The three major American team sports have been sucker-punched this summer, the NFL by Michael Vick and dogfighting allegations, the NBA by gambling and point-shaving allegations involving referee Tim Donaghy, and Major League Baseball by the chase of Barry Bonds (and all his steroid associations) for Hank Aaron's home run record. This being a fan's column, I'm here to provide ten reasons you can keep watching each sport. And without taking a bath.
1) Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn are Hall of Famers. My favorite line from their induction speeches came from Ripken: "It's not some of our actions that influence, but all of them." Hear that Barry? Michael?
2) The reigning World Series MVP -- David Eckstein -- could fit inside Bonds.
3) Jose Reyes, Cole Hamels, Prince Fielder, Hunter Pence, and Russell Martin, to name just five stars under the age of 25. Unless these kids are absolutely tone deaf, they'll develop as juice-free big-league stars.
4) The Yankees haven't won the World Series in seven years . . . and they won't this year.
5) If Alex Rodriguez can average but 30 home runs over the next decade, Bonds's home-run record may be broken before he's enshrined at Cooperstown.
6) Commissioner Bud Selig is a year older, and a year closer to his contract expiring.
7) Arguably the best team in the game -- the Angels -- has been built as much through its farm system as through free agency.
8) With the Tigers, Indians, Mets, Cubs, and Dodgers firmly in contention, we could see the eighth different world champion in eight years. Never happened before.
9) Bonds remains more than 900 total bases behind Hank Aaron. Add 220 homers to Barry's total, and he'd still be behind Aaron in this category.
10) 50 years ago, the Dodgers played their last game in Brooklyn. Now THAT was heartbreak.
1) Kevin Garnett is a Boston Celtic. Not since Shaq went to the Lakers in 1996 have a franchise and superstar needed each other so much.
2) Eyes are open. A boost in awareness -- from the league office, the players, officials, and yes, the fans -- about how critical the integrity of referees is to the sport is a GOOD thing.
3) No official has ever affected LeBron James in flight.
4) Or a Steve Nash no-look pass.
5) The Memphis Grizzlies have a new coach -- Marc Iavaroni -- who will build his reputation on what he does in Memphis, not what he's done elsewhere, and before.
6) Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony wear pastel blue.
7) Good guys do finish first. Ask Michael Finley.
8) You can scrap that thought of an NBA team in Las Vegas.
9) The Grizzlies now have two big Europeans to tag-team Dirk Nowitzki.
10) The next time the home team is given a technical foul, you're armed with a ready-made catcall: "You can't spell 'Tim' without a T!"
1) Peyton Manning wears a Super Bowl ring. This guy's so clean, Saturday Night Live lampoons him by airing a faux United Way commercial in which he acts like an ass.
2) The model franchise remains a team called the Patriots.
3) If Brett Favre loves football enough to keep playing (he'll be 38 in October), there's plenty to love about watching him.
4) Listening to John Madden describe football is like listening to Manet describe colors.
5) DeAngelo Williams will carry the ball more than 121 times this year.
6) Two words to inspire Tennessee fans: Vince Young.
7) Two words to keep defensive coordinators up till dawn: Vince Young.
8) There will be a hole in the (retractable) roof of the new $1 billion Dallas stadium, allowing plenty of room for Jerry Jones's ego.
9) NFL football has been, and will forever be, the single greatest thing about Mondays.
10) Second and short, with LaDainian Tomlinson in the backfield.
The next question will be ...