(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Soccer Scandal's Ramifications

In the U.S., the biggest sports scandal has focused on baseball and on the extent to which players took performance enhancing drugs. This scandal makes headlines every time it erupts -- from Barry Bonds' grand jury testimony to the testimony of several home run hitters before Congress to the claims of Jose Canseco and the sworn testimony of Jason Grimsely. It doesn't take a Mensa member to figure out that this volcano will erupt again in the near future, showering the fans with all sorts of lava.

Overseas, a huge scandal has rocked Italian soccer. There is a big investigation going on about match fixing, betting and referee deployment that could have some of the biggest names -- AC Milan and Juventus -- relegated all the way down to the equivalent of high-A baseball. That's a precipitous crash, especially in a country not always known for its staunch opposition to corruption. The latest news is that the coach of Juventus (which is located in Turin or Torino, depending on where you're from) has exercised an escape clause to jump out of the cauldron that is Juventus and into the boiling pot known as Real Madrid. The latter, of course, is in the top division in Spain and not undergoing any controversy. It still is a pressure cooker, because Real Madrid fans like to think their team is the best in the world and have high expectations for their team. Needless to say, if you're a Type A coach for a Serie A league, you want to go where the best action is -- and it isn't in a third division. Click here to read about this latest move.

It will be interesting to see how far this scandal spreads and what punishments arise from it. My reading in between the lines is that this could be Italy's version of the Black Sox of 1919, with the difference being that several premier teams are implicated. To draw the stark contrast for you, imagine the Red Sox and Yankees being sent to the Eastern League for their transgressions, and imagine that they'll only be able to return if they finish in the top 3 in successive years in the Eastern League and International League before being elevated back to the Majors. Which means, of course, that these clubs could be gone from Serie A, the top Italian League, for at least two seasons.


How the U.S. would handle a scandal of this proportion is unclear, although given the public hue and cry that would likely result you could see individuals banned for life and teams fined heavily (assuming their involvement) as opposed to teams sent to the baseball equivalent of Siberia. Nonetheless, this is a scandal that bears watching, both for what happens to elite teams and elite players as to how a major democracy handles something of this proportion.


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