Category Archives: Skitch Hanson

“Classic” Scratchbomb: Skitch Hanson on Instant Replay

Thumbnail image for galaragga_joyce.jpgYes, I took a cheap shot at umpire Jim Joyce, whose blown call turned Amrando Galarraga’s perfect game into a one-hitter. But that’s because I’m a jerk who has no pity or shame. The real ire should be directed not at Joyce, but Bud Selig, which has idiotically resisted replay against all technological advances and common sense.

Jim Joyce is considered one of the better umpires in Major League Baseball. We have no reason to believe Joyce would have sabotaged a perfect game to drive an agenda or for personal gain. There was absolutely no incentive for him to blow the call, unless he is secretly the world’s biggest masochist. After the game, he addressed the press (a pretty rare thing for any umpire to do under any circumstances) and sounded completely heartbroken about what had happened.

In other words, a top professional acting at in good faith and with the best of his abilities can still mess up very badly in a very big spot. And technology has advanced to the point where every single person watching the game immediately knows how badly he blew it. Which is why it makes less than zero sense to not have replay available in baseball.

In the absence of replay, everyone wonders how this injustice can be overturned while somehow retaining the game’s “purity”. Because going into a booth for one minute (which is how long it would have taken to overturn Joyce’s call) ruins the game’s magical mystical sepiatone Field of Dreams Wonderboy bullshit aura. By Bud Selig’s logic, a seatbelt ruins the mystique of driving, even if you’ll fly through the windshield without it.

What is truly “impure”: Having instant replay to correct officiating mistakes, like every other sport does, or asking the commissioner to wave a magic wand and declare that Galarraga pitched a perfect game, as if the blown call never happened?

Here’s how you institute replay:

  1. Issue one challenge per team per game. When used, the challenge is expended regardless of whether the team “wins” the challenge or not.
  2. Umpires have the right to refuse a challenge if it appears to be total BS. Otherwise, you’d have managers wasting them to allow a pitcher to warm up or just to be dicks.
  3. Challenges can only be used for fair/foul and safe/out calls. No strike calling.

You can argue on the particulars, of course. But after last night, can you tell me that replay would be any worse than what we have now? Because what we have now is essentially crossing our fingers and hoping everything works out okay. Why not just ask Santa Claus for no umpiring mistakes next year? It makes about as much sense.

However, in the interest of fairness, I felt I should have an opinion from the other side of the fence. So I point you to this op-ed longtime contributor Skitch Hanson wrote during last year’s playoffs, entitled “Making the Right Call on Wrong Calls”. Enjoy!

Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: Do You Believe in Exciting Olympic Hockey Games?

We welcome back Skitch Hanson to the Scratchbomb pages. You may know him from his nationally syndicated sports column, “Up the Middle”. You may have also seen him on the ESPN roundtable discussion show, Mouth-Talkers! Or you may have read one of his 79 books, such as Playing Catch with My Father, and Other Things I Wish Happened in My Childhood. Without further ado, here’s Skitch to talk about Olympic Hockey.

usahockey.jpgLast night’s Olympic hockey match between the US and Canada was quite the rough-and-tumble contest. A real battle of wills. A hard-nosed, no-holds-barred exhibition of old time hockey.

Or so I’ve heard. I’d forgotten the game was on last night, and when it dawned on me that I was missing it, I couldn’t figure out what channel it was on. My cable system’s supposed to have some sort of an onscreen guide, but you have to be a robot to figure those things out! Plus, the box hasn’t worked too well since my wife accidentally spilled three whole bottles of pinot grigio on it.

By the time I found the game, it was already over and the American players were congratulating one another. Of course, it reminded me of the Miracle on Ice some 20-something years ago. Fittingly enough, I believe last night was actually the anniversary of the USA’s historic victory over the Soviet Union at Mount Placid. I would look up the date, but I seem to have misplaced my Reader’s Digest almanac for that year.

I’ll always remember that game, because it happened during the first Olympics I covered. The day of the game, you could just feel something in the air. Even though nobody in their right mind thought the US could win, you could just feel that something special was about to happen.

Unfortunately, that feeling wasn’t enough to wake me up from a mid-afternoon nap and catch the shuttle bus to the arena. But I was a young go-getter back then, and a few pounds lighter, too–this was back when I could still see my feet. So I briskly walked the 7 miles from my hotel to the hockey game. Security wouldn’t let me into the press booth, because I was late, and because I had sweat so much my body odor was deemed offensive.

So I watched most of the game on the TVs hanging over the concession stands. The energy in the building was unbelievable. This one vendor named Antonio seemed really into it, even though I had to describe the action to him, since he couldn’t see what was going on from his station next to that cube with the heat lamps in it that they use to heat up soft pretzels.

Sure, there are some differences between the miraculous victory at Fort Placid and the one in Vancouver. The Miracle on Ice was a semi-final, and this one was just for a first round bye. And the older team was made up of college kids, while this one is entirely comprised of well-paid professionals. And in 1980, the game was both a Cold War metaphor and a boost to the sagging morale of Carter-era America. Today’s kids probably couldn’t find Russia on a map! I know my son Brad can’t! The doctors think there might be something seriously wrong with him!

My point is, last night, Americans came together to cheer on their country. In this day and age, how many times can we say that? Apart from the Olympics every other year and the occasional dance competition show. Yes, this game brought us together, made us briefly care about hockey, and got us to root against a country that cares about the sport far more than we could ever possibly imagine.

I think that has to count for something. Will it mean much if the US winds up only winning a bronze medal, or no medal at all? I don’t know. But hopefully by then, March Madness will have started.

Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: Saints and Sinners (But Mostly Saints)

We welcome back Skitch Hanson to the Scratchbomb pages. You may know him from his nationally syndicated sports column, “Up the Middle”. You may have also seen him on the ESPN roundtable discussion show, Mouth-Talkers! Or you may have read one of his 79 books, such as The Greatest Game You Never Saw and Possibly Didn’t Happen at All. Without further ado, here’s Skitch to talk about The Big Game.

Are there any more exciting words in the Sports Universe than “Super Bowl”? Not to this reporter! Except maybe “free buffet” or “case dismissed”. There is no word too big to describe this event. Any newspaper man worth his salt, regardless of beat, must be there to take in the whole spectacle.

Sadly, my editor does not agree with that point of view. He thought my talents were better served trying to write a Super Bowl-related human interest story. “The farther away from Miami, the better,” he said. I guess he’s still peeved at me for what I did the last time I was in Miami for The Big Game.

As you may recall, that was a historic game that pitted two African-American coaches against one another for the first time in Super Bowl history. During the first Media Day press conference, I asked Lovie Smith if he beat Tony Dungy and the Colts, would that be considered Black-on-Black Crime? Some people took offense, but I think Lovie thought it was great. He even ran after me with his arms extended, his fingers grasping toward my throat, as if trying to give me a hug!

I protested my editor’s decision, but there was no budging him. Sometimes, talking to him is like trying to get a word edgewise with my wife! Except my editor doesn’t chuck whiskey bottles at me!

aints.jpgSo I thought to myself, who would make a good human interest story for this Super Bowl? I can’t go to Miami, so that eliminates any of the players actually participating in it. So how about players from the past? And who better to interview than ex-Saints players? Men who had to endure The Aints Years, decades of futility and embarrassment and golden tights.

Unfortunately, other folks had beaten me to the punch. I know it’s hard to believe such an ingenious idea had already been taken by several dozen reporters, but it’s true! By the time I started my research, nearly every person who’d ever put on a New Orleans uniform had already been profiled in one paper or another.

The more obvious targets were not an option anyway. Archie Manning won’t speak to me after that time I accidentally shocked him with a pocket tape recorder and burned off all his hair (look, it grew back, didn’t it, Archie?). And that kicker with the club foot refused to speak to me because I couldn’t remember his name. But even the most obscure former Saints had already been taken by other writers.

The whole process was slow going, because I still do my research the old fashioned way: with a whole lot of elbow grease and shoe leather! And asking the secretary at the office where I can find some out-of-town phone books. The internet may be faster, but it can’t make up for a determined, old school reporter. Plus, the last time I tried to look up something on the internet, I destroyed my computer. If a hard drive can break so easily, it doesn’t sound so “hard” to me! Unless you’re talking about the price to fix it, because that was definitely hard on my wallet, since the newspaper deducted the cost from my paycheck.

Finally, I found a forgotten tight end named Tommy Smith. He was drafted in the third round by New Orleans back in 1987, but never played a single down in the NFL, and retired from the league a few years later.

What a story! Can you imagine the frustration of not being to able to play for one of football’s worst teams? What torture must this man have endured? How did it feel to get so close to his dream and yet still be so far away? Did he lay awake at night thinking of what might have been? And also, how is the postgame spread at The Superdome? Because I’ve heard mixed things.

So I visited Tommy Smith at his home in Abilene, Texas, a ramshackle little cottage on the edge of town. He had an old Chevy up on blocks, and a few sickly dogs running around his weed-filled backyard. It was certainly a hardscrabble existence for Mr. Tommy Smith since leaving the glory of the NFL, if this was his home.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t his home. Turns out it was the home of a Tommy Smith, but not the Tommy Smith I was looking for. In retrospect, I had little evidence I was visiting the right address, or even the right town. But to be fair, I had no evidence that I wasn’t.

The Tommy Smith I found was a shirtless, bearded man who told me to go away because he was too busy “tweakin'”, then used a few words that I can’t reprint in a family newspaper. I asked him who he was rooting for in the Super Bowl, and I think he said “Colts”, but it might have been a burp. Then he slammed his screen door on my fingers and threatened to grab his shotugun.

Still, I think there’s a valuable lesson in here for all of us. My journey to Abilene was a lot like the journey the Saints took to get to the Super Bowl. Years of missteps and blunders and testing the patience of their fans, who wondered if they’d ever pull themselves together. But lo and behold, the Saints have made it to the Super Bowl, and are one big step away from Valhalla.

I did not exactly succeed in my quest to find Tommy Smith, but I did succeed in not getting shot by a meth-crazed indigent. And in a way, I’ve made it to my own Valhalla. A small town named Valhalla, Texas, that is, and its Fresh-Aire Motel on beautiful route 27. They have wi-fi at only $17 a night, and an Applebee’s right across the street. Jackpot!

If there’s another lesson here from the story of me and Saints, it’s this: don’t be too hasty. Stay slow and steady, and success will come. You don’t have to go chasing after the first name that resembles that of the man you’re looking for, especially if that first name is found in a police report.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I hear a Super Bowl calling me–a super bowl of Russian dressing to accompany my bloomin’ onion, that is!

Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: All Hail the Hall!

Scratchbomb hands over the reins to nationally syndicated sports columnist Skitch Hanson, as we’ve done many times before. It’s great to hear from him, because the last time I spoke to Skitch, he was getting lost and possibly assaulted at Yankee Stadium.

You may know Skitch as the author of the highly popular syndicated column “Up The Middle.” You may have read his best-selling book Playing Stickball with Mickey Mantle, and Other Weird Dreams I Had. He’s also a frequent guest on ESPN’s sportswriters panel show Mouth-Talkers! You can follow Skitch on Twitter here. Without further ado, here’s Skitch.

Each winter, I have a great responsibility. And no, it’s not shoveling the driveway! And no, it’s not picking up my wife from the drunk tank after the office Christmas party!

No, I’m talking about my Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. It is quite an honor to participate in the voting every year and help decide who will be immortalized in Cooperstown. There are no halls in the history of halls that are more hallowed than the Baseball Hall of Fame. Perhaps The Halls of Medicine in the old Halls cough drop commercials, but those ads haven’t been on the air in several years. Or perhaps the Halls of Justice, but that’s more of a concept than an actual place.

No, for an actual, physical set of halls, the ones in Cooperstown are the best. But those halls would mean nothing without the people who inhabit them. Not literally, of course. I mean the legends immortalized there in plaque form, or in a video loop on a TV in the lobby. That’s why I take my voting very seriously. I think long and hard about who gets my vote and who does not, because I know I have a hand in solidifying baseball history.

Unfortunately, this year I was less serious about mailing my ballot in, since I accidentally dropped it behind the Xerox machine some time last month. I would have dug out my ballot, but me and electronic equipment do not get along! Like the time I dropped my laptop in a koi pond and electrocuted several hundred fish! Boy, the people at Benihana’s were not happy about that!

andredawson.jpgI did intend to vote for Andre Dawson, and I’m very glad that he made it in. You could argue there were more deserving candidates than him, and his career was hampered by injuries, and I never got to see him play too often, now that I think about it. But I do remember “Hawk” having one unbelievably awesome year where he won the MVP. You certainly can’t argue with that! At least not until I remember exactly what year that was.

I’m very disappointed that Jack Morris still has not made it to Cooperstown. Because when you talk dominant starting pitchers of the 1980s, you have to talk about Jack Morris. Sure, you have to talk some about other guys first, like Fernando Valenzuela. And Doc Gooden. And Roger Clemens. And Jimmy Key and Frank Viola and Nolan Ryan and Orel Hershiser and Bret Saberhagen and Steve Carlton and Bruce Hurst and Dave Stieb and John Tudor and Mike Scott. But eventually, you have to talk about Jack Morris.

Morris may not have had the gaudy stats that some of those other guys did. But he did have that wonderful 10-inning duel against John Smoltz in game 7 of the 1991 World Series. That’s one of the most famous pitching performances of all time. Plus there were three or four other really great games he pitched whose details escape me right now. That’s good enough for the Hall in my book.

Remember, we’re talking about The Hall of Fame, not The Hall of Obscure Statistics. Bert Blyleven had a great career, but I can’t think of a famous moment involving him. Same goes for Tim Raines, Edgar Martinez, and Barry Larkin. Until those guys have a transcendent moment, I can’t in good conscience vote to enshrine them. Unless somebody reminds me of a moment I couldn’t recall. In which case, welcome aboard, fellas!

How do you define a moment? I can’t say. Can you define a beautiful sunrise? The wonder in a child’s eyes? The magic of Christmas? (I hope the folks at Hallmark won’t mind; I adapted those last few lines from a “To a wonderful great-aunt” birthday card.) A moment is a lot like pornography: you know it when you see it. Most moments don’t involve hardcore nudity, of course. At least not in baseball. But I think you get my point.

alomar.jpgAs for Roberto Alomar, who missed The Hall by a few votes, I think that is fair punishment for spitting on an umpire many years ago. I’m aware that the umpire, John Hirschbeck, forgave Alomar publicly for his actions. But to simply let him into Cooperstown on the first ballot would be a slap in the face to all those other players who did not spit on umpires. I’ll be perfectly happy to vote for Alomar on the next ballot, after he’s had a full year to think about what he did.

What kind of message would it send to our kids to let Alomar into the Hall right away? Spitting is never okay. Unless you’ve ingested poison or sour milk, in which case you should expectorate discreetly into a napkin or paper towel.

It’s hard enough to get kids to stop spitting without seeing major league baseball players doing it. My son has been spitting at me ever since Alomar attacked Hirschbeck with his saliva. And he’s 32! He’s still mad at me for missing several birthdays in a row to cover the XFL championship game. I told him that as a reporter, I have a responsibility to cover my beat, and that responsibility doesn’t disappear just because the league hasn’t existed in several years.

We all need to teach our kids–to show our kids–that responsibility is important. We must meet our responsibilities head on, whether they involve voting for the Hall of Fame, or keeping nasty spitters out of that Hall of Fame, or filing stories on sports leagues that have folded, or making sure my wife doesn’t jump bail again. And we must not foist these responsibilities on others, like when I begged the cleaning lady to get my Hall of Fame ballot from behind the copier with her broom.

Being responsible may not get you into Cooperstown. But it will earn you a trip to the Hall of Respect of Your Fellow Humans. That may be an even greater place to be. Except for the fact that you don’t get a plaque and it doesn’t literally exist.

Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: Making the Right Call on Wrong Calls

Scratchbomb hands over the reins to nationally syndicated sports columnist Skitch Hanson, as we’ve done many times before. You may know him as the author of the highly popular syndicated column “Up The Middle.” You may have read his best-selling book Brett Favre’s Top Ten Best Retirements. He’s also a frequent guest on ESPN’s sportswriters panel show Mouth-Talkers! You can also follow Skitch on Twitter here. Without further ado, here’s Skitch.

This is one of my favorite times of year. Watching the leaves change color. Seeing the kids off to school again (the ones still in the house, anyway, and the ones still talking to me). The fun of not knowing if my Kia will start once the temperature drops below 55 degrees.

Best of all, I love October baseball. But my enjoyment of the first round of the playoffs was ruined this year. And no, it wasn’t because those darn Yankees won again! And no, it wasn’t because my wife knocked over the TV when she stumbled home in the dark at four in the morning. In fact, something about the way it hit the ground made all the colors on the tube turn different shades of dark purple, which was kind of interesting.

phillcuzzi.jpgThis year, I couldn’t enjoy the postseason because so many people were complaining about the umpiring! Everywhere I turned, it was “how could you possibly blow that call” this and “these umps should be fired” that. Maybe I’m just a forgiving sort, but I’ve always believed that those who have never called a guy out at first who was safe by a foot should cast the first stone.

I’m not saying mistakes weren’t made. But I’ve heard some people say that we need to expand instant replay, and that’s just insanity. They added instant replay to the games this year on home run calls, and it totally ruined the mystique of the game. There used to be intrigue on every long ball hit down the lines, as you wondered whether the umps would call it correctly or not. And it wasn’t just on close calls, either. No, you had to hold your breath on homers hit seven rows deep on the second deck! I guess that mystery is gone from the game forever now!

Some people say that umpiring mistakes could be overturned quickly and definitively with instant replay. As if the point of umpiring is to get things right! The umpire’s job is to act as the authority figure on the field, and serve as the thick black line between baseball and chaos.

Umpires have to call the plays as they see them, or think they saw them, or as they think should have happened while they were daydreaming. And then, when the manager comes storming out of the dugout, they must stand there and insist they are right, no matter how unsound their reasoning might be. And if the manager presses the issue, they must eject that manager, so that he can go back to the dugout and punch a Gatorade cooler with all his might and wind up on SportsCenter.

This is the majestic ballet that makes the sport we love possible.

I think we’ve all forgotten something in this modern world of speed and convenience. Umpiring mistakes are a time-honored baseball tradition. Don Denkinger in 1985. Richie Garcia in 1996. Rick Reed in 1999. Can you imagine what would have happened if we robbed ourselves of these treasured memories, just because we were in such a rush to get things “right”?

And even if we do institute replay, who’s to say it will even work? I hate to make sweeping generalizations, but technology has never done anything good ever. Take my newspaper, for instance. A while back, they started compiling all the stories and images and ads “electronically” on something called a “server”, instead of typesetting all this stuff by hand. It was supposed to be quicker and make everything easier, they said.

Well, what do you guess happened? One day, without warning, the server shut down and we couldn’t put the paper out for a week! And all because I tried to forward the editor-in-chief this important-looking email from some Nigerian prince.

Instant replay could work well every time. Then again, it might not. But when it comes to umpires, I know that they blow calls. We could take a system that is definitely imperfect and replace it with one that just might be imperfect. Can we really take that chance?

Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: McNair, We Hardly McKnew Ye

Scratchbomb hands over the reins to nationally syndicated sports columnist Skitch Hanson, as we’ve done many times before.You may know him as the author of the highly popular syndicated column “Up The Middle.” You may also have read his best-selling book What Does NASCAR Say About America?: Seriously, Do You Have Any Idea, ‘Cause I’m Totally Stumped Here. He’s also a frequent guest on ESPN’s sportswriters panel show My Voice Is Louder than Yours. Without further ado, here’s Skitch.

mcnair.jpgI think we’ll all remember where we were when we heard about Steve McNair’s death. I know I will. I was at a Panera bread, enjoying a delightful caffe mocha espresso. My editor called me on my cell phone, which I’m still getting used to. I still remember the days when you had to let your editor know where you were going, so they could reach you at all times! True story: Damon Runyon had an ear tag.

So I have my cell phone on vibrate in my left hip pocket, but I totally forget that I have it on me. So when the thing starts vibrating, I’m pretty startled. My leg shoots up and kicks the table, spilling scalding hot espresso into my lap. And when I finally fish the thing out of my pants, it slips out of my hand and crashes to the ground, smashing into a million pieces. Boy, was my face red! My upper thighs, too.

So I’d like to think I know something about what the McNair family is going through. Sure, getting first-degree burns on your legs isn’t quite as bad as losing a father and husband under tragic and mysterious circumstances. But when you lose a loved one, it’s as if someone has spilled searing, caffeinated liquid on your soul. No napkin can sop up that pain. No dry cleaner can remove that stain from the pants of your heart.

I know Steve McNair might have gotten mixed up in some stuff he shouldn’t have. He was only human, like all of us. Perhaps he made mistakes, but it is not up for me to judge him. Mostly because I’ve done that before and gotten into big trouble for it.

Like when I was reporter fresh out of college, and the news came down the wire that Thurman Munson had died. I got a hot tip that the Yankee captain had died after climbing over a fence at the zoo and baiting a grizzly bear. I ran with that story, blasting Munson for doing something so reckless and inhumane.

Needless to say, I’ve regretted writing that story ever since. Once something is in print, you can’t unprint it. And you can’t un-firebomb your house when it’s attacked by angry, grieving fans. Let that be a lesson to all of you budding reporters: cultivate reliable sources. For instance: Guys who huff paint down at the roundhouse are generally not reliable sources.

When I’ll think of Steve McNair, I’ll prefer to think of the Steve McNair I saw on media day during Super Bowl XXXIV. That game was played at the Georgia Dome, so when it was my turn for a question, I asked him if he was having a “peach” of a time. He gave me a funny look, so I repeated myself.

“I don’t get it,” he said. I told him it was an expression. “An expression of what?” he asked. “Where does that come from?” I had to admit I had no idea; it was just something you hear people say. “I’ve never heard anyone say that,” he said, and moved on to the next reporter.

It’s one of the treasured sportswriting memories that I’ll always carry with me. Not in my hip pocket, though. Things are still a little tender down there.

Another County Heard From: Skitch Hanson

I just received a telegram from Skitch Hanson. I mean, literally a telegram. Western Union and everything.

Does anyone know how much you tip a telegram guy? I gave him a couple bucks; too much or too little? 

I don’t know why Skitch chose telegram as his medium, but in any case, he wanted to let me know that he will be in spring training as well, visiting many camps in Florida and Arizona, and will be sending updates via his Twitter page (and presumably, not telegram).

So you can follow him at that link for updates from various camps, and follow Sean from Massapequa here for updates from the Mets in Port St. Lucie.

And while you’re at it, follow yours truly for exciting reply tweets to people you don’t know!

Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: A-Roid Has Singlehandedly Ruined Baseball

Scratchbomb hands over the reins to nationally syndicated sports columnist Skitch Hanson, as we’ve done many times before. You may know him as the author of the highly popular syndicated column “Up The Middle.” You may also have read his best-selling book I Liked It Better When Home Run Hitters Drank Like Fish. He’s also a frequent guest on ESPN’s sportswriters panel show 4th and Forever. Without further ado, here’s Skitch.

arod.jpg

Without A-Rod, who will the Yanks turn to as their playoff scapegoat?

The news about A-Rod couldn’t have come at a worse time for baseball. Just when everyone was ready to believe again, just when it seemed Barry Bonds was finally going to get his just deserts, just when all of us were ready to move on from steroids altogether, we get a reminder that performance enhancing drugs are a scourge that may never be removed from the game.

But for me, the A-Rod scandal broke at the perfect time! I’ve struggled to come up with column idea since I got back from Tampa. My editor rejected my Super Bowl column for being “rambling” and “incoherent” and “possibly libelous.” To be honest, it wasn’t my best work. My head wasn’t in a good place at the time.

I don’t want to point fingers, but a night I spent out with a certain Steelers kicker may have had something to do with my mental state. The whole evening is kind of fuzzy now. I remember drinking something called Irish car bombs (top o’ the mornin’ to ye, ol’ sport!) and then going to some place called Wild Cherries which, despite the name, was not a pastry shop.

From that point on, I only recall bits and pieces involving exotic dancers and a VIP room, and I think I might have drank human blood, but that’s a story for another column.

It’s unlikely that A-Rod will do any jail time for his crimes. But he may find himself in a far worse prison: the Big House of Negative Public Opinion.

Instead of bread and water, he will be fed a steady diet of scorn. Instead of bars, he will be confined by constant whispering about his accomplishments. And he will fear the questions that will be raised every time he passes another batting record, instead of just the threat of sexual assault.

On further thought, I’d rather face questions than prison rape, but my point is clear.

What’s even worse about the A-Rod situation is that he’s a hitter. A hitter who hits home runs! And the home run is a sacred thing, passed down to us from our cherished forefathers. When Washington suffered through the brutal winter at Valley Forge, he had one vision: that men could watch other men hit home runs and not worry about their purity!

I mean, he didn’t literally dream about that, because he had a lot of other important things to worry about, and also baseball hadn’t been invented yet. But I think he did dream about that, in a way, in spirit. I think he would have dreamed of baseball, if only he knew what baseball was.

Baseball must get its steroid problem under control. Because if they don’t, what will we tell our children? I had no idea how to tell my son about this whole mess–and he’s 28! Still, he was pretty upset. Granted, it was mostly because I didn’t go see him in that regional theatre production of Promises Promises.

The fact remains, our children look up to these athletes as role models. They see their heroes on TV doing these horrible things, and they think it’s okay to do them, too. When she was in high school, my daughter told me she thought it was okay to take some money from my wallet because Mark McGwire cheated, too. And when she stole my Discover card, she said she thought that was okay because Rafael Palmeiro had cheated, too.

And when she stole my car and drove it through the food court at the local mall, she said it was all because of Sammy Sosa. I’m still not sure how the two relate. Truth be told, I think it was just because she was mad at this girl who worked at Panda Express. Still, I wonder if Sammy would have thought twice about doing steroids if he knew it would cause my daughter to park a Kia on top of a White Castle fry cook.

If baseball wants a clue about how to handle this issue, look no further than the NFL. They used to have a pretty serious problem with performance enhancing drugs. But thanks to increased testing and public scrutiny, you never hear about steroids in football anymore!

I mean, sure, guys get caught doing them all the time and get suspended for several games, but it’s never any major players like you see in baseball. Except for those times when it is. Oh, and ex-players come forward all the time with tales of steroid use and guys taking drugs to play through concussions and other injuries. In fact, I think that might be worse than steroids. A lot worse, probably.

However, the NFL is very good at making sure no one at ESPN pays any attention to these things, and that’s what’s most important.

Apologies for Skitch Hanson

I apologize for the readers who were looking forward to an exclusive interview with Steelers kicker Jeff Reed from Skitch Hanson. I think last night took a few turns that Skitch didn’t anticipate.

If you want to take in the carnage, go to Skitch’s Twitter page, scroll to the bottom, and read upwards to reach all the low points.

Skitch Hanson Lands a Big Fish

Skitch Hanson just informed me, via his Twitter page, that he plans on interviewing one of players from Super Bowl XLIII. So point your browser there if you want to get in on all the exciting action!*

*Your definition of “exciting action” may vary.