Friday, May 19
We know what's really bothering you
 
By Ray Ratto
Special to ESPN.com

  Other than spawning "The Onion," USA Today has had one other beneficial effect on America's reading public:

Mike Tyson
Another Mike Tyson fight? There's reason to get worked up.

It occasionally allows members of that public to scorn, dismiss, and break out in hysterical laughter at other members of that public. And really, what else is there to life than making fun of those who aren't us?

The latest example is not, however, the cover story on "Regis: The Giver Of Life, The Destroyer Of Planets," but one of their little graphic boxes down at the bottom of the page --- you know, the one you usually rest your soda on.

This one, which ran Wednesday, is a poll result from Harris Sports Interactive which asks the nagging question, "What are the biggest problems facing professional sports in the 21st century?"

The top response was, "Growing players salaries," as voted on by 27 percent of however many people they asked, followed by "Criminal/Violent Behavior" (21 percent), "Team Salary Caps" (18 percent), "Rising Ticket Prices" (15 percent), "Drugs and Steroid Use" (4 percent).

And this is why people sic their Rottweilers on pollsters.

Nobody complains about any of this stuff when they're just yakking with the rest of the kids down at the far end of the bar, the far end of the Elks Hall or the far end of the secretarial pool. Their complaints are more immediate, like:

  • "Why can't the right fielder hit the cutoff man?"

  • "Why can't the right wing put a puck on net once in a while?"

  • "Why can't the manager be thrown out right on his bloated, ever-widening hinder?"

    For instance, Monday, the thing that chapped the most people was that show of stern-faced surrender in Bloomington, Ind. By Tuesday, it had changed to "Why do they let all those drunks at Wrigley Field bother the Dodgers?" or its corollary, "Why do they let the Dodgers bother all those drunks at Wrigley Field?"

    Wednesday, it changed to, "So, will Rickey Henderson kill Lou Piniella first, or vice versa?"

    The bigger issues, frankly, bore your average guy to tears. Not only that, with the possible exception of players and felonies, there is an equally compelling argument the other way on every issue.

    After all, when was the last time you heard someone say, "You know what America needs? More athletes being led away in handcuffs."

    Take player salaries. In truth, the only players who are overpaid are players you don't like. Ask a Sixer fan if Allen Iverson is getting too much money, or a Laker fan is Shaq is overpaid, or even an Expo fan if Vladimir Guerrero is overcompensated.

      Take player salaries. In truth, the only players who are overpaid are players you don't like. Ask a Sixer fan if Allen Iverson is getting too much money, or a Laker fan is Shaq is overpaid, or even an Expo fan if Vladimir Guerrero is overcompensated. Ahh, but ask a Yankee fan if Nomar Garciaparra gets too much Jack, and wait for the profanity to subside.  ”

    Ahh, but ask a Yankee fan if Nomar Garciaparra gets too much Jack, and wait for the profanity to subside.

    Team salary caps? Nobody cares about them, except that they always seem to be the handy excuse general managers use when a team can't get rid of its dead weight for some other team's dead weight.

    Ticket prices? Then why do you keep paying them?

    Drug use? Depends on the drug, and the user.

    Free agency? Not if the agent is coming to your team.

    Team relocation? Lots of smoke, damned little fire.

    No, you want to know about what bothers sports fans as they enter the 21st century? We know.

  • More Knicks-Heat games.

  • More Mike Tyson fights.

  • Bill Walton when his voice cracks.

  • Jim Gray when his voice works.

  • IOC figures being cleared of corruption charges.

  • IOC figures clearing themselves of corruption charges.

  • The fact that the Davis Cup lasts longer than the NBA season.

  • $6.50 beers.

  • Long lines for $6.50 beers.

  • Losing their car keys in the parking lot.

  • Losing their cars in the parking lot.

  • Owners who say they can't make it without a new stadium.

  • Owners who say anything.

  • The sports radio personalities in your town.

  • Sports radio personalities in any town.

  • National Anthems that take more than three minutes, sung by four people who sound collectively like a cat being pushed into an electric pencil sharpener.

  • Fishing shows' greatest hits on ESPN Classic.

  • The new Houston Astros uniforms.

  • The old Houston Astros uniforms.

  • Any Houston Astros uniforms.

  • Forgetting that the barbecue is still hot.

  • Watching the kids play a Little League game in the pouring rain because the coach is trying to teach the children a valuable lesson about toughness.

  • Having the kids stuck at home because their Little League game got rained out.

  • Updated scores at the bottom of the screen when you're watching the replay of a game you missed earlier.

  • Updated scores of your team losing, 19-16, to Colorado.

    And finally:

  • Finding out that the Arizona Cardinals are relocating to your town, and your property taxes are going up so that they can come.

    Maybe it's just the way the Harris people worded the question. It isn't the biggest danger in the next century that troubles people. It's what honks them off right now. And the best thing about sports is, what honks them off changes every 15 minutes.

    In fact, you're starting to grind on me right now.

    Ray Ratto, a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.
  •  


    ALSO SEE
    User comments: Whassssup? Plenty