Last Sunday was supposed to be a sports junkie’s dream. The Cincinnati Reds had an afternoon game scheduled with the Pittsburgh Pirates followed by a game between the best team in baseball – the Chicago Cubs – and the Oakland A’s.
After the Cubs game, we would have a dose of Venus and Serena Williams winning the first doubles tennis match of the 2016 Olympic Games; followed by the National Football League Hall of Fame game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Green Bay Packers.
Added to all this was the opportunity to surf the PGA Travelers Championship, the PGA Champions 3M Championship and NASCAR at Watkins Glen as you avoided commercials.
The perfect day.
But, like all perfect days there were more imperfections than perfections.
The day started with a news conference where Alex Rodriquez announced he would play his last game tomorrow (Friday). He would then sign a contract to be an advisor for the New York Yankees – for 18 months and $28 million.
I’m not sure this was worthy of a national news conference. The only thing that was actually news was that Rodriquez, who has been riding the bench recently, would actually play another game for the Yankees. All the rest was semantics explaining that Rodriquez would be paid the balance of his contract.
Because the Yankees have to.
In any case, the news conference became the focal point of conversation as the Reds continued to show improvement by beating the Pirates 7 to 3. Then, more Alex Rodriquez discussion as the Cubs, the team with the best record in baseball (in case you didn’t know), beat the A’s 3 to 1.
Add to these victories the fact that Jim Furyk shot the first 58 in PGA tournament history and that Ichiro got his 3,000th major league hit. The day started off pretty good – in spite of too much Rodriquez.
Then it started to fall apart.
The Williams sisters lost their doubles match. Three-time defending gold medal winners, and they lost their first match.
This was just a bump in the road. After all, we were only a couple of hours away from our first view of the 2016 Indianapolis Colts and the Green Bay Packers. This year’s NFL Hall of Fame weekend had been a Colts and Packers weekend. Former Colts head Coach Tony Dungy and former Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison were two of the inductees. Another was Bret Favre (pronounced Farve – if you can explain this you are doing better than me.), former Green Bay Packers quarterback.
I have to admit the Colts didn’t make any bad plays. Andrew Luck didn’t get knocked down by the opposition. And, the Packer’s didn’t score against the Colts defense.
In fact, they didn’t even play the game.
It seems the Hall of Fame used a paint for the center logo and the end zones that started to melt and ball-up into little, slick pellets. The NFL, the Hall of Fame, and the Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers General Managers decided the field was not safe for the players.
The game was canceled.
The canceled game will cost the Hall of Fame over $4 million – but no player will be hurt because of the field conditions.
In other words, the NFL, the league known to take every opportunity to gain a dollar, made the decision that the safety of their athletes was more important than a few million dollars.
Which takes me back to the Olympics.
While much has been written and said about the abhorrent conditions many of the Olympic athletes face both with their living conditions and with the competitive venues, the games must go on.
After the first few days, it seems that Games themselves once again show the athletes at their best.
The Olympic Games are now about the athletes – the way it should be.
If the Games are truly about the athletes, why are major events scheduled to begin as late as midnight – or even later? For instance, the first beach volleyball match involving America’s three time gold medal winner Keri Walsh Jennings and her new partner April Ross was scheduled to start at Midnight. The match actually didn’t start until closer to 1 a.m.
Jennings and Ross have at least one more Midnight match scheduled and if they make it to the gold medal match they will have a third Midnight scheduled start.
Television revenue from the U.S. is more important than the welfare of the athletes.
Major events need to be held during prime time in the United States – not in Brazil.
I found it interesting that the “greedy” National Football League would think of its athletes first while the Games whose purpose is to provide an avenue for athletes from every country to showcase their athletic skills in competition at a world-class level seem to care more about money than about the athletes.
We shouldn’t be surprised.
The Olympics aren’t the first sport organization to put the welfare of the organization above the welfare of the athletes.
And, they won’t be the last.
An example independent of the Olympics, yet linked to it, appeared in last Sunday’s Indianapolis Star. The Star wrote about its investigation into the USA Gymnastics policy and its approach to “banning” coaches who are sexual predators.
Per the Indianapolis Star: “USA Gymnastics touts a list of coaches it has banned as a key safeguard to warn gym owners ‘s and parents about dangers, including sexual predators.
“And to protect young gymnasts.
“But an IndyStar investigation has uncovered one example after another of coaches who were not only suspected of abuse, but actually convicted of molesting children, yet they did not show up on the banned coaches list for years - even decades - after that conviction.”
The Star went on to detail incident after incident where coaches were allowed to abuse young athletes. Incidents were reported where parents trusted their children with abusive coaches because the coaches were not on the “banned list,” – so they must be okay.
But they weren’t.
While not a defense, one attorney defended USA Gymnastics by pointing out that the USA Fencing does not have a “banned” list.
In other words, don’t look at us – look at them – they are worse.
The bottom line is simple.
All too often, the athlete is only important to the degree he/she will benefit the organization.
This is wrong.
Even the NFL recognizes this.
– Mike Cooney
Note: For a complete list of the 107 coaches on the USA Gymnastics “banned” list, go to www.indystar.com and search for “Banned USA Gymnastics Coaches.”