The Opening Pitch: The shocker isn't that A-Rod cheated.
The real shocker is that anyone was surprised at the news.
If we know anything about baseball in the Steroid Era -- and 2003, when A-Rod took the revealed test in question, may have been the apex -- it's that the notion that the best players were using performance-enhancing drugs should be the default, not the exception.
(That's why Schilling's idea to reveal all 100-plus names of players who tested positive is provocative, but ultimately meaningless -- if I'm already going to assume that everyone else was using PEDs, too, knowing the other specific violators is merely sensational, not exculpatory.)
Here's the good news for baseball and for A-Rod: Fans don't really care. We didn't care then, when we all turned a willful blind eye to the issue; down deep, we really don't care now. (In the same way that fans didn't care about decades of MLB player abuse of greenies -- PEDs that were artificially helpful enough that MLB eventually banned them.) Mainstream sports-media hand-wringing is self-indulgent, given MSM's own role in MLB's PED scandal.
Oh, that's not to say that this A-Rod thing won't be media fodder for months -- you might even see fans pick up the meme and use it to mock "A-Roid" when he comes to town with the already-hateable Yankees.
But this story isn't shocking. Not in the least. And that says a lot more about the state of the game than it does about A-Rod.
(The only real scandal -- again, not a new story -- is allegations that Gene Orza, a union leader, tipped off players to steroid testing. I suspect that BOTH the union and MLB shared a vested interest in having as few players as possible, particularly stars, turn up with positive PED tests.)
NBA Instant History: Lakers rule the East. Three days after winning at Boston (to snap yet another massive Celtics winning streak and earn a season-series win over the defending champs), the Lakers did something even more meaningful: They beat the Cavs in Cleveland, something that no other team had done this season. In recent memory, have there been any back-to-back regular-season wins more impressive in the NBA than the Lakers winning at Boston then at Cleveland? The Lakers look like the most motivated team in the league.
(Hmm: Maybe beating the Celtics in Boston isn't such a big deal -- either that, or don't sleep on the Spurs.)
Fantasy Stud: Steve Nash. The former MVP would like to remind you that even though his team is no longer "7 Seconds or Less," he can still dazzle. Nash had 21 assists in a Suns win over the Pistons, in a battle of "Didn't you both used to be contenders?"
(Speaking of the Suns: Looks like they are ready to trade Amare or Shaq ... or both. Tracking.)
Pro Bowl: Fitzgerald rules (again). It seems entirely appropriate that during a postseason in which Larry Fitzgerald established himself as the NFL's best player, he would take the field with the rest of the best of the league and emerge as the uber-star: 2 TDs (including the game-clincher) and a largely valueless Pro Bowl MVP award.
(And say "aloha" to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii: I predict that next season's game -- held the week before the Super Bowl at the SB site in Miami -- will generate enough new enthusiasm for the game that the NFL will never move it back to Hawaii, held the week after the season is over. Florio has some other ideas on how to fix the game.)
CBB Mania: What We Learned This Weekend? That there are plenty of would-be Final Four contenders that obviously aren't ready for March yet: Xavier, Texas, Gonzaga... Big East Watch: I'm not ready to count out Syracuse yet, even though they got pounded at Villnova; Nova is REALLY good at home this season... Hey, Georgetown is going to be a terrific NIT team...
MLB Hot Stove: Ryan Howard gets 3Y/$54M. He wanted $18M this season, but he settled for $15M -- plus the security of an extra two years, including $19M in 2010 and $20M in 2011, after which he will become a free agent and almost assuredly not go backwards from there. Maybe that will happen somewhere else, but for now -- and the next 3 seasons -- Howard remains a Philly.
Andruw Jones to Rangers: No, Jones is NOT the next Josh Hamilton extreme-reclamation project. (Then again: There is very little risk, given that it is a minor-league deal.)
Tiger Watch: It's a boy! Congrats to the Woods family on their 2nd kid -- wow, that little guy won't have much pressure on him or anything. (Parenting memo to Tiger and Elin: Take it from me -- having two isn't twice as hard as having one; it's more like 3X.)
CFB: Did you think I would miss this chance to link to Jon Gruden's slurpery of Tim Tebow's NFL prospects? "Concrete cyanide?" Wow: And I thought that I was superlative in my Tebow fandom.
Must-Read: Greg Cosell revisits Super Bowl 43.
The Last Word: It's Westminster Week. The Super Bowl of dog shows returns to New York, and while Best in Show won't be announced until tomorrow, it's never too late to spout your own favorite lines from the classic "sports" movie, "Best in Show."
(Fred Willard as jockocracy analyst Buck Laughlin remains the greatest parody of sports TV in the history of pop culture: "Now tell me, which one of these dogs would you want to have as your wide receiver on your football team?")
Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com.
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