Just Be Cauz - The Missing Link Between S.I., Chara and Steriods
Written by The Razor, Matt Cauz
I want to talk about Mark McGwire, steroids, Zdeno Chara and Sports Illustrated. In my mind they suddenly are all connected, you may or may not agree.
I'm the biggest fan of Sports Illustrated, I just love it. The simple pleasure of finding out who is on the cover each week always excites me. I'm the type of nerd who tries to guess who/what will be on the cover before looking.
Nothing gauges the temperature of what is going on in North American sports quite like the SI Cover. Unless of course you are a hockey fan where you're still waiting in 2011 for anyone even remotely involved in hockey to make the cover. Hey puck fans, did you know that since June 22nd, 2009 your entire sport has been represented on the cover the same amount of times as NFL vagabond Jason Campbell? But since most NHL fans are secure in their love for their sport and pay no regard to what Americans think, I'm sure this little fact doesn't rankle them one bit.
Of course my favourite SI Cover travesty was at the expense of soccer fans. In 1998 the editors decided that Mike Ditka and his off season in New Orleans should be on the cover over France beating Brazil in the World Cup. This was in July! Unless Ditka was found in a motel room bed with Ricky Williams and a used cigar I can't think of any reason why he made it over the World Cup finals. I mean except of course for the fact that the popularity of soccer in this continent is a giant myth, but that's another story. I bring this up because of last weeks edition with Joe DiMaggio and the 70th anniversary of his 56-game hit streak. An excellent throw back cover, far more compelling than shots of NFL lawyers or Kevin Mawae. But wait what does this have to do with hockey head shots? I'm getting there, slowly, please don't click away just yet!
This cover jogged my memory of other baseball covers most notably Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa as Sports Illustrated's "Sportsmen of the Year" winner back in 1998. I went back and read old article during that historic summer when McGwire and Sosa dragged baseball back to relevancy by shattering Roger Maris' home run record. I was amazed that no one even brought up the idea of steroids. Even with the spectre of Androstenedione being found in McGwire's locker looming, no one bothered to investigate!
Check out what SI writer Gary Smith (one of the smartest writers in the business no less!) had to say: "As is our custom late each fall, we at sports illustrated sat down to discuss nominations for sportsman of the.... No, we didn't discuss. We didn't even sit down. It was automatic. It was unanimous. It was the easiest selection in our history. It couldn't be one sportsman of the year. It had to be two. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. All in favor, say aye. All opposed, report back to your coma."
Now I don't blame S.I. for being duped. Everyone went along for the ride until the wisest of all sports figures, Jose Canseco, pointed us in the right direction.
Which brings me to Chara. I am always afraid to way in on head shots and the level of violence in the game. This is about as polarizing as it gets for fans of the NHL. You're either on the side of safety and concern for the health of the players or you are on the side of the "soul" of the game, believing it to be great the way it is and that players are grown men who know what they are getting into to.
This latter argument reminds me of what we did with McGwire and Sosa. We just want to enjoy the greatness of the sport without looking at the warts that exist. I understand why people would be in this camp. The NHL and the media surrounding it spend far too much time ripping their own product instead of celebrating it. The majority of die hard fans must be sick and tired of all this talk about how to change the game. The game is just fine the way it is!
No it's not. It's a simple problem, the players are just so much faster and stronger than they were even just a decade ago. The size of the rink hasn't changed, their hasn't really been any earth shattering changes in the equipment to protect the players. Despite this the NHL will not place a draconian style ban on hits to the head. They don't want to disturb the game, they need to investigate. Really?
The NFL (you remember that sport, right?) changes rules every year, heck they changed it mid season this year after James Harrison, Dunta Robinson and Brandon Merriweather were all found "guilty" of helmet to helmet hits in one weekend.
Ten years ago those hits would have been the highlights for an NFL sanctioned DVD. Now, because of all the new information that has come to light about head trauma the NFL did something about it. It's time for the NHL to follow suit and realize the good "old" game has changed and they need to change as well. I just hope the next time the NHL does make the cover of Sports Illustrated it isn't for a player being carted off the ice with a concussion, a broken neck or even worse.