Thursday, December 30
All is not wonderful in world of sports
By Jim Caple
Special to

 The greatest testament to the power and charms of sports is that we still are drawn to them despite the horrors of their modern form. We must truly love sports to suffer through these 10 blights:

1. Art Modell. By moving the Browns despite decades of sellouts in Cleveland, Modell became the poster child for increasingly greedy owners obsessed with obtaining revenue streams even wider than their waistlines. With virtual monopolies in each sport, these business-suited vampires blackmail communities into building unnecessary stadiums with luxury suites so lavish that if Nero walked into one he would ask for something a bit more understated.

Art Modell
Move a team from Cleveland? Art Modell is the perfect symbol of the modern owner.

What do you call 16 of the 31 NFL owners at the bottom of the ocean? A good start.

2. Staples Center. What does the average fan get from bankrolling these monuments to corporate excess? Seats they can't afford that are farther away from the game but closer to the concourses where even more money can be vacuumed from their wallets. Consider the Lakers' new crib. When they moved into Staples Center this season, they raised their average ticket price from $51 to $81.

At that rate, pretty soon the only people who can afford to watch a game will be the ones playing them.

3. The Suzuki Heisman Trophy. Attention K-Mart shoppers! The wide world of sports is now on sale in aisle 23!

Baseball considers selling advertising on its uniforms. The Oakland Coliseum's official name is Network Associates Coliseum. The Bowl joins the bloated holiday lineup. And just in case you think there are still some standards, some things not for sale, remember this: the Heisman Trophy is now sponsored by an auto company.

And don't get me started on the damn swoosh.

4. Artificial turf. The biggest problem with artificial turf is it is as contagious as the ebola virus. Play a game on turf and the game seems artificial as well.

5. 1998 NBA lockout. Athletes who don't know Cesar Chavez from Cesar Tovar suddenly feel qualified to give us lessons in labor negotiations. Major league players struck in 1981, 1985 and 1994, with another labor Armageddon looming in two years. NFL players struck in 1982 and 1987 (when owners shrugged and hired scabs). NHL players struck in 1994. The NBA locked out its players last winter, prompting Kenny Anderson to say of his $57,000 car insurance bills, his $120,000 "hanging around money," and his $150,000 rent in Beverly Hills, "I have to start getting tight."

On the other hand, there are some seasons when the leagues actually play their games as scheduled.

6. Fantasy leagues. Not even the fans are interested anymore unless they put a price tag on the players. Root for a favorite team? Forget it, not when Get-A-Lifers need a big day from Cris Carter for their fantasy league. The worst part of fantasy leagues is that "the owners" insist on telling everyone at the office about "their" team each Monday, as if anyone cares. Get a life, people and let us work in peace.

Oh, and the costume shop called. They say they're out of Spock ears.

7. Lawrence Phillips. His football field of troubles began when he dragged his girlfriend down a staircase. But because he could likewise drag defenders down the field, someone always looked the other way and rewarded him with fat contracts. Unfortunately, he's not alone, reaffirming the oldest lesson of sports: You'll be excused of anything as long as you can help a team win.

8. Scott Boras. Not counting Jim Varney's work in the "Ernest" movie series, the most extraordinary acting performance in recent years was Tom Cruise in "Jerry Maguire." He made an agent sympathetic.

9. End zone celebrations. In the 1970s, Glenn Burke slapped a teammate's hand after a home run, thereby giving us the high-five and ushering sports lower into hell. Two decades of descent later, sports has become an endless, tiresome and crudely choreographed routine of throat-slashing, pistol-shooting, arm-windmilling, heavens-pointing, leg-kicking, hip-swiveling, duck-strutting, head-bobbing and chest-thumping Rockette celebrations.

And that's just for assisting on a tackle when your team is down by 17 in the fourth quarter.

10. Sports talk radio. Most people can't name their local representative and haven't used a library card since Brian Bosworth's biography came out, but everyone seems to have an opinion in sports, usually angry and almost always negative. Worse, they pollute the airwaves by expressing it to some loud talk show host, none of whom will ever be in line for an Edward R. Murrow award.

Put down the cell phone and give it a rest, will ya? Remember, even Denny's closes for Christmas.

Jim Caple is a regular contributor to


Caple: 10 reasons to love sports

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