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Sports Then and Now

Five Issues Congress Should Worry About Before Tobacco

Posted on April 16, 2010 by Don Spieles
Tobacco has long been an engrained staple on the baseball diamond.

Tobacco has long been an engrained staple on the baseball diamond.

Many, many folks share the opinion that Congress should keeps its collective nose out of the area of professional sports all together.  A recent story from the Associated Press revealed that the new cause du jour for sports minded elected officials is chewing tobacco.

The use of chewing tobacco and snuff, or “dip”, is prevalent in Major League baseball.  While it is common knowledge that the use of these products is associated with largely increased instances of cancers of the mouth, throat, and stomach, and with the minor leagues having banned it’s game time use in 1993, its use is still common place in the big show.

“Good luck,” said Brandon Medders, San Francisco Giants pitcher, referring to trying to ban the use of tobacco. “Guys do what they do. We work outside. It’s been part of the game for 100 years.”

While not using the stuff is obviously a good idea, it will not be an easy sell.  Not to mention that it is far from the most pressing issue in professional sports.  Here are five better ways for Congress to focus their extra time.

5. Gambling

Gambling is one of the best kept non-secrets in the universe.  The one player who has been banned from professional baseball in the last half century, Pete Rose, was booted for gambling.  The “industry”, both legal and illegal versions, constitutes a multi-billion dollar cash sow for those raking in the dough.  Gambling has proven itself every bit as addictive to some individuals as tobacco or drugs, and the NBA was rocked by a scandal where referee Tim Donaghy was sentenced to 15 months in prison for being involved in a gambling scandal.

The obvious reason for hedging bets where sports gambling is concerned is that Congress has a large number of members who represent places where gambling is a revenue maker and another large portion of Congress like the college bowl pool and the March Madness bracket sheets as much as the next person.

4. Prices

In a 2002 article on the St. Petersburg Times, it was pointed out that while a vendor could purchase beer at an average cost of $50 per, they were then selling roughly 70 large cups pf beer for $6.00, thus taking in $420 for that initial outlay.

The story is the same for every other concession stand item in every venue in every sport.  If Congress is supposed to be serving their constituency (us) and if that is the reason why they get involved in anything sports related in the first place, wouldn’t the price gouging that fans undergo be an excellent place to focus some energy?

3. Guns

How many season have we gone through in the last decade where there wasn’t at least one gun related story featuring a professional athlete.  Whether it be tragedies like the deaths of Steve McNair and Sean Taylor, or comic skit-like boners like Plaxico Burress shooting himself in the leg at a nightclub when his gat slipped down into his drawers, the fact is that guns are a very serious issue among professional athletes.

So much seems to be tied to the thug mentality that so many athletes maintain after rising above their beginnings where many lived in rough neighborhoods, in poverty level families.  For those lucky enough to achieve the dream of making it to the professional level seem to retain the attitude that they must be packing, either for protection or for status purposes.

The NBA, for one, has tried to crack down a bit by placing a formal ban on guns in team facilities.  The mere fact that players needed to be told that handguns were not appropriate at basketball games is indicative of how much of a problem the situation has become.

2.Domestic Abuse

While Michael Vick spent 18 months or so in a cell for his involvement in dog fighting, and keeping in mind that the vast majority of people find his treatment of animals abhorrent, is it wrong to suggest that harming a dog should be considered less of a crime than harming your spouse or significant other?

Brandon Marshal in court, accused of battery against then ex-girlfriend.

Brandon Marshall in court, accused of battery against then ex-girlfriend.

Second only to weapons charges, domestic violence stories run rampant through out all professional sports.  Seemingly blind to location, race, or sport differences, there are constant reminders that the faces and demeanors that we see on the field/court/rink can be very, very different that what goes on behind closed doors.

While Congress lobbied for better testing and harsher repercussions where steroid were concerned, there seems to be a look-the-other-way mentality, or, at the very least, a misguidedly low priority placed on consequences for professional athletes who get in trouble, very often repeatedly, for spousal abuse.

1.  Themselves

Doesn’t seem almost laughable that Congress, the governing body where scandals pop-up like rodents in a game of Whack-A-Mole, are interested in trying to deal with problems in professional sports?

First and foremost, many taxpayers are firmly of the opinion that Congress has far, far more important topics to deal with than whether Dustin Pedroia has a ridiculously large dip in during a game.  The prevaling sentiment seems to be that issues such as health care, the war in Iraq, terrorism, global warming, immigration, and the economy (just to name a few) should be pretty much monopolizing the time of their elected officials.  If, on the other hand, this is not the case and congresspersons find themselves with some time on their hands, it is too much to ask that they turn that high powered scrutiny on their own ranks?  Perhaps take some steps to eliminate the graft, corruption, and moral bankruptcy that has become so commonplace that it is talked about mostly by Leno and Letterman?

Physician, heal thyself?  How about Congressman, legislate thyself!

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