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Fans should take blame for bad news

In the past week, professional sports have been rocked by scandals involving an NBA referee accused of fixing games, quarterback Michael Vick indicted in a dog-fighting operation, and golf legend Gary Player insisting players on tour were using steroids.

All this while Barry Bonds pursues a soon-to-be-tainted home run record.

Over the years, athletes have had other legal problems. Former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder. Kobe Bryant was charged with rape.

There's been an assortment of ever-common gun charges. We've been force-fed stories about stabbings and battered women. And that's just O.J. -- allegedly.

One of the biggest disgraces in the past 15 years involved figure skating. Certainly, you remember Nancy and Tonya. It shouldn't be long before we hear about performance-enhancing drugs finding their way into bowling, chess, curling and Jarts.

Blame whomever and whatever you want. Greed can usually be found somewhere in the mix. Ego and selfishness have a way of pushing people down a wayward path. Athletes will forever believe they're above the law because sports are littered with precedents confirming so.

And the money?

How many Average Joes out there scrounge for nickels just so these guys can get paid their millions? The Buffalo Bills have nearly sold out the upcoming season even though they jacked up ticket prices and haven't made the playoffs since the turn of the century, haven't won a postseason game since 1995.

We can point our fingers toward the athletes. They're raking in dough that most of us couldn't possibly comprehend and spend their spare time blowing it. The system makes for an easy out. How can the NBA not know one of its referees had a gambling problem? There's always blaming the commissioner. What, Bud Selig couldn't compare baseball cards from the early 1990s and now?

You can blame the media for contributing to the problem, too. Not too long ago, it was only newspapers, magazines, radio and television. Now, you can find any game on any given night. No reason to sprint to the fridge between plays. Why do you think they invented TiVo?

We feed fans' endless thirst, giving them fodder on which they base their opinions and eventually spend their money. The media blew it big time on the steroids issue, among others.

Funny, but every time you hold people accountable in sports, you're certain to hear from people who want to know why you're picking on their favorite teams. Gee, I don't know. My guess is that some of us are more interested in facts over self-serving fantasy.

For me, sports were a release from the real world. There's nothing better than watching athletes do what they do best, seeing them react under intense competition and pressure. Unfortunately, the game often gets pushed aside by endless blather about contracts and knuckleheads who can't survive an offseason without doing something asinine.

And you know who else deserves blame? You do.

Sports have grown so much because you keep watching. Americans are fixated on celebrity. It explains how actors make $20 million for one movie and Michael Jordan makes $30 million for one season. Jordan captured six championships. Alex Rodriguez could top the $30 million mark without winning anything.

Fans should be turned off enough by the troubles in sports to have an effect, but the problems actually helped. Labor strife ruined baseball and hockey seasons, but fans returned. Madonna was right -- bad news is better than none.

Obviously, we haven't hit the breaking point. We're still the enablers.

e-mail: bgleason@buffnews.com

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