The Commish Online                                                                                
'Roids and Other Reader Ramblings
March 2, 2005

I received a lengthy, thought provoking e-mail on several topics, and rather than rehash the information, here it is in its entirety:

Disclaimer:  The following statements are not those of The Commish and are not endorsed by The Commish Online; they are merely the opinions of a reader.  Also, Robert Ruoti, the writer of the following e-mail, is a graduate of the University of Illinois, and therefore can be excused for including himself as a member of this year's undefeated Illini team even though he hasn't donned the shorts for the Orange Crush this year.

From e-mailer Robert Ruoti:

1.  Steroids

Great story by Peter Gammons on steroids, in my opinion the best article written so far on the subject.  It really does make the accomplishments of Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson (and Ernie Banks, whom he doesn't mention) that much more impressive.

In my opinion the baseball steroids thing is no different than the pedophile Catholic priests issue.  The problem became institutionalized.  Everyone knew it was happening, but it was this dark secret and nobody had the guts to face the problem and address it head-on.  As a result, by hiding the problem and denying that there was a problem, the problem continued to grow.  Now they are in a lose-lose situation.  It's obvious that they knew there was a problem, but after denying it for so long it is too late for them to come clean.

I admire Kevin Towers for having integrity and coming out with his statements.  I wish all of baseball (commish, owners, GMs and players) would all come clean, not drop other names but admit their own wrongs.  Bud Selig - you are an intelligent person.  Do you really think we believe that you didn't have any clue that steroids were happening?  Did you see Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds double in size?  Have some integrity.  Admit to your mistakes. 

It was a mistake, but the way the union contract was set-up steroid use became protected, and players did it to stay competitive with their peers.  That doesn't make it right.  But it was a mistake of the past.  Let's all admit the problem, define a strong testing solution going forward (not the one currently in place) and move on.  The steroid testing absolutely needs to include human growth hormone, and the penalties need to be increased ...
1st time offense 30 days, 2nd time for a year, 3rd time offense and its a lifetime ban.  Will there always be people that can mask steroid use?  Yes.  However, will stronger testing eliminate the vast majority of steroid use.  Yes.

Most important issue that has not been addressed in the media is steroids and kids.  Pro athletes are steroid users.  Kids admire and imitate pro athletes.  Nobody has really come out and truly addressed the huge health issues about steroids and how parents should be talking to their kids about this problem.  Isn't that really what's at stake?  If Barry Bonds doesn't care about his health that's his own problem.  If my kid shoots up on 'roids because he wants to hit homers like Barry - that's the true crime.

2.  Cubs tix

I live 4 blocks from Wrigley Field.  I am a Cubs fan.  Or I was a Cubs fan, until going through the bogus process to get tickets this year.  Here's how it worked ...

Thursday Feb 24th you stand in line at Wrigley to get a wristband with a lottery number.  I got there at 8pm and the line went around Wrigley and was about 3 hours long.  I decided not to wait but had friends that did wait in line for several hours and got their wristbands.  Friday Feb 25th, at 6am Cubs hold a lottery and that determines the starting wristband number.  If you have a low wristband number you then get in line to buy tickets.  My friends that waited were numbers 10,400 and 16,700.  Not very good.

Friday Feb 25th, tickets go on sale on the Internet at 10am.  At 9:45am I am on anxiously awaiting a chance to get a couple weekend games.  You get put into the virtual waiting room (although it felt like a virtual "wanking" room).  You have to sit in front of your computer until you get randomly selected to purchase tickets.  At 7:30pm (9 1/2 hours later) I finally got through.  I got bleacher tickets to a Tuesday night Braves game.

Every weekend and Friday game was sold out unless you wanted to sit in section 600 (does Wrigley even have a section 600?). After buying the Braves tickets you go back to the virtual wanking room.  2 hours later I got back in and bought 2 tickets to a weekday game against the Marlins in section 500.  Woo.  Woo.  Woo.  (That's my Ronnie WooWoo impersonation, in case you couldn't tell).

So I am now officially a Sox fan.  Any interest in buying the 9 game Minnie Minoso plan with me?

3.  NHL

Fire Bob Goodenow.  Make me head of the NHLPA for half of what he makes.  We will have hockey again next season by day 1.  The players will get a good deal.  If this does not happen, hockey will die a slow and painful death.  It will be in the same class as Arena Football, USFL, CFL, NASL, MISL. 

4.  "Football"  aka Soccer. 

I watch a lot of ESPN.  Generally I love ESPN and their sister stations.
They give great access to sports programming that you would never get on networks (great college hoops, NHL - at least when the NHL existed, College
Gameday, great analysts, Sportscenter is the greatest show ever, etc.) 

Can someone tell them that football (soccer as we Americans know it) is the most popular sport in the world.  If they gave it a chance, especially the European leagues (British premiership, Spanish LIGA, and Italian Series A), maybe Americans would actually enjoy it.  Who knows, it might become really popular.  If it is that popular in the rest of the world, why not here??

Instead they load up on crappy programming like World's Strongest Man, World Series of Poker (that is NOT a sport, sorry), Figure Skating, Billiards, PBA.  C'mon ESPN, get in the game. 

While I'm on the topic, I think ESPN should also do more Formula One.
Michael Schumacher and Team Ferrari is pretty cool.

5.  Illini

Why are the Illini still such underdogs to win the NCAA tournament?  Is everyone on ESPN paid under the table by the ACC and Big East? 

We won the big games ...
Embarrassed Wake Forest (#4).  I can't believe people still mention Chris Paul as best point guard in the country.  Did anyone see the Illini shut him down?
Beat MSU (#12) at MSU - never an easy place to win.
Beat the crap out of Gonzaga (#13), wasn't even close.
Embarrassed Cincinnati (#22).
Beat Wisconsin (#23) twice, including by 10 points in Madison which nobody else can do.  They are 42 - 1 at home over the past couple years. 

More important than those big wins, we have gotten it done when we have to.
We have beaten the small teams.  We have gotten down in the second half a few times, but we know how to close.  We beat Iowa in OT.  We came back and beat Indiana.  We do the small things that make a great basketball team.

Everyone on ESPN thinks another team will win the NCAA.  How can they think that?

UNC - Santa Clara???  And if UNC is so dominant, why couldn't they get the job done with Duke and Wake?  If they are so great, why can't they beat Wake and Duke with one hand behind their back?  I think Dick Vitale believes the Tarheels are superhuman gods.  Rashad McCants has a lot of talent.  He'll be great in the selfish slop-style game known as the NBA where it's more important for players to score 50 points than to win the game.  Santa Clara??

Kentucky - Did you see South Carolina just outplay Kentucky?  South Carolina!  Kentucky's only top 25 wins are Louisville and Alabama.  I'm not impressed.

Wake - Good team.  We were beating them by 31 with 7 minutes to play.  Chris Paul = overrated.  Nuff said.

BC - nobody thinks they're going to win anyway.  Pittsburgh.  But they really don't have a tough schedule, compared to other Big East teams.  Did I mention Pittsburgh?

Duke - most underrated team out there right now.  Daniel Ewing and JJ Redick are awesome. Any Coach K team is tough in the tourney.

Kansas - 3 losses in a row (including 2 at home is inexcusable).  Tons of talent but don't play as a team.  Individual stars don't win championships.
Okafor and Carmelo both had great teams surrounding them and great coaches.
(My favorite game of the year was Texas Tech - Kansas double OT thriller in Lubbock.  Did you see that??)

OSU - good team but how do you lose to Nebraska?

Have I made my case?  Illinois is THE dominant team in college hoops this year.  No question.

6.  Mike Davis

Finally, why does Mike Davis always look like he's about to cry like a little girl?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Bueller?
end of email

Naturally, as The Commish, my ego won't allow a topic to be posted on my site without some comments from yours truly, so here it goes:

1. Steroids
Many good points, and I agree with just about everything said.  I have already exhausted myself on this issue.  Let's play some ball already!

2. Cubs tix
Sorry, I can't join you for the Minnie Minoso 9-game plan because I already signed up the the 13-game Ozzie plan.  As for the Cubs, while I don't like to stick up for them, you shouldn't hold it AGAINST the team because the popularity and demand has exceeded the supply.  They still reward season ticket holders first, so the "die hards" can't complain, and the lottery ticket structure prevents jobless people and ticket brokers from getting in line when the rest of us work and buying all the tickets.  While it's unfortunate you didn't get great seats, the measures in place by the Cubs were made to help people just like you.

3. NHL
Go for it, but before you try putting the NHL in a lower class, take note that the Chicago Rush almost sold out a Friday night game at Allstate Arena last week.  Arena Football knows its core audience and its average income and charges appropriately to ensure an affordable, yet entertaining time at the game.  As much as the NHL tries, it will never be as popular as baseball, football, and basketball in the U.S.  This is not necessarily a bad thing (look at some events like the X Games to see how a loyal but small group of fans can make a sport profitable and fruitful, even when most of us don't know a McTwist from a Bio Grab).  30+ teams and contracts comparable to NFL players are going to mean empty NHL arenas, so if you can somehow convince a hockey player who made $3 million last year that the only way to survive is for him to make about $500 grand per year, then by all means do it.  Until that happens, however, the NHL will be skating on thin ice (puns ALWAYS intended).

4. Soccer
Ugh.  I hate soccer.  However, I recognize that I am the "ugly American" in this scene, but that still doesn't mean I have to force myself to watch a game just because the rest of the world likes it.  From ESPN's standpoint, you have to remember that television is a business, and the prime time hours are filled with sports that get the best ratings.  The rest of the time, ratings will be down regardless of what's on, so ESPN buys events with the cheapest rights.  Heck, someone with a cue stick probably pays ESPN to put billiards on the air.  In the case of poker, it's a network's dream come true (like reality programming).  The stars actually PAY to enter the event (in some cases, such as the WSOP), the casino hosts the event, so the only cost to the network is some production, an announcer or two, a couple guys with mad editing skills, and a bunch of those "pen cams" to show us the cards.  Soccer, on the other hand, involves television contracts, rights to games, etc. that clearly aren't worth the cost in this land of helmet wearing football fans.  Don't blame ESPN for not airing soccer; blame America for failing to embrace it.

5. Illini
Frankly, Illinois is one of the favorites to win the tournament.  According to, the Illini are 7-2 favorites (that's 3.5 to 1 for those non-bettors and fractionally challenged people out there), exactly the same odds as North Carolina.  After that, no one comes close (Wake Forest is 9-1, with several other teams falling between 10-1 and 15-1).  Because you hail from the land of Orange, I fear that you are suffering from the "world is against us" syndrome that befalls all championship caliber teams.  Heck, I even heard Deion Branch mumble something after the Super Bowl about how no one thought they could do it, they want to prove everyone wrong, etc.  Deion - EVERYBODY thought you could do it.  No one gave any other team a chance and they were practically handing you guys the Lombardi trophy before the game started.

I disagree that Illinois is an underdog, but I agree that ESPN fawns all over the ACC and is failing to give Illinois the necessary credit.  Having said that, don't discount Wake just because they played their worst game against Illinois.  Everyone, except Illinois, has had a bad game or two, but that's why Illinois deserves to be the favorite - they haven't stumbled yet.

6.  Mike Davis
I don't know.