An NBA referee caught gambling on his games. Bill Belichick caught filming the Jets' defensive signals. The Mitchell Report highlighting rampant steroid use in MLB. Floyd Landis stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title. Marion Jones stripped of her Olympic gold medals.
The papers splash “Scandal”, the talking heads on ESPN bark about morality, and holier-than-thou fans decry cheaters at every turn.
Even Congress, in the midst of two wars, healthcare failure, social security issues, infrastructure problems, and legal shenanigans, manages to make time to “clean up baseball.”
The players deny it, the coaches deny it, the clubs deny it, and the leagues claim they'll rectify the situation.
But has anyone really taken responsibility?
And in this litigious culture, don’t we need someone to blame?
More than anything, the sports scandals of 2007 have given fans cause to question the fruits of athletic labor. Barry Bonds will forever be hounded by allegations of steroid use. Every football fan that hates the Patriots now has an excuse as to why their team didn’t win.
There's that asterisk again. It’s the modern scarlet letter.
But underlying every cheat, every edge, every scandal is one thing:
The fan. The rabid, headhunting, mob-loving fan.
Behind every shady injection, behind every winning edge, is the almighty dollar. As a financial analyst, it’s easy to understand why teams resort to cheating, if for no other reason than to level the playing field.
Follow the money. It goes from our wallets directly to the teams and leagues.
When we complain that “baseball has gotten boring,” they shorten fields and turn a blind eye to mysterious power surges. When we say “parity sucks,” they do anything to stay dominant.
Because otherwise we stop caring, or we stop watching, or we stop talking about them.
It’s business—you want the biggest, baddest, fastest, most compelling team. The players themselves are ultimately just very highly paid show horses—the real money is in the team and the league.
As a fan myself, I have to admit I'm the real reason behind this year’s biggest sports story. There would be no cheating if there were no money, and there would be no money if there were no fans.
The day ESPN stops making scandals important is the day scandals stop being important.
You don’t hear much about HGH use in Canadian curling, do you?
Matt Moscardi writes for the blog Mental Handicap, which takes hedge fund-like approach to NFL gambling.