Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Arod’s Legacy Now In Question

One day you’re a hero, the next a goat. That describes a lot of professions but none more perfectly than professional sports.

Alex Rodriguez was generally considered the best among the best of all time. But he was revealed as a steroid user and admitted to it two days later, leaving his legacy and his place in the game in question.

The good thing from ARod’s perspective is that he has nearly a decade of a career in front of him. He claims he’s been clean since 2003 and that he used “performance enhancing substances” for the three years between ’01 and ’03.

“I don’t know what I was taking,” he told Peter Gammons in an exclusive interview. “I was stupid, naive and I was young,” is how ARod described his confession for using a banned substance. He says he got caught up in the “everybody’s doing it,” mentality of Major League Baseball at the time.

To tell you the truth, I don’t know what to make of his use or his confession.

Rodriguez claims he didn’t know he was on the list of 104 players who tested positive until a reporter from Sports Illustrated told him a week before it was revealed to the public. He says the union said he “may or may not’ be on the list so he figured whatever he was taking in Texas was OK. I don’t know if that’s a lie or not, but it sounds plausible given baseball’s history of ignoring their problems off the field.

Drinking, Drug use, “greenies” and who knows what has been a part of baseball’s culture since the game was organized. They knew steroids were a part of the game for a while. They knew players were doing whatever they could to stay in the game, put up bigger numbers and make more money. But until there was a public outcry and a variety of media reports baseball accepted the inflated numbers and the corresponding jump in fan interest and attendance that went with it.

It wasn’t against the rules and barely illegal so players, insulated by the league and their teams, took pills, shot up and made concoctions of whatever they thought might make them hit better, run faster and last longer.

So if “everybody was doing it” where does that put the numbers? Mark McGwire was probably still going to lead the majors in home runs, but probably not 72 in a season. Sammy Sosa was probably going to finish second, but instead of hitting 66, he might have hit 50-some. ARod was probably still going to be the MVP in ’03 but might not have put up the gaudy numbers to go with it. So season-by-season, player-by-player comparisons in that era are probably fair.

But baseball is such a game of numbers and the custodians of the game consider themselves such purists that comparing Babe Ruth’s 714 home runs to Hank Aaron’s 755 is important to them. So Barry Bonds’ single season record for home runs is illegitimate to them. I’d say Bonds’ single season record is fine based on the competition he faced. It’s his overall production that should have an asterisk.

ARod’s immediate admission that he was involved is an attempt to put it behind him, to be as upfront as he can for one reason: to protect his legacy. Rodriguez might put the numbers out of sight in the next eight or nine years and wants those records for his own. He wants to be considered among the best of all-time. He doesn’t want to have a tainted career. He wants to go to the Hall of Fame.

This is one of those wait-and-see situations. He’ll be under unbelievable scrutiny as his career goes forward comparing his numbers to those in the years he admitted to using a banned substance.

I took creatine for a while to help in my workouts. While it’s not a steroid, it’s definitely performance enhancing. It didn’t make me hit a baseball farther, or run faster but it did allow me to workout harder and more often. My workouts were more productive. So much so that I was growing out of my clothes. Taking a performance enhancer doesn’t make you hit the ball more often, but it does turn about 10 warning-track fly-ball outs into home runs. It does allow a player to continue to play at a high level in August and September where he used to get worn out.

But the big factor might be that the public doesn’t care. Nobody’s worried about athletes, especially baseball players using a drug that makes them bigger and stronger to produce bigger numbers. A lot of people would just as soon see the players get as big as they want and see where the numbers go.

ARod’s legacy?

It’ll have to wait.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Michael Phelps: Out Of Chances

Did he every actually say he smoked marijuana?

I’m not sure Michael Phelps ever really did say he had committed a crime or did take a bong hit of weed. He did admit to irresponsible behavior and adolescent decision-making but I don’t think that’s illegal. Of course I’m not being stupid or naïve about what happened at the party at the University of South Carolina. Phelps was wrong.

It’s just the firestorm of publicity, all negative, has been a little much for a picture taken by an anonymous person and sold for a ton of money to a tabloid.

First of all, who does that? I know Phelps is famous and I know that everybody has a camera either in their pocket or on their phone but must every well known person have to hide in their house for fear that their picture will be taken? It’s just wrong and a shame but it doesn’t absolve Phelps from serious bad judgment.

At 23 years old he has a lot of life experience for somebody his age but he’s still young and is going to do stupid things. This qualifies as one of those stupid things, no question.

I do think USA Swimming made the right move, suspending Phelps for three months. It’s not that he failed a drug test or they’re keeping him out of any big time competition but they’re sending a strong message that they’re not going to let the little things go and they’re not putting up with any irresponsible behavior from anybody.

Phelps apology was one of those non-denials, denials but at least it was an acknowledgement of wrongdoing. He knows who he is and he knows he’ll have to be a better custodian of his lifestyle if he expects companies to rely on him as a spokesman. When he won the eight medals in China, his agents estimated that he’d be worth $100 million dollars. Maybe so and possibly he’ll win more gold in London, but his mistakes being forgiven are now over.

Kellogg’s has already dropped him and I’m sure his other sponsors are taking a long, serious look at what the public perception is of Phelps in the long-term.

A DUI when he was 19 and now this picture have expired his chances. People will forgive Phelps and if he’s contrite enough as we go forward, this will be a thing of the past. This is also the kind of thing that will motivate him to train harder and prove that he’s not some kind of dope head who is getting ready to fall into the abyss.

Phelps is a likeable guy who’s fabulously talented, highly motivated and out of chances.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Super Bowl XlIII: Ben’s Party

It had the elements of a ho-hum Super Bowl. Two very disparate teams, two different cultures, not a lot of buzz about the game. All of that was true, and people were talking about whether they would have a job the next day instead of who might win.

Then they played the game.

Even though the Steelers dominated the first quarter, Arizona didn’t lose heart. They couldn’t get any traction, didn’t have the ball and trailed by 10 at halftime.

Of course there were a couple of defining plays but none bigger than James Harrison’s 100-yard interception runback for a TD. It’s the longest play in Super Bowl history and even though it looked like it would be the play that defined the game, it actually was the one play that kept the Steelers in it.

The second half allowed the Cardinals to show why they won the NFC. Big plays by their big stars put Arizona in the driver’s seat. I agree with Tony Dungy’s assessment that it took the Cards too long to get Larry Fitzgerald involved. Even though the Steelers were trying to take him away, he’s a “playmaker” in the truest sense so you have to give him a shot. Nonetheless, Arizona played the kind of game they wanted in the second half, throwing the ball around and wearing out the Steelers defense.

Fitzgerald’s 67-yard TD gave the Cardinals lead and looked like the defining play in the game. Until Pittsburgh got the ball back.

Coming out of college, there were a lot of questions regarding Ben Roethlisberger and his ability to translate his size and strength to the pro game. Those questions seemed valid when he played poorly in Super Bowl XL, even though the Steelers still won the game. (This week Roethlisberger said he was so nervous in Detroit he couldn’t play!)

Against Arizona, with the game on the line, Big Ben couldn’t have been better suited for the task. He marched Pittsburgh right down the field and threw the winning TD pass to Santonio Holmes.

Roethlisberger is prototypical when it comes to building a quarterback. Tall, strong, just enough speed and a good leader. With two Super Bowl wins on his resume and leading a comeback on the biggest stage certainly elevates his stature. His ability to extend plays, to step out of the first tackler and his arm strength that allows him to throw it with guys hanging all over him make him a very formidable opponent. (Just ask the Jaguars).

I’d still take Brady and Manning but Roethlisberger is at least now in the discussion.

None of the Super Bowl commercials stuck out in my mind. NBC made $208 million selling the :30 spots for $3 million each.

Some complaints about the officiating but I didn’t think they effected the outcome of the game.

Steelers fans outnumbered the Cardinals fans 4-1.

Arizona and the over covered.