinely excited about the possibilities with Dwight Howard in a Lakers uniform.

Dwight Howard’s situation is not nearly as shocking as the others because his events were dragged out over the course of the past year. Nevertheless, hate is not the word that would define the reaction to Superman’s relocation.

Now that it is all over, Dwight Howard will probably get nothing more than a slap on the wrist in comparison to Lebron James. The NBA world will forget about Dwight Howard as fast as they will forget about 95% of the athletes in the 2012 Olympics. His immaturity will soon turn back to lovability.

D-12 is no longer the focal point either. He is the 3rd superstar on one of Los Angeles’s many prominent professional sports teams.

Dwight Howard toyed with a fan base that isn’t close to a championship with or without him. The rest of the NBA was just annoyed. Unlike Lebron James, who’s decision felt like a Mike Tyson punch to the noggin, all Dwight Howard kept doing was poking us in the arm like an infuriating little brother would.

The indecision wasn’t the worst thing in the world. It only felt like that in the moment.

The NBA world jumped on the hate Howard bandwagon. Most of them aren’t real Dwight Howard haters though. They have already jumped off and are running after the LA Lakers wagon.

Dwight Howard and all.

Also, please vote for me to become Canada’s Next Sportscaster! I am one of the 24 finalists and I need your votes. It only takes a few seconds. Just follow the link: http://www.drafted.ca/finalists/chris-ross/

You can follow me on Twitter @paintstheblack and subscribe to Painting the Black to get the latest posts. Agree? Disagree? You can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

Oscar Pistorius Should Not Be Racing

Michael Johnson is right.

400 metre sprinter and double-leg amputee Oscar Pistorius should not be running against other able-bodied competitors.

Since Pistorius started running in 2003, there have been more questions surrounding his legitimacy than Roger Clemens at a congress hearing. After years of hearings and hoping to move beyond the Paralympics, Oscar Pistorius is finally competing against the best in the world at the 2012 London Olympics. He reached the semi-finals of the 400 with a time of 45.44 seconds on Saturday.

It is so easy to be politically incorrect in the new millennium. One wrong move and it’s off with your head. Just ask the two Olympic athletes who have already been sent home for a stupid tweet.

However, with Oscar Pistorius, it isn’t ignorant or wrong to say that he shouldn’t be competing with able-bodied competitors at the Olympics. Scientists are unsure of whether Pistorius’ prosthetic legs give him an unfair advantage. It’s that very uncertainty that should prevent him from running with the others.

Michael Johnson said “my position is that because we don’t know for sure whether he gets an advantage from the prosthetics he wears, it is unfair to the able-bodied competitors.”

This isn’t like letting Jackie Robinson play in the Major Leagues.

It is true that Pistorius does have a number of disadvantages. He can’t dig in at the starting line, he can’t feel the track and he has to stand up straighter, meaning more wind resistance when he runs.

Humans want a great story. They love the underdog. Hell, who doesn’t love an underdog? People want to believe that the disadvantages Pistorius has outweigh or, at least, offset the advantages provided by his blades. Most Olympic fans won’t mind if Pistorius could have an unfair advantage because he represents the endearing qualities of perseverance, determination and overcoming adversity. Of course those are qualities that should be celebrated.

Too bad the Olympics aren’t meant for celebrating superior character traits.

Oscar Pistorius is competing against individuals who have invested their entire lives into making the Olympics. The possible unnatural benefit that Pistorius gains from his prosthetic legs has potentially ousted someone from the Olympics who may be the better runner. Someone who may be faster but has lost out because of the technology that is below the waist of Pistorius.

Pistorius shouldn’t be running at the Olympics for the same reason those who have been associated with PED’s in Major League Baseball should not be allowed into the Hall of Fame.

We just don’t know.

When Oscar Pistorius was reinstated back in 2008, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), ruled based on testimony and data collected by Peter Weyand and a group of researches, that the prostheses give no energetic advantage relevant to sprinting. However, Peter Weyand, currently director of the SMU Locomotor Performance laboratory, has come out and said that it was “dead obvious” that Pistorius has an advantage based on the data that has been collected.

Even in the ruling, CAS noted that future scientific findings could still show the ‘Cheetah Flex-Feet’ that Pistorius uses could give him a mechanical advantage. David Epstein’s article for SI.com gives a much more detailed look into the ambiguity regarding this subject.

It isn’t scary that Pistorius looks different than the other competitors. What is scary is that that the blade runner’s unnatural ability could be the thing propelling him past other competitors. An unnatural ability that has South African teammate Sibusiso Sishi skeptical. Sishi’s opinion is “I don’t mind racing [Pistorius], but I’m still a bit skeptical about his legs because they are man-made. They are carbon fiber, which means they are nice and light. I would just like him to do the tests so at least we know where we stand.”

The fact is, there should not be any doubt.

Sishi can’t go all Michael Johnson on us because he is currently running on the same national team as Pistorious. Sishi understands that Pistorius’ “man-made” legs could be unjustly taking a spot away from another, possibly more deserving South African teammate.

Moreover, Pistorius may not be a medal contender at this point in time but what kind of precedent has this set for future years and generations? What happens if and when technology improves and we are still unable to determine the prosthetics true effects?

No one is questioning Pistorius’ undoubtedly ridiculous mental strength or the inspiration his running provides others. Of course it is unfair that Oscar Pistorius was born without fibulas in his legs but that shouldn’t skew the situation at hand. A heartwarming story can’t get in the way of what is fair and what isn’t.

This isn’t not about whether you believe Pistorius’ blades give him an advantage or not.

It’s that there is even a question.

Also, please vote for me to become Canada’s Next Sportscaster! I am one of the 24 finalists and I need your votes. It only takes a few seconds. Just follow the link: http://www.drafted.ca/finalists/chris-ross/

You can follow me on Twitter @paintstheblack and subscribe to Painting the Black to get the latest posts. Agree? Disagree? You can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

It Keeps Getting Better

Making the playoffs just got that much harder.

That is, if your team plays in the American League.

The MLB non-waiver trade deadline continued the wave of talent heading out to the land where the pitchers do not pick up a bat and Adam Dunn can still hit bombs. Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols flocked to the superior league in the winter but the happenings over the past few days have, to put it simply, made things ridiculous.

The real losers of the 2012 trade deadline? Every American League team.

The better league got even better.

It is unquestionable that the American League is the superior league. Despite winning only 4 out of the past 7 World Series, year-in and year-out the AL features higher quality overall talent. The interleague records reflect that as the American League once again dominated the National League in 2012, finishing with 142 wins and 110 losses. In fact, since 2004, the AL has won 55% of its games in interleague play.

That doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon.

The Miami Marlins fire sale allowed the Detroit Tigers to pick up Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante. Ryan Dempster’s and Zack Greinke’s expiring contracts were dealt to the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels respectively.

While the National League dealt numerous significant players over to the other side at this year’s trade deadline, Travis Snider and Jonathan Broxton were the only notable Major League player to make the move from the AL to the NL.

Due to the addition of the silly one-game wild-card play-in game, the American League race is tighter than a hipsters skinny jeans. 8 teams are within 6 games of a playoff spot in the AL as opposed to only 4 in the National League. Even if the previous playoff system was in effect, there would still be 5 teams within 3.5 games of a wild-card berth in the American League.

Mix in the AL Central and West division races that just got even closer due to the acquisitions of Infante, Sanchez, Dempster and Greinke, and you see that we’re in for a photo finish to the season. The amplification of the close race at the deadline was to be expected by AL teams but the increasing competition not be what anyone wanted.

As the National League becomes more top-heavy, the American league gets more stacked than 1992 dream team…well maybe not that stacked but you get the picture.

From a fans perspective, it is bordering on devastating to have your team play in the American League. The MLB has had more parity in the last decade but to win the AL takes more than your average playoff team. For most teams, it takes more than just money. It takes more than a good farm system.

Easy games are, of course, more difficult to come by.

It is no longer just the AL East. The AL East has long been the poster child for stacked divisions across all sports and that hasn’t changed with the bottom feeding Toronto Blue Jays sitting 1 game below .500. However, the AL Central and, especially the West both have 3 very quality teams in their division.

No division in the American League is a 2-horse race as the amount of gimme intra-division games are diminishing.

In order to compete in the AL, more teams have to be willing to make bold, daring and present focused moves. That has been reflected in this past off-season as well as the trade deadline. Numerous teams were able to improve their rosters but, by doing so, are only maintaining the status quo.

Such is life as a franchise in the American League.

Also, please vote for me to become Canada’s Next Sportscaster! I am one of the 24 finalists and I need your votes. It only takes a few seconds. Just follow the link: http://www.drafted.ca/finalists/chris-ross/

You can follow me on Twitter @paintstheblack and subscribe to Painting the Black to get the latest posts. Agree? Disagree? You can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

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