Playing fair does not pay

Sideline Scholars

Ahhh, sportsmanship: The root of all evil in the athletic universe! What, you say? Can he really be saying that sportsmanship is bad? That's right, sports nuts, gentlemanly play and handshakes are so yesterday. Now we want fights, we want skirmishes and we want Warren Sapp running through opposing teams' stretching lines. Why? It's because conflict sells, and the more fighting, the more cash.

What could possibly be funnier than the man-beast himself, Lavar Arrington, fighting with the NFL's best defensive lineman, Sapp, for running through the Washington Redskins' stretching line? That's the funniest thing I've ever heard.

Arrington called Sapp out this week, saying, "Sapp, I'm going to get you." His aggressive taunt was in response to Sapp's habit of interrupting opposing teams' pre-game routines. The issue caused the NFL to step in and warn both Arrington and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle.

As a spectator though, I was there on Sunday at 1 p.m. tuned in to Fox hoping to see the Undertaker versus Stone Cold Steve Austin. I mean the Redskins versus the Bucs. Who doesn't love professional wrestling?

Shoot, I've been lying to you all for a few paragraphs. The Arrington-Sapp issue was not nearly the funniest thing I've ever seen. Clearly, that title belongs to the fourth inning of Saturday's American League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. Pedro Martinez, the best pitcher in the game, tossed aside Don Zimmer, a 72-year-old. Yes, a 72-year-old!

The story gets funnier. Pedro acted in self-defense after Zimmer swung at him. I know 72-year-olds who can't walk, much less attack the world's best flame-thrower. Evander Holyfield should take notice.

Holyfield should take notice and retire, which brings us to another unsportsmanlike issue of the week. Detroit Lions defensive end Robert Porcher told Emmitt Smith he should retire. That's like American Idol's Justin Guarini telling singer Elton John he's done or actress Hilary Duff suggesting that diva Aretha Franklin call it quits. It's unheard of.

But this is all right, because sportsmanship is out and pure, unadulterated hatred on the field is in.

I can appreciate Arrington versus Sapp, Pedro versus Old Man Zim, Evander and Porcher versus Emmitt because quite frankly, they make me laugh and add an edge to the game.

What I can't appreciate is when unsportsmanlike conduct leaves the field. And here we have Jeremy Shockey: a walking, breathing example of what is wrong with professional sports.

When he called Bill Parcells a "homo" this past off season, not only did he escalate one of the roughest feuds on the field (Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants), he also brought back the issue of homosexuality in professional sports.

Shockey continues to make prejudiced slurs, which have now focused on race and sexuality. He's a who's who of insults.

It's one thing to trash talk on the field. It's a whole other thing to mess with someone's personal life- as Jan Stephenson also did last week.

She said that the Asians are ruining the LPGA Tour because "they refuse to speak English." I haven't heard something this dim-witted since ... actually, I've never heard anything this stupid.

Comments like Shockey's and Stephenson's prove that as far as professional sports have evolved to accept those who are different, the sports world is still light years away from achieving its goal.

But that's okay, right, because we want to see fights and skirmishes, arguments and battles, tirades and torture. Shockey may have the maturity of a newborn farm animal, but he still elicits reaction- and ticket, jersey and magazine sales.

Strap in, because slings and slurs have replaced the Sacramento Kings vs. San Antonio Spurs, the Hall of Fame thrown out the window in favor of the Brawl of Shame, and sportsmanship has been kicked to the curb in favor of the three S's: Shockey, Stephenson, and sales oh yeah, and did I mention stupidity?

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