A declaration of the state of sports

Hip-Hop is history, but the 76ers are planning on a new mascot. The question: Why?
Hip-Hop is history, but the 76ers are planning on a new mascot. The question: Why? (PETER TOBIA / File photograph)
Posted: November 25, 2011

We hold these truths to be self-evident: 

That the only reason athletes would oppose drug testing is if they were using drugs.

 Major League Baseball announced the completion of a new collective bargaining agreement with its players union this week, and among the changes in the deal is the implementation of testing for human growth hormone as part of the program to prevent the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Athletes searching for a get-big, get-strong drug after steroid testing became effective have gravitated to HGH for a couple of very good reasons. It works great, and, because detecting its use requires a blood test, not just a urine test, the professional leagues have not been testing for it.

That had to change, and it is changing, but NFL players continue to fight for their right to pump up illegally.

In contrast with baseball players, the NFL Players Association, which agreed to HGH testing as part of the July collective bargaining agreement, now is dragging its feet on the grounds that a blood test is invasive (as if they didn't know that before signing the agreement) and that HGH testing is not reliable (which is utterly laughable). Commissioner Roger Goodell says the players are stalling, and there is movement in Congress to file a federal labor grievance against the NFLPA.

The football players have to come up with a legitimate reason for blocking implementation of the test, or just go ahead and tell us the one we already know.

That the NBA owners already have won, but the players think there is still time on the clock.

 Whether because of poor advice from their representation or an inflated sense of their place in the cosmos, the NBA players mistakenly were convinced that the world would not continue to turn without their games. Judging by the national apathy concerning the absence of the NBA, this appears to be a bad miscalculation.

The players also misunderstood the willingness of the owners to improve the economic model of the industry (at least the way they see it) by blowing it up for a full year or more. When the players finally agreed to a 50-50 split in revenue, representing a giveback of more than $300 million - which would cover the annual combined loss claimed by the league - the owners didn't rush to shake their hands. The owners didn't want a compromise. They wanted a win with a capital W.

And they are going to get it. The only question is when.

At some point, the players have to give up and take their whipping. They have no leverage and there is no public sentiment forcing the owners to be fair. The threat of antitrust legislation is nothing more than that. The NBA has the financial wherewithal to fight a delaying action on that one for decades.

The basketball players have to learn what the NHL players did the hard way. These guys aren't kidding around. There is still time to absorb the lesson and get a few paychecks this season. It is much better than the nothing they are looking at now.

That Hip-Hop was a lot more consistent than most of the 76ers' teams during his tenure.

 There is little love for the bouncing bunny as he exits the Philadelphia sports scene, but as mascots go, he was far from the worst. And you have to admit that, with his do-rag and shades and rapper image, the mascot's double-entendre name was inspired.

It isn't that troubling to see his cotton tail on the way out the door, however, but why is the new ownership group - which has wrapped its core message around a supposed devotion to old-school basketball and Philly's gritty hard-court traditions - looking to replace him with another mascot?

Enough with the funny suits and the smoke and the lights and the overbearing music. Win basketball games and people will show up.

That no organization can be trusted to fully investigate itself.

 Penn State University has hired former FBI director Louis Freeh to lead its investigation into the scandal that has grown from the on-campus child-rape allegations against former football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

Freeh is a competent investigator and a good selection for the job. He also said his report would be made public, although that hasn't yet been confirmed by the board of trustees.

Nevertheless, he also is being paid by the university, and if he uncovers what many believe is there - a culture of protecting the football program at all costs, even if it meant overlooking an alleged child rapist with a campus office - the university will be liable for a potential fortune in civil lawsuit judgments.

With that severe a conflict of interest, trusting the outcome of any university-financed investigation is foolish. Penn State has a long history of controlling the message, and this situation is too important to allow that to continue.


Contact columnist Bob Ford at bford@phillynews.com or @bobfordsports on Twitter. Read his blog, "Post Patterns," at www.philly.com/postpatterns. Read his past columns at www.philly.com/bobford

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