Column: If you aint cheatin, you aint tryin

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Jeff Budlong, On the Rebound

They&8217;re all just a bunch of cheaters.

That&8217;s how I feel about professional athletes right now and I am leaning more to keeping that opinion as a permanent stance than I ever have before. I will still celebrate when records are broken, still cheer when &8220;my teams&8221; win and get a little too upset when they don&8217;t. However, I am done with thinking all of these great things are done on their own.

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Baseball has been in a performance-enhancing drug battle for a while now and even on the sport&8217;s biggest stage &045; the World Series &045; cheating has come front and center thanks to that spot of dirt … pine tar … mud … er … whatever it was on Kenny Rogers&8217; hand.

I don&8217;t know what was on his hand, I don&8217;t care to tell you the truth. Pitchers have been cheating forever (thanks, Gaylord), hitters have been corking bats forever and there are any number of other cheats from stealing signs to facing video cameras at opposing dugouts.

Rogers has an impressive scoreless innings streak going in the postseason. Do I think he has done it all by himself? No, but that&8217;s O.K. because as impressive as Albert Pujols is &045; and I am a fan &045; I have to be skeptical of what he has done too.

The best thing about this spot of dirt … er, whatever it was is the video evidence that shows the same spot in the same place in Rogers&8217; earlier starts. Now that&8217;s talent to have a spot show up on the same place on your hand each postseason trip to the mound.

My day of sports discontent didn&8217;t get any better when I read that San Diego Charger Shawne Merriman was suspended for four games for using steroids. Yep, the same Merriman who declared himself bigger, faster and stronger than any other linebacker in the history of the NFL at the beginning of the season. Oops.

He came out with the standard line evolving a supplement that he was completely unaware had anything bad in it. OK that&8217;s fine and that used to work for pro athletes, but not now not when you are the millionth one to trot out that excuse.

If that is truly the case then taking supplements is something I believe they should try to avoid if it can&8217;t be controlled. Is it worth throwing away millions of dollars to play a game with your career?

Lawrence Taylor, who was back on T.V. thanks to Monday night football, redefined the linebacker position then redefined the amount of drugs an athlete can ingest and still star in an Oliver Stone film.

Basketball has had its own drug problems and if you want to get technical, preferential treatment by the referees is a big reason for the success enjoyed by many of the top players. I was as big of a Michael Jordan fan as there was but he did push off on Bryon Russell to get the game-winning shot off to win an NBA championship.

It seems like cheating and sports go hand-in-hand these days and maybe they always have.

NASCAR racers will tell you that &8220;if you aren&8217;t cheatin&8217; you&8217;re not tryin&8217;&8221; and cycling, while not a popular sport in the U.S., is probably the &8220;dirtiest&8221; sport around. The list goes on from crooked judges in ice skating to fixed boxing matches to chemically enhanced runners.

Many sports fans watch for the entertainment value and the chance to see athletes do great things they couldn&8217;t do. But more and more it seems like maybe the athletes aren&8217;t capable of doing it on there own either.

I guess it is just a new generation of cheating. Something that

every sports fan has to come to terms with one way or the other. Either you can completely ignore it, you can accept it and move on or simply leave sports behind.

(Sports editor Jeff Budlong&8217;s column appears every Wednesday.)