Monday, July 28, 2014

Take my word for it: Finding justice in sports

From page A4 | January 16, 2013 |

You don’t usually see a column talking about sports outside of the sports section, but with all of the scandals — like Lance Armstrong’s confession to Oprah — and legal moves making news, it seems sports could go in any section of the paper these days.

The beloved Sacramento Kings are inevitably headed to Seattle, barring some miracle. This presents a unique pickle for me especially, as I’m originally from Washington state and watched in horror as our very loved Supersonics not only flew the coop to Oklahoma City, but took the draft picks we planned a great future with and advanced to the NBA Finals last season. It was torture watching the team succeed in another place when its former hometown fans had dedicated so much during the down years. The same will happen to Sacramento, as the Kings once had the best fans in the NBA, admitted by several NBA players around the league. Because of down times, retiring or traded legends, and the drama surrounding the drawn-out process of selling and/or relocating the team, once fiercely loyal fans are turned off by the franchise. This has led to low attendance in games and a lot of animosity toward the organization. Hard to blame them.

But in a few years, when this young team of talented stars finally meshes under a good coach, the Kings — or Sonics, or whatever they are called by then — will make the playoffs, and maybe even the Finals. And when those days come, the torture Sonics fans have been feeling will be transferred to a city that lost its only pro franchise to politics and greed.

Most people I’ve talked to are so desensitized by it all that they are tired of fighting to keep the team. They just want some finality so they can move on. This is a sad situation for these fans, and my heart goes out to them. No one deserves to drain their energy, time and money into something so whole-heartedly only to be let down. The Kings are that girl you grew up loving and always have been friends with. She’s flirted with you over the years and things have gotten exciting at times. But lately, she’s just not interested in you anymore. And now, she’s found someone else. That’s a bitter pill to swallow.

I’m in no way discrediting the loyalty of Kings fans, though. That loyalty is evident as another grassroots effort is being put forth to keep the Kings here with, which allows fans to pledge season ticket purchases should the team stick around Sacramento. Along with Mayor Kevin Johnson scrambling to find a solution, there are plenty of locals showing the effort. Unfortunately, even with their hearts in the right place, an injustice will probably be dealt, and to no fault of their own.

It’s nice to see some justice is being done in sports, though, even if it’s in an entirely different league. As accused and admitted steroid users waited their turn to be inducted into Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame, each of them were promptly denied by voters, in many cases emphatically so. Former San Francisco Giant Barry Bonds, who became one of the greatest hitters of all time after his head and rest of body grew several sizes in a short few years, was on this year’s ballot, joined by suspected users Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. Needing 75 percent of baseball writers’ ballots to get in, no one on the list was inducted this year, but the aforementioned, whose careers have been marred with asterisks and black marks, got pitiful responses. Clemens received 38 percent, Bonds 36 percent, McGwire 17 percent and Sosa 12 percent. Interestingly enough, even players less notable for steroids but even slightly suspected were denied. Jeff Bagwell was the closest of the suspects with 60 percent, while Mike Piazza received 58 percent and Curt Schilling 39 percent.

Justice has been served, in a way, although the American way of “innocent until proven guilty” is proving fallible in the court of public opinion. I’m not really sure how I feel about that, but it’s hard to feel bad for guys who made more money in a season than I’ll make in my lifetime. I think they’ll be OK.

Without Bonds, the Giants won two World Series titles in the last three years. They won the second one even after losing the 2012 All-Star Game MVP and at the time league-leading hitter Melky Cabrera to a 50-game suspension for high levels of testosterone. Somehow that felt like it’s own brand of justice.

I hope to see a lot more of that in the future. I’d like to see sports news go back to the sports pages.

Patrick Ibarra is the managing editor of the Mountain Democrat. 




Patrick Ibarra



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