Jacksonville – Grab a lifeline. Call a friend.
Go for 50-50, then give us your final answer: Who wants to suspend a millionaire? Maybe Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman have seen the popular TV show and answered the question with a firm, I do. Both men were faced with decisions last week that will define their games in the minds of fans, and both seemed up to the challenge.
Darryl Strawberry is an addict. How else could he continually throw his life away with no regard for anyone else, let alone himself? Cocaine is an insidious drug whose lure never abates. Still, because he has never had to pay a serious enough price, hasn’t experienced enough pain, Strawberry goes back on his word, his promises and risks everything again, because he’s gotten away with it before. He’s always found a technicality, an easy way back into the game of baseball because of its silly acceptance of a player’s disregard for the law. Hopefully Selig’s ruling will end Strawberry’s career. At 38 years old, Strawberry is the most celebrated career .259 hitter ever. As the NL rookie of the year in 1983, his potential seemed limitless but his inability to discipline himself away from the things that made him feel good and toward the things that made him be good. It bothers us as fans to see a player who has all the skills, throw it away on selfishness. He gets to play baseball and does this! Perhaps we’ve felt sorry for Strawberry in the past, and even pitied him, but now he deserves neither. Banishment from baseball is fitting. Let’s hope it’s Bud Selig’s final answer.
Gary Bettman’s move on Marty McSorley was also right, but for different reasons. Fighting, and violence for that matter, is part of professional hockey. Right or wrong (a whole different argument) they are a current part of the game. To have any understanding of this, you must see a game in person, and up close. It’s amazing there’s not an all out brawl every time the players skate down the ice.
Checking in the corners, grabbing, clutching, pushing each other to the ice are all things that happen on each sequence, with the understanding that they’re just “part of the game.” A fight occurs when somebody steps over that line and feels like they have to defend themselves. “Sticks down, gloves off, play,” is how part of the game has been described.
Two men going at it with their fists are tolerated. Hockey even treats that situation with a bit of honor. But use a weapon, and there’s no honor in thuggery. McSorley says he snapped, and immediately apologized, saying he disgraced himself, his team and the game itself.
As a lifelong “enforcer” McSorley has made his living beating on people, protecting his teammates (including Wayne Gretzky) throughout his career. This time though, his actions were a disgrace and this penalty might end his career after 17 years. In fact, if he applies for reinstatement, the league is set to suspend him for nearly 20 more games next year. If there’s one thing that “old timers” regret about the change in the game over the last 30 years, it’s the lack of self-defense. Guys used to take care of themselves, now there’s somebody on the bench sent in to clean up for them.
A stick check to Paul Karia’s face, ending his season in 1998, and a vicious back check on Mike Modano are two examples of going over the line in hockey. The suspensions handed out were not nearly severe enough. The statement made by Bettman in the McSorley case is not a 50-50 proposition. It’s a lifeline for the sport.