Chat: What do you believe in?
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN.com senior writer, Jeff MacGregor, will stop by to start a discussion about what is left to believe in when it comes to sports. Whether it is tape-measure home runs or yellow jerseys, everything seems up for debate.
McGregor from his latest column: "In this Golden Age of cheats and PEDs, of bald-faced liars and bad faith science, of spin doctors and brand strategists and parole boards, of heartfelt apology and heartless larceny, it has become nearly impossible to believe that something -- anything -- might actually have been done on the square."
Use the form below to express what you make of the current sports landscape and whether your beliefs have been shaken.
Send your questions and comments now and join McGregor at 2 p.m. ET on Thursday.
Jeff MacGregor (1:44 PM)
Hi everyone. Thanks for stopping by. I'm ready for questions any time, and will start posting answers at 2.
Why the obsession with "BELIEVE"? If you enjoy watching a sport and are entertained by it, then watch it. If what you "BELIEVE" or don't believe interferes with that enjoyment, then don't watch it. Perhaps you and your colleagues in the media are trying to assign a bit too much importance to these issues. If you're offended by what you perceive as lying, cheating, spin et. al; find a new hobby. Problem solved. Let's stop with all the false moral superiority arguments.
Jeff MacGregor (1:57 PM)
I don't think there's any false moralizing going on here, or even much of an ethical argument. Rather, it's a foundational condition of sports that we believe what we're seeing to be on the level. Otherwise, as I said in the column, it's merely theater.There's nothing wrong with theater, of course. It's just that organized sports have always occupied a slightly different part of human enterprise. While sports are a distraction and an entertainment, their drama depends entirely on our assumption that the outcome is unknown. Last night's no-hitter wouldn't mean much if we knew the Reds were in the tank and not trying to hit. (Which is why Pete Rose is still banned from baseball; to introduce any hint that the fix is in risks destroying the game.)Sports are also about the poetry of being human, so there's an argument to be made (though it's sentimental and incomplete) that we not overdo the scientific performance enhancers.Belief is important in all sorts of small ways.
I almost cried when I read your article yet at the same time applaud you for saying it as it is.. As a tennis fan I am disheartened with certain players and how they now look as opposed to a few years ago and of course they are being lauded as wonderkins by the media when everyone knows they are cheating. Hopefully with all the doping scandals coming out of Spain now "something|" will happen to expose these cheats in all sports.I trust you are now back in the good graces of youre editor!
Jeff MacGregor (2:00 PM)
Thanks to all the terrific reader contributions on this week's 'crowdsourced' column, I am indeed briefly out of the doghouse.I will return to the doghouse next Monday morning with another column clamped in my teeth.
Jeanne Mathews (Louisiana)
My husband would love to see John Gruden come to Louisiana and coach the great LSU Tigers? What do you think?
Jeff MacGregor (2:03 PM)
I think your husband is going to have a tough time getting Mr. Gruden out of the MNF broadcast booth.
My beliefs are shaken. I have spent a great deal of money developing my daughter's athletic gifts in tennis. But instead of cute young teens winning in tennis now there are old women with muscles like men. I feel these old women are "stars" who are coddled by the pretend-anti-doping authorities because star power makes money.
Jeff MacGregor (2:08 PM)
I grant you the newly muscular model for tennis players. But the body type has been trending that way for decades. And I for one would have a very tough time walking up to Serena - who just turned 29 - and calling her an "old woman." A very tough time indeed.
Sean Tuxill (Grove City, PA)
I believe sport is twenty-two toddlers in shin guards running en masse after a black-and-white ball on a dewy field on a brisk Saturday morning in October. It?s peeking through your fingers as your team?s quarterback drops back to pass from his own 30 with less than a minute to play and no timeouts left. It?s taking three strides to your right into the hole and scooping up the grounder, then pivoting and nailing the runner by a step at first. It?s pulling your kid and his buddies out of school one day and going fishing in the lake that you grew up on. It?s sticking a double back flip off the high dive after flashing your AARP card for the senior discount to get into the Y. It?s a Hispanic kid, a black kid and a white kid throwing the football around in the inner city. Sport is lacing up your basketball shoes on a Monday morning before work to play hoops with men half your age. Sport is sinking that forty foot double breaker when your best friend?s back is turned. Sport is climbing the ladder over your friend?s shoulder to rip the football away after you skipped out of work early on a sunny Friday afternoon in late summer to play. Sport is being able to tell your grandkids ?I saw Jerry Rice and Barry Sanders play when I was your age.?Sport is hopping out of bed in mid-February to see a coat of black ice on the neighborhood pond, skaters already on the rink, knocking a puck around on the sheet of dark glass. Sport is turning on the afterburners and beating your dad in a footrace for the first time. Sport is coaching Little League and teaching kids how to bunt, turn two and eat sunflower seeds without using his hands. Sport is hitting that fadeaway jump shot with a hand in your face and no time left on the clock. Sport is the game of tackle football played every Thanksgiving in the backyard of your grandparents? house, rain or shine, snow or mud, from just after the big meal until you can?t see the ball anymore, or grandma dislocates your uncle?s shoulder when he goes up over the middle and she pops him in the back. Sport is the sheer joy of running a hundred yards to catch what appeared to be an overthrown Frisbee until it started hanging in mid-flight. Sport is the pounding of sticks on your team?s bench after you leveled the other team?s enforcer with a beautiful hip check. Sport is a little girl playing catch with her father, with a glove much too large for her small hand and a smile that could open any door on 5th Avenue.That?s the sport I believe in.
Jeff MacGregor (2:10 PM)
We got a lot of great comments and posts and emails and tweets like this one this week. Terrific.I'll follow up by posting some of them in next week's column.Thanks, Sean.
Mike (Columbus, Ohio)
What are your thoughts on Pete Rose not getting in the hall but guys like A-Rod will? Pretty sad!
Jeff MacGregor (2:18 PM)
I think Mr. Rose broke the one great unbreakable in baseball: No Gambling. There's a sign in every big league clubhouse saying exactly that. Still, there's no saying for sure that he won't be voted into Cooperstown eventually - or that A-Rod will be.If you listen to Hall of Fame voters argue about Rose, it becomes clear that one of the options on the table is to vote him in after he's dead. Which is at once very fair and terrifically cruel.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
What do you think the Players should be in the NFL,NHL,MLB,& NBA if they test postitive for PED or Steroids?
Jeff MacGregor (2:22 PM)
I think the leagues are as much to blame as the players. So yes, coming out of this last decade or two of institutional denial and unclear regulation and inconsistent testing and enforcement, players have to be given some latitude.But once the leagues lay down clear standards and rules and punishments for violations, then the players have to conform to them.
Ryan (Reynoldsburg, Ohio)
This steroid era makes me admire the guys like Ripken, Griffey and Nolen Ryan that much more.
Jeff MacGregor (2:27 PM)
I go back a little farther and think of Williams and Mays and Aaron and DiMaggio. The danger of that, though, lies in forgetting that every age had its inequities and its PEDs and its win-at-any-price cheats. Human nature is human nature through every era from the beginning of time.
I believe in the Reds taking the Phillies in 5. Our pitching is after Halladay is going to be just as good as their's, and besides Volquez giving up 4, the pen pitched 7 scoreless innings, which I think exposed their offense.
Jeff MacGregor (2:35 PM)
It is a bedrock principle of my work that I never make predictions. Predictions are for suckers. So I'm not sure what to say, Ricky, except "good luck."Or perhaps, "good luck with that whole 'winning a playoff series against the most dominant pitcher in postmodern baseball history' thing you've got going on." I wish you and everyone in southern Ohio all the best
BSB (Proudly from Philly)
I believe that the discourse in sports has begun to mirror the discourse in society. Teams "misinterpret " rules on purpose, players juice, and fan bases all over have begun to treat their heroes as if they are one a half villain and one half saint and yet always wrong. Fans across the nation should be thankful that the spotlight on their behavior will never fall on them because some yahoo's in Philly threw snowballs at Santa in the 60's. If not for the way we have been portrayed people may realize that they have all turned into "Philadelphians" themselves. And not in the never give up way we support our teams either.
Jeff MacGregor (2:37 PM)
This has been one of the big recurring themes this week in the wake of the column: that sports now simply mirror the broader culture.It's true, of course.And we're all the poorer for it.
Matt Friedrichs (Bristol)
Jeff, here's what I believe in: Any game kids play without adults providing instructions, coaching, technique tips, unsolicited advice. Games in which the rules are set and adjudicated by the participants, even if there's a little yelling and name-calling.
Jeff MacGregor (2:46 PM)
It's weird how we've worked our way down through sports - from the pros to college to high school to peewee - and made them all about money and fame at every level. And money cheapens everything it touches.The idea of pure 'play' seems to have vanished.
Crash Davis (Durham)
I believe in the soul, the *edit*, the *edit*, the small of a woman's back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.
Jeff MacGregor (2:48 PM)
No one ever posts Annie's speech from the beginning of that movie:I believe in the Church of Baseball. I've tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I've worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I heard that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn't work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology. You see, there's no guilt in baseball, and it's never boring... which makes it like sex. There's never been a ballplayer slept with me who didn't have the best year of his career. Making love is like hitting a baseball: you just gotta relax and concentrate. Besides, I'd never sleep with a player hitting under .250... not unless he had a lot of RBIs and was a great glove man up the middle. You see, there's a certain amount of life wisdom I give these boys. I can expand their minds. Sometimes when I've got a ballplayer alone, I'll just read Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman to him, and the guys are so sweet, they always stay and listen. 'Course, a guy'll listen to anything if he thinks it's foreplay. I make them feel confident, and they make me feel safe, and pretty. 'Course, what I give them lasts a lifetime; what they give me lasts 142 games. Sometimes it seems like a bad trade. But bad trades are part of baseball - now who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for God's sake? It's a long season and you gotta trust. I've tried 'em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball.
Tom Wilder (Geneseo, NY)
I believe in Roy Halladay
Jeff MacGregor (2:50 PM)
I'll add your name to the list.
Mike in MN (MN)
I believe n sports as entertainment. Anything more than that is sure to disappoint. As I get older, I see the warts in the organizations (NCAA), "leaders" (cheating coaches), and players more and more clearly. Sports should be nothing more than entertainment. These are just guys and gals running around playing games, nothing more socially significant than that.
Jeff MacGregor (2:52 PM)
I felt that way for a long time, too. But the history of sports as part of religious ceremony mythology seems to indicate otherwise. Sports are important enough to argue about.
Hayden (Logan, Utah)
what can we as fans do? it makes me sad to think about
Jeff MacGregor (2:55 PM)
I'll try to answer as honestly as I can. Fans have to fix the sports they think are broken. The press can't do it for you. We can help, but only fans can change the culture of professional sports. How? By staying away from them. By boycotting them. By refusing to watch them on TV or buying the products they advertise.
Is there any sport more corrupt than cycling?
Jeff MacGregor (2:56 PM)
In terms of the participants? No. In terms of the promoters and managers? I think boxing is still dirtier.
Should I still believe in what's coming out of Halas Hall these days? I really don't think they know if they're coming or going!
Jeff MacGregor (2:57 PM)
I don't read much Harry Potter, but I'll say 'no.' Even Voldemort thought the Bears were the weakest undefeated team he'd ever seen.
Tyler (The Ville, KY)
With the passing of Coach Wooden, has an era ended as far as coaches who have risen above the game itself?
Jeff MacGregor (2:59 PM)
I don't think so. I think extraordinary personalities define and create new eras all around us all the time.
Believe in the Duke basketball program...no violations, championships, graduating players from a top 10 university in the US at a 92% clip...what's not to love?
Jeff MacGregor (3:00 PM)
I don't know, but apparently many, many people find Duke somehow unloveable.
Rather than pining for the great days of the past, shouldn't we do our best to embrace what lies in front of us? In the end the basic games are the same as they've always been.
Jeff MacGregor (3:01 PM)
Agree completely. But the past is always prologue, so we have to sort out what we've done wrong in order to get closer to doing what's right.
What will it take to set things right? Personally, I think the media has to a better job at questioning sporting bodies about what they're doing to stop PEDs. I know this entails professional risks for journalists (e.g., player access), but other reports have done far more risky and dangerous reporting successfully (e.g., war, pollution, cigarettes), so I find it hard to buy the line that it's too hard to get to the truth.What do you think?
Jeff MacGregor (3:04 PM)
I think you're right. I also think that there has to be a much better understanding of reporting the science of performance enhancement. Or the complex financials of building a new stadium. Or the relationships that give rise to recruiting corruption. All of that said, however, if there's no audience for that kind of truth, the reporting will never get done.
I guess if I wanted to make this simple I'd say, "I believe in what I see happening on the playing field and not what I hear is happening away from it."
Jeff MacGregor (3:05 PM)
I wish I could make it that simple for us all.
I can appreciate your thought on not spending money on sports and the products they endorse but there are large factions out there that just don't care about the things plaguing the games. They just want to be entertained at any cost.
Jeff MacGregor (3:06 PM)
Agreed. I proposed a one-day boycott of MLB last year and was roundly shouted down.
Where is your article on ESPN? Cannot locate it...
Jeff MacGregor (3:06 PM)
mike in MN (MN)
Jeff, I was just having that discussion yesterday. Governments have always used sports and religion and art to distract the masses from what is going on.....so your comment about sports as religion/mythology....is spot on for many reasons. I still spend plenty of time arguing/discussing sports, I just try not to believe in anything as much, I'm probably less fulfilled spiritually because of that, I guess.
Jeff MacGregor (3:08 PM)
The ancient Olympics were a matter of religious observance - as were the ancient games of Mesoamerica. Sports are important enough to worry about - but how do we wrestle them back from the for-profit organizations that have taken them over?
BSB (Proudly from Philly)
I still do believe that sports, in it's purest forms can teach lessons, motivate and compel people to do amazing things. I watch sports, because I too "believe in miracles."
Jeff MacGregor (3:09 PM)
Al Michaels, ladies and gentlemen.Nice.
Jeff MacGregor (3:11 PM)
OK. That's it. I have to run. Sorry if I didn't get to your question, but thanks to everyone here for coming by.