Surgical Shopping

And so launches of my campaign to introduce “Surgical Shopping” into the mix for a future Olympic competition.  Frankly, I want a competition I can win.  After all, how many people can try on four blue blazers, settle on a $500 model, and buy it with alterations in 15 minutes?  I can.

Surgical Shopping is the sport of purchasing an item in a public shopping mall or big box store with the appropriate combination of speed, cost, quality, and intangibles.  There are two variations:

  • “Open” Surgical Shopping:  athletes can buy any item they want.
  • “Targeted” Surgical Shopping: athletes all must buy the same item.

Each of these two can also be further clarified by asking athletes to stay within a specific budget or achieve a specific discount off list price.

While Surgical Shopping has female, male, and pairs competitions, I think this will appeal most to the stereotypical male (thanks Dagwood), who’d rather eat pizza and watch sports than go shopping.  Women typically struggle in this sport, due to their inability to focus in a store, especially in a place like Target, where bargains on unneeded items are always in sight.

Once the item is purchased, and the contest returns to the staring line, judges score what we call “the get” based on the following:

  1. Price
  2. Speed
  3. Ability to return the item
  4. Quality (either by experts or carefully pre-calculated tables, as in diving or gymnastics)
  5. Degree of difficulty in buying, based on a number of factors including variety in the category, necessary prep or alterations, need for financing, ability to self-serve or availability of salespeople, body shape and size (for clothing), etc.

For example:

  • Purchasing a Hamilton Beach drip coffee maker for $19.99 in 5 minutes at Target might not score as high as purchasing DeLonghi espresso maker for $166.73 at Williams Sonoma in 15 minutes.  The quality difference is evident and getting the focus of the snooty salesperson in Williams Sonoma is a struggle.
  • If the category is snacks, buying gourmet chips and salsa for $10 might (or might not) beat out Reese’s peanut butter cups grabbed at the register for $1.75.  Depends on the specifics of the competition and the taste buds of the judges.
  • If two men buy the same suit for the same price at the same store in the same elapsed time, but one requires alterations and the other doesn’t, the one with alterations will win every time.

I compete in Surgical Shopping every time I make a purchase.  For example, I bought two pairs of shoes yesterday at Nordstrom in about 20 minutes.  It took five minutes to browse and select the shoes I wanted.  The salesperson took five minutes to find the shoes (which would have really caused a problem in getting a medal).  It took about 7 minutes to find the right pair, as the first size didn’t fit.  Lastly, it took about three minutes at the cash register, slowed by a faulty credit card reader and confusion about the price. If this had been the Olympics, my only hope would have been points for the quality of the shoes, the quality of the store, and the returnability and refundability, which isn’t always available with shoes but is at Nordstrom.

If ESPN 8, “The Ocho” really existed, I’m sure this would be in prime time.  It would open up competition to a whole new set of athletes, who think they are the only ones that can buy a new car during halftime of a football game or a tuxedo with alterations the day before a wedding.

Just imagine Brent Musburger – “You are looking live at the Mall of America just outside Minneapolis where, despite the freezing temperatures, 100 of the world’s best surgical shoppers are ready for what only can be described as the Surgical Shopping competition from hell. May the best shopper win!”


A Tweeting Ovechkin is a Happy Ovechkin is a Winning Ovechkin

On January 30, 2009, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals stopped tweeting.

Ovechkin's Last Tweet for 14 Months

Suddenly, on March 2, 2011, he returned.

Yes! A Tweeting Ovechkin!

In just under two weeks since this tweet, Ovechkin has tweeted another 65 times.  Since his return to Twitter on March 2, the Capitals have won 5 games in a row.  Scoring in each of these 5 games, Ovechkin has 2 goals and 5 assists, a game winning goal, and the only shoot out goal in a victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

After Beating the Blues 3-2 on March 3

Going back a bit farther, the Capitals have won 9 of their last 10 games, and Ovechkin has 4 goals and 8 assists in those 9 victories.  If it wasn’t for a 6-0 beat down at the hands of the New York Rangers, Ovechkin might very well have a 10 game point streak on its hands.

After Beating the Lightning on March 7

Statistics show that the Caps have improved this season on defense, but statistics also show that Ovechkin is having a bad year (or at least one less productive than earlier years).  Pundits say that Ovie is weighed down by the Capitals’ playoff failures and Team Russia’s Olympic failures.  They say that he isn’t himself, and that he might be hurt.

Now, Ovechkin’s point streak and the Capitals’ success are leaving some of these critics with nothing to say.  When other teams see a happy Ovechkin, an Ovechkin slamming against the boards after scoring, an Ovechkin enjoying himself, an Ovechkin tweeting again, they are scared.  Nothing appears to be weighing him down now.  Whatever “himself” is, that’s what Ovechkin is now.  And that’s good for the Caps and their fans.

Thanks for Letting Us Know!

The Cheerleading Competition

Last weekend I drove with my wife and daughter to a cheerleading competition in Duluth, Georgia. My daughter’s team is the “Burn” from Spirit Elite in St. Peter’s, Missouri.  We were able to watch the Burn compete, but also able to visit with two of my sisters and their kids, all of whom live in the Atlanta area.

This is cheerleading as in ESPN2 late night or as in the movie Bring It On and its four direct-to-video sequels. (Who knew there were four sequels to Bring It On?)

It’s loud music, dance, and tumbling. There are also lifts and the tossing of “flyers” high in the air. The teams perform and compete after weeks of practice.

When I watch my daughter, I’m very engaged. The atmosphere at a competition, however, is nearer to  “Toddlers and Tiaras” than a football game.  There are hundreds of girls (and some boys) dressed in similar uniforms, with similar lipstick, glitter, and bows.

But don’t kid yourself about the niceness of competition.  It’s hard-core.  Each team finds out their score within minutes after they perform, and the score is announced in front of the entire room.  They are told at that time whether they are in 1st, 2nd or 3rd or worse.  If they are in first, they are allowed to sprint across the stage and sit in the “Leaders’ Lounge.”  There is nothing better than sprinting to the lounge to displace the squad that was in 1st up to the moment your score was announced.

Just as you might see at football or hockey games, parents are dressed in team colors and team paraphernalia. Some dads wear shirts with their daughter’s name on the back. I make fun of those dads a lot, but I understand the pride with which they wear it.  These girls work hard and deserve the rewards.

The Burn finished second in their age and level group.  They were less than a tenth of a point from first.  They were disappointed, but they made their parents proud.

The Main Stage and Award Area at Right

Ready to Go

Individual Lifts

Full Extension!

Finding Out the Results

Watching the Next Team from the Leaders' Lounge

Sports League Relegation in the U.S. – I Can Dream, Can’t I?

With seven games to go in the 2010 Major League Baseball season, fans of the American League are focused on the race between New York, Tampa Bay and Minnesota for the best record in the league.  Just one game separates all three as we head into the last week of the season.  The team with the best record gets home field advantage for both the American League Division Series and the American League Championship Series.

At the other end of the spectrum, just four game separate Baltimore, Seattle and Kansas City from having the worst record in the American League.  However, no one is really watching those teams.  There’s no interest there.

Should Durham Be Promoted to the Major League?

Imagine, however, if the team with the worst record in the league at the end of the season were demoted, or “relegated,” to AAA the following season?  That would make the “race” not to be last more interesting and more impactful on the teams involved.

Imagine, if, correspondingly, the team with the best record in the AAA International League was promoted to Major League Baseball the following year.  For 2011, we would welcome the Durham Bulls, who finished the season one game ahead of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.

Fans of European, South American, and Central American football experience such a system every year.  In English football, three teams in the top-tier Premier League are relegated each year to the Championship Level, and four are promoted.  The British system is so robust that this trickles down seven levels to regional leagues.  Similar systems exist in Italy, Brazil, Germany, Portugal, Argentina, Mexico and others.  This system is clearly designed to give smaller teams greater opportunity, although some leagues do have requirements for promotion in terms of financial stability, stadium capacity, and other factors.

The concept is not entirely foreign to the United States.  We take part in several sports world championships with relegation systems, where by only the top flight teams can really compete for the world championship.  For example, in the most recent ice hockey world championship, the United States team, based on its performance, was forced to win games to prevent relegation for 2011.  Tennis’ Davis Cup has a similar system.  The eight teams that lose in the first round of the 16-country tournament must then play the winners of regional competitions for the right to compete the following year for the Davis Cup.

So, why doesn’t this system work in the USA?  Baseball, hockey, and soccer have thriving leagues at lower levels.  Basketball has the NBDL.  Football has the Arena League, the United Football League, and other regional leagues.  Secondary leagues, therefore, aren’t a problem.

The problem lies in how the leagues are historically structured.  Owners buy teams, sign players, build stadiums, and operate based on expectations of revenue and prominence.  Correspondingly, players choose teams based on the team’s ability to compete for the championship and pay them commensurate salaries.  Baseball, basketball and hockey minor league teams are not independent competitors in a lesser league, but are fed teams by the big league clubs.  In soccer or football, the leagues are completely separate and owners are unwilling to consider demotion and relegation.  Based on the current system I don’t blame them.

Changing the system would be a multi-year process, and, in my opinion, is theoretically possible.  It would involve setting requirements and standards for each league level.  It would involve baseball and hockey teams dissociating themselves from the minor leagues, including player contracts.  Rules around developmental squads, drafts, free agents and signing from one league to another, including transfer fees, would be established.  Players associations/unions would have a say in the matter, for fear that salaries would diminish considerably.

Unfortunately for me and many other fans, there is no way that US sports team owners will ever agree to this system.  We can argue that relegation and promotion is more egalitarian and more capitalist and should be in America, the Land of Opportunity.  Unfortunately, sports leagues aren’t equal opportunity.  They are controlled by a tight group of owners who want to maintain their profit base.

Until that changes, we’ll never see the headline “The Hershey Bears win the Stanley Cup,” and we’ll continue our disinterest in the Orioles, Mariners and Royals the coming week.

I’m Trying to Like College Football, But I Don’t Just Yet

Eight years ago, we moved from suburban Washington, D.C. to St. Louis.  As we did so, I moved from college basketball territory to college football territory.  Unfortunately, I just can’t get into college football.

I grew up in and lived in Maryland, which is not a hotbed of college football.  Yes, Maryland has a team and is a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, which is a major football conference and a member of the Bowl Championship Series.  But the ACC was and is, in my opinion, a basketball conference.  I grew up a huge Maryland basketball fan, and I still am.

Hung Outside My Neighbors' Home, But No Pull for Me Yet

I went to Williams College for undergrad, a Division III school, where our home games attracted over 2,500 fans at Homecoming and exam schedules took precedence over sports schedules.  The Williams football field was certainly second or third class when compared to some high school stadiums in Texas and Arkansas.  I did go to a home game in Ann Arbor once to see Michigan-Notre Dame.  Being among 105,000 people was fascinating, but, for me, a one-time event

So I moved out to Missouri, and I noticed Mizzou flags hanging from homes and cars on Saturdays.  I noticed the prominence of Mizzou on the local news.  I talked to new friends who routinely made the 90-minute drive out to Columbia for home games and some who also made road trips to Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas,  For me, this was a whole new phenomenon.

It was a phenomenon, but not a bug.  I watched my friends, not understanding how they could be interested in college football.  This is a sport that has so much going for it, but four things in particular have always driven me away:

AJ Green Sits for Getting Money, But Georgia Takes All It Can Get

  1. The sport makes massive amounts of money, but none goes to the players.  The recent episode with A.J. Green, a University of Georgia wide receiver, is indicative of the problem.  The kid sells his jersey for $500 or so and is suspended for four games.  His university, of course, sells his jerseys on their website.  See Michael Wilbon’s article pointing on the hypocrisy of this.
  2. There is no mechanism to decide a legitimate champion.  Every other sport and football in every other division has a way to determine a champion.  Why no playoff?  See #1.   More money in the bowls.
  3. The sport has been and, in my opinion, always will be corrupt.  You know that players are paid under the table to matriculate and then attend.  You know that they receive preferential treatment in their academics.  Why does this happen?  See #1 above.
  4. It just takes too much time to watch.  Too many players on each team.  To much changeover each year on the players.  Too many games to follow.

Over our time in Missouri, I have enjoyed watching Mizzou games with friends.  I have gotten used to the Monday morning conversations about college football.  I have started watching and started trying to enjoy it.  It’s growing on me.  The Michigan-Notre Dame yesterday was very exciting, but I got bored by the Boise State-Virginia Tech game the week before.

We’ll see where the evolution goes.  No Mizzou Black & Gold just yet.  I’m trying,  but it will be a long road.  At this point, NHL training camps are more interesting.

Three Quick Observations About Sports in Beijing

I write this on a Monday morning in Beijing, just as the United States is settling in for what’s bound to be a long night watching the Emmy Awards.  This is my seventh trip to China in the past year, although it’s my first since March.

I’m afraid that I can’t go into a deep analysis of sporting life in China.  That is likely a topic of a PhD dissertation somewhere.  Instead, let me make a few observations about sports here.

Sports is More Global Than Local

Beijing Guoan F.C. - Did Anyone Notice They Won the Championship?

On an earlier trip in March, the local Beijing soccer team, Beijing Guoan F.C., played for and won the championship of the Chinese Super League.  If the buzz in cities is said to be “palpable” for big events, then the buzz in Beijing at the time was, well, “unpalpable.”  There was no talk of it among our Chinese colleagues and little mention in the English-language newspaper, China Daily.  Imagine Manchester United or Olympic Marseilles or even Real Salt Lake winning a championship and no one noticing.  Can’t happen.

There is a local channel, CCTV 5, which is dedicated to sports.  It shows mostly international fare, from what I can tell.  I watched USA-Croatia live in the basketball world championships Saturday night. As I write, it’s showing a replay of China-Germany from the 2008 Olympics.  (The cynic in me says that China wins, but I’ll have to wait and see.)   Back in February, this channel broadcast the Super Bowl with Chinese announcers.  They returned late from halftime, and we missed the onside kick by the Saints, but that was the only glitch.

There was a buzz last spring when Stephon Marbury came over to play basketball in Shanxi in the Chinese Basketball Association, but that died down after a while.  I think that’s the way it is with local sports leagues here.  The interest rises with news and then dies out.

The expat communities in major cities, however, keep the buzz going about English football, American basketball and other sports with regular gatherings to watch the games at local watering holes.

ESPN is not ESPN

Satellite television available in western hotels and in western apartments has a channel called ESPN.  This is not your mother’s ESPN.  The goal of ESPN is not to push American sports on the rest of the world, but is to bring the model of sports broadcasting outside the US.  Thus, it broadcasts mostly sports of relevance to Europe and Asia:  soccer, auto racing, and motocross.   This morning, ESPN ran a 20 minutes loop of “ESPNews” showing soccer, golf and auto racing over and over and over.  I did get to watch Yankees-White Sox on Sunday morning (Saturday night), but those games aren’t regular, except for the weekly Sunday night game.  Right now, ESPN is showing a tape of a Little League World Series game between Hawaii and Texas.

If you want to catch highlights of your favorite MLB, NHL, NBA or NFL teams, your best bet remains, by far, the Web.  If you are going to be over here for an extended period, you may want to consider either a) subscribing to one of the league’s online broadcast packages; b) getting a Slingbox to connect from home;  or c) getting knowledgeable about free online broadcast feeds.

Expats – Have Sports Will Travel

The cover story of September issue of The Beijinger, the local journal for expat activities, is about sports.  Always good at covering the city’s restaurant and bar scene, the Beijinger showcases the breadth of sports available to expats, from cricket to softball to Australian rules football to croquet.  I know from searching before, that there are some local pick-up ice hockey games.

As some of you may know, when you put a bunch of expats in one spot, sports leagues are bound to start up.  The global phenomenon that is the Hash House Harriers is a great example.  Back in the early 1990’s, Mrs. Spidey and I lived in Moscow and played in the broomball league, a full contact version of that game you played in college, played on flooded tennis courts at the foreign embassies in frigid Moscow.  Expats, as you know, can’t exist without sports leagues, and I’m ecstatic that br00mball is alive and well in Moscow.

At the same time, perhaps as part of Beijing’s continued emergence as a global city, I see health clubs sprouting up and more and more joggers out in the pollution.  There is a Beijing Marathon and a Beijing Triathlon.  In The Beijinger, they highlighted “The Great Wall Charity Challenge.”  This team event involves sailing 40KM, running 12KM and then “scrambling” up the Great Wall for 2KM.  Sounds intriguing to me – except for that sailing part.

In Praise of Sports Club Stats

Sports Club Stats is one of the neatest sites for sports fans to monitor the ongoing success of their sports teams as they progress towards qualifying for their league’s playoffs.  Once I found this site, I can say honestly that I visited every day during the last NHL season to watch the progress of the Washington Capitals towards the playoffs and towards capturing the President’s Trophy for the NHL’s best record.

Sports Club Stats keep track of leagues from the first game to the last and tracks the probability of each team making the playoffs and the probability of finishing in a particular spot in the league.  It does this by replaying the rest of the season over and over and over – as in 10 million times each day for major league baseball now.  It replays the season two different ways:

  • “Weighted” – which considers records and home field advantage to predict each game’s likely winner
  • “50/50” – which gives each opponent an equal chance at winning every game

As I monitored the Caps, “weighted” in mind was a more optimistic view and “50/50” was a conservative view.  If the Caps looked good under the 50/50, then they were in good shape.  Because Sports Club Stats also shows which games that day have the most impact, fans can determine exactly whom to root for and whom to root against to help their team the most.

The site is fascinating because, by replaying the season and calculating the probable records, it automatically takes all the games and the specific opponents.  This means that teams are both eliminated from consideration and clinch playoff spots on Sports Club Stats long before they “officially” clinch in media outlets.  This also leads to some intriguing information (from this morning’s “weighted” scenario):

Sports Club Stats Says the Yankees Have a 95.5% Chance of Making the 2010 Playoffs

  • The Padres and the Rangers are the most likely teams to make the playoffs at 98.4%, higher than the Rays (97.5%) and Yankees (95.5%), which both have better records than the Padres and Rangers.
  • Because of the Rays’ and Yankees’ records, the Red Sox only have a 6.7% chance of making the playoffs.
  • Even though the Rays and Yankees have the best records, the Rays have a 20% greater likelihood of finishing first than the Yankees.  This may reflect an easier schedule and more home games for the Rays going forward.
  • The Cardinals can go 15-23 the rest of the way and still make the Wild Card in one scenario and can go 30-8 in another scenario and miss out on the playoffs entirely.

Sports Club Stats cover the major college and pro leagues in the US and soccer leagues from around the world.  (For what it’s worth, Chelsea, Blackpool, Manchester United, Aston Villa and Blackburn all have over a 9% chance of wining the Premier League title in England, but it is early days.)  Unfortunately for some, it looks like their auto racing tracking has lapsed a bit.  You can also can give the site with the league structure and schedule of your fantasy league, and the site will run projected finishes.

There is a lot more detail than I can possibly explain here.  If you like over analyzing your team’s chances and knowing exactly where they stand, you will enjoy the site as much as I do.

For example, I know that the Cardinals chances at the playoffs drop from 52% to 45% if they lose to the Nationals tonight.  If the Cards win, the likelihood increases to 56.4%.   As I write, the game is 10-10 in the 12th.

What If Clemens Had Apologized in 2007?

Roger Clemens Testifying Before Congress in 2008

Former Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens was indicted last week for obstruction of justice, making false statements, and perjury based on testimony he gave to the U.S. Congress in February 2008.  Clemens had appeared voluntarily to answer questions about his possible use of illegal steroids and human growth hormone.  If found guilty, Clemens could face up to five years in prison per perjury charge.

I’ve wondered for some time whether admitting drug use and apologizing makes any difference at all in the perceptions of the fans, the baseball community, and the Hall-of-Fame voters.  I think it can, but for Clemens it’s too late now.

Imagine if, in December 2007, Clemens had held a press conference, surrounded by his family, and said this:

I am embarrassed by the facts released in the Mitchell Report, but they are true.  In order to compete against stronger batters in my career and to stave off the effects of age, I knowingly took steroids and human growth hormone.  I have no one to blame but myself.  I wish it had never happened.  I respect the opinions of the fans and the baseball community.  I honestly did what I felt was necessary to compete.  I now understand this was very wrong.  For all the young kids and baseball players, I urge you not to follow my example.  Let your natural talent take you where it will.  For other players named in the Mitchell Report, I urge you to step forward and admit what you’ve done, if you are guilty.  Let’s not continue the sins of the past.

Had Clemens taken this course of action, it might have changed things.  Clemens could have been viewed as a sympathetic figure.  He could have been given further opportunities to rehabilitate himself through speaking engagements and interactions with baseball players.  Clemens could have started down the path towards improving public opinion and, possibly, a spot in the Baseball Hall-of-Fame.

At the same time, it might not have mattered at all.  Pundits would have vilified Clemens for his actions.  He would have been ostracized from baseball for at least a short time.  But, at least the issue would have been put to rest once and for all, opening the door for longer-term rehabilitation.

Timing is critical in the apologies.  Mark McGwire apologized in 2009, eight years after his career ended.  Too late.  The anger built up over the years by fans and writers is too great.  His chances of getting into the Hall-of-Fame are generally believed to be zero.

Had Clemens Listened to One Republic's Lyrics, History May Have Changed

Andy Pettite and Alex Rodriguez apologized during their career, and the issue became a non-story, coming back up only on occasions of milestones or Hall-of-Fame discussions.  No longer can a reporter ask either whether they did steroids.  Question asked and answered.

Clemens, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, and Sammy Sosa have let the denials go on too long for apologies.  Unless exonerated by a higher court, they have no opportunity to undo sins of the past.

Ironically, One Republic had a massive global hit in 2007 with “Apologize.”  The chorus of that song?  “It’s too late to apologize.  It’s too late.”  It’s a shame Clemens wasn’t listening.

Lance Armstrong — Do you have One Republic on your iPod?

$h*! The PGA Says

The disqualification of Dustin Johnson in the 2010 PGA Championship this evening is just ridiculous.  Just absurd and a darn shame.

I am sometimes golfer, and I understand the rules.  I understand how the rules were applied in this instance.  A player cannot (allow the club to touch the) ground in a sand trap.  If the player touches his club to the ground in a sand trap in any context, it is a two-shot penalty.

Does This Look Like a Sand Trap?

Spectators Standing Around the "Sand Trap"

Hmm. Aren't Bunkers Usually Raked?

My problem is the way this rule was applied this afternoon.  It was applied as black-and-white, with zero interpretation.  Mark Wilson, the gentleman from the PGA whom Peter Kostis of CBS interviewed, said, and I paraphrase, “We told all the players that there were a lot of bunkers out there that would be trampled and probably wouldn’t look like bunkers, but they are bunkers.  Dustin read the rules, and he should have known.”

Dustin Johnson really had no choice but to comply with the rules.  He said in an interview with David Feherty that he never once thought it was a bunker (and Feherty agreed).  And I don’t believe anyone watching did either.

There was no flexibility and no consideration of the reality of the situation.  That’s where I think the PGA is full of you-know-what.

Giving Johnson the two-shot penalty is similar to:

  • Giving someone a parking ticket when the “No Parking” sign is missing from the spot they parked.
  • Failing a student on a test for using a pen instead of a pencil, or vice versa, when it’s not a scantron, and the answers were legible.
  • Not allowing a high school player to play in a Friday night game when they did not meet the Friday school attendance requirement due to a family emergency.
  • Not giving someone a reduced sales price because they arrive an hour after the sale ended due to obvious weather conditions that limited driving.
  • Punishing a 14-year-old for driving, when it was the only option to get an injured person to the hospital.

The PGA should be embarrassed for its lack of flexibility.  “We warned you” is their answer.  I guess the county has warned me to watched out for No Parking zones, but it’s fair of me to expect those zones to be well marked.

Congrats to Martin Kaymer for his victory.  In the end, however, this tournament will be known for Johnson’s penalty and, I hope,  for a liberalization and newly applied flexibility of golf’s rules to square them up with reality.

Rooting for Athletes With Off-the-Field Problems Without Being Hypocritical

This weekend, we went to see The Other Guys, starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg.  I’m not spoiling anything to tell you that in the movie a policeman shoots Yankees’ shortstop Derek Jeter after mistaking Jeter for a hooligan.  In one scene, someone yells at the policeman, “You should’ve shot A-Rod.”  That line got a laugh.

I definitely laughed, but I also found myself feeling a bit sorry for Alex Rodriguez.  Here is a guy who just became the 7th person of over 16,000 major league baseball players to hit 600 career home runs.  However, he was reminded the next day that he was a fraud and a cheater, because he used illegal steroids from 2001 to 2003 as a member of the Texas Rangers.  A-Rod admitted the steroid use in February 2009, but that was after he denied using to Katie Couric on 60 Minutes in December 2007.

The Local Reaction to A-Rod's 600th HR

I know the person in the film who yelled that is fictional.  I know it was intended to be a joke and was coincidentally shown the week A-Rod hit #600.  But I also wondered what that fictional person would have said last fall, when Rodriguez hit .356 in the post-season with 6 home runs and 18 RBI to help the Yankees with the World Series.  No doubt Yankee fans who despise Rodriguez’s drug use were excited by his October play, because their beloved Yankees won.

Rodriguez is not the only athlete with an imperfect past.  Philadelphia Eagle quarterback Michael Vick rejoined the league in 2009 after serving jail time for running a dog fighting ring.  Gilbert Arenas of the NBA’s Washington Wizards is about to return to the team after being suspended for most of last season due to a gun-pointing incident in the Wizards’ locker room.  Marion Jones is attempting a comeback in basketball with the WNBA’s Tulsa Shock after serving jail time for lying to investigators and having her track & field medals revoked at the 2000 Sydney Olympics revoked.

If you want to dislike or boo any of these players that’s your right.  I respect that. But I think there are some simple guidelines you need to follow to be fair to them.

I believe a fan is allowed to separate on-the-field activities from off-the-field activities.  You can dislike someone as a person, but cheer for them as an athlete.  You can say with a straight face that the punishment given to Arenas was too light and then cheer when he hits a winning three-pointer for the Wizards.  But, in my opinion, you can’t boo Arenas on the court because of his suspension and then cheer when he hits the winning three pointer.  You can boo a poor play or decision, but you can’t boo him for off-the-court issues and then cheer for his play.  Doesn’t work for me.  It’s hypocritical.

There are parallels here with a corporate work environment.  Imagine if you have an opportunity to hire a talented finance executive, but you learn in the interview process that he served time for auto theft.  If you decide not to hire him because of that, that is your right.  However, once you decide to hire him, his past is irrelevant to his current performance.  It’s over.  Seems fair, right?  You are making a decision to hire him for his finance skills and not for his past.

It’s also hypocritical to say a player should be banned or kicked out of the league and then cheer when they move to your team.  Why do you think no owners are speaking out about the meaning of A-Rod’s 600th home run, when writers and sportscasters are saying it doesn’t count?  Because they know that, if they say anything negative about A-Rod, that he’ll never play for them, and these owners would take A-Rod on their team in a heartbeat.

We should not accept the hypocrisy of fans who vilify a player and boo him on the field for his troubles and then suddenly cheer when that player benefits the team.  Follow the guidelines and be fair.  You can’t have it both ways.