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Friday, February 01, 2008

Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader

This weekend, sports fans have the ineviable choice of rooting for Luke Skywalker or for Darth Vader in the Super Bowl.

Yes, Luke is whiny and obnoxious (read: Eli Manning), and Darth Vader is one of the best movie villains of all time (read: the New England Patriots) but you can't root for Vader to kill Luke. Unfortunately, everyone's favorite character, Han Solo lost in the wildcard game to the Jacksonville Jaquars. Now we have to root for whiney but good to defeat awesome but evil.

ESPN's Gregg Easterbrook has more on the cheaters:

Most of the sports media have rolled over and played dead on the New England destroyed-tapes story; TMQ reminds you of the specifics here. The NFL promised to get to the bottom of the Patriots' cheating and reveal the truth to the public; instead, the NFL destroyed the New England documents and refuses to say what they contained. If the documents vindicated New England or the NFL, it would have been strongly in the league's interest to say so. Instead, the NFL
has stonewalled us, so what does that make you think? Until we know what was on the videotapes and in the documents the NFL destroyed, there will always be a cloud of suspicion over the Patriots. How much of an advantage did they gain by cheating? Did they really hand over everything to the league? Are they still cheating now? Most important by far, have they cheated in the Super Bowl?

No matter how well New England plays Sunday, every victory the team earned this season -- and
perhaps victories in previous seasons, too -- is tainted until such time when we learn what was in the material the league destroyed. New England is aware that its season is an asterisk season; owner Robert Kraft has complained the Patriots are now viewed as "tainted," his word. For all we know, the Belichick Files vindicate the Patriots. But until such time when we learn what was in those files, even at 19-0, the New England Patriots should not be considered a great team because we cannot be sure whether these wins were earned or stolen. Nor can we be sure whether New England's three Super Bowl rings were earned or stolen.

And all you sportscasters and sportswriters who will spend this week gushing over the Super Bowl, it would be nice if a few of you mentioned that, a mere four months ago, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell found the Patriots guilty of "a calculated and deliberate attempt to avoid long-standing rules designed to encourage fair play and promote honest competition." Two billion people will watch the Super Bowl; almost all of America's children and teens will watch the Super Bowl. If the bottom line of the event is "It's fine to cheat, you'll get away with it," what message does that send?

And it looks like Arlen Specter and I agree on something, for once. That is, on the Patriots being dirty cheaters, not on Congress holding hearings on the issue (or on whatever else seems to be bothering Specter this week).

While I'm on this topic, what is the deal with sportswriters ranting and raving over allegations that Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, et. al may have used steroids, while the starting free safety for New England, Rodney Harrison, was suspended this season for that very reason. Why are steroids and HGH an abomination in baseball (and every other sport), but perfectly acceptable in football? Why do sportscasters speculate about Barry Bonds steroid use for hours, but never mention Harrison's supsension when noting how aggressive he is, or how angry he seems when taunting other players and coaches.)

When Ben Johnson tested positive for steroids in the 1988 Olympics, he was stripped of his Gold Medal, had all his track records erased, had his name removed from all recorded history (though this underground website has avoided the truth police), and summarily executed (I have no evidence that the latter did or did not occur). Harrison, meanwhile, got a meager 4 game suspension, and is playing on the grandest stage with the rest of his cheating teamates.

My prediction: Giants 24; Patriots 56 ... the Dark Side really is stronger.

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