by Kent Morrison
February 3, 2009 will go down in infamy here in Regina as one of the darkest days in Saskatchewan sports. The day started as any other, but everything stopped in the heart of Riderville when word broke that Roughriders G.M. Eric Tillman had been charged with sexual assault.
Unfortunately for Mr. Tillman, whether he is found innocent or not, he will be forever labelled as another one of sports’ drug-taking, roughhousing and womanizing evil villains. A rather fitting fate since he was once hailed as the team’s saviour, cleaning up the team’s reputation and bringing home the Grey Cup.
As I sat and thought about the grisly (maybe deserving) end that Tillman will undoubtedly face, I could not help but think about the other criminal sports figures that have gone before him.
There was Muhammed Ali the draft dodger, Pete Rose the gambler, Darryl Strawberry the cocaine addict and sex solicitor and of course Mike Tyson the… well, the boxer.
In fact, the more I thought about it the deeper the names continued to flow. Half the NBA has been rung up on drug possession in the last decade, the NFL bails someone out of jail every Monday, Major League Baseball has been on steroids for 15 years and most of the things NHL hockey players do are illegal – just during the game.
Hell, even Olympic golden boy Michael Phelps is being busted.
The fact that athletes are breaking the law is no longer the story, they have been doing it for years and they will keep doing it. Obviously league attempts to clean up their respective games have been frivolous; I think it is time for a new approach. Radical times cause for radical measures.
Clearly these superstars have no regard for their own well being, so why should we? They want to live in their own world then let’s give it to them.
Forget giving them a stadium or rink to perform in, how about an entire island? Call it Enhancement Island. Totally secluded and away from the rest of society we will fly all of our most gifted athletes there to perform. Once they are there they can pop as many uppers, downers and greenies as they want. They can shoot up, snort, sniff and inhale to their hearts desire. We will even let them beat each other up, drive really fast and drink like fishes. The only thing we require is that they show up on game day.
Think of the possibilities. Barry Bonds and Mark McGuire will hit dingers into the stratosphere and Roger Clemens will throw fastballs through the backstop. Michael Vick and Pacman Jones will once again run free as long as Plaxico Burress doesn’t hunt them down. Todd Bertuzzi and Chris Simon can duke it out for hours. And basketball, well basketball will pretty much be the same but Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest will just feel safer. We will even give John Daly his own driving range so we can watch him crush mammoth drives.
High definition cameras will capture all of the action and feed it back to the rest of the world, O.J. Simpson and Jayson Williams can provide the commentary. Records will fall and we will see performances like never before.
In time, most of us will ask why we even tried to censor these guys in the first place. We will pay them even more money than now because obviously their habits are expensive and they are just so darned entertaining.
Yes, just imagine a world where we let our elite athletes live their lives in complete luxury, making far too much money and totally above the law. It will not matter what they do with the rest of their lives as long as they provide us with that breath taking shot or that highlight reel catch.
But, I guess if you really think about it, Enhancement Island isn't too far off shore is it?