Author Archives: altonbeermann

There’s Cheating In Baseball

By Alton Beermann

As the 2013 baseball season ramps up I can’t help but think about the role of steroids in the game, especially with new allegations against A-Rod making the news. Baseball has a long and celebrated history. However, the history of the game is also littered with stories of cheating to gain an edge. There has been cheating in baseball since the game began. From the 1919 Black Sox scandal, to Pete Rose and his gambling, and recently, steroids or HGH, cheating has long been part of the game. What other sport allows participants to “steal” to get ahead? This is just part of Major League Baseball and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Frankly, cheating may have improved the quality of the game in some circumstances, and the “steroid era” (that most likely isn’t over) brought more excitement than shame to the game. Look at the facts:more home runs were hit over a 20-year span than ever before while, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGuire were all part of a media frenzy to become the next home run king.

Barry Bonds epitomized the steroid era. Whether or not you were a casual fan, a fan of Barry Bonds or even a fan of baseball, you sat down and watched Barry when he was up at bat in 2001, destroying the home run record Mark McGuire had set just three years earlier.

So I’m going to come out and say it: cheating in baseball is a part of the game and players who used steroids should not be kept out of the Hall of Fame because of it.

With the recent findings coming out of a Florida lab that players such as Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon were implicated as users even after baseball imposed sanctions and mandatory testing and AFTER the Bonds, Clemens and Sosa testimony before Congress in the early 2000’s, it raises questions on just how widespread steroid usage was and is in baseball. What is it about baseball that makes people want to cheat so badly? I love baseball and I don’t think HGH has tarnished the game. I, like most fans, love to see the long ball. The so-called steroids era shouldn’t have asterisk next to broken records in the Hall Of Fame. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens both belong in Cooperstown.

I think the excuse that “everyone was doing it,” is somewhat valid. Everyone makes their own choices but it doesn’t make steroids less easy to do when they are accessible, under a doctor’s supervision, and are making a physical difference in muscle size and stature. There has been no proof that steroids make someone “better” at baseball but clearly they do have benefits. These players made bad mistakes in choosing to use drugs but the records that were broken still were broken and we can’t simply ignore what happened. Steroids don’t build muscle by themselves. Athletes (even couchletes) have to still be committed to working hard in the gym to build strength. Steroids simply allow faster recovery and harder workouts in the gym. I think as time goes on this point of view will gradually be accepted. I see it as players trying to do everything possible to win, and that’s much better morally than taking money or gambling to lose a game.

So even though I’m not condoning drug usage or cheating, I do think we need to recognize it and accept it as part of the game of professional baseball. These players did what they did and I don’t think you can look at them and try to speculate what numbers would have been like without steroids. These guys like Barry Bonds have great numbers and because of that, deserve to be Hall of Famer’s. Maybe I’m a biased Giants fan, and drugs have changed the game, but with baseball’s long history and reputation, it will bounce back, even without that extra boost.

By Alton Beermann
Follow Alton on Twitter at @altonbeermann
You can contact Alton at alton@thecouchletes.com

The Future of the National Football League

By Alton Beermann

It was clear from watching the NFL this season that certain trends and league norms were popping up and changing the way the league operates and functions. From the new type of quarterback who can run and throw, the explosion of talent in the NFC West, to the extreme number of passing attempts per game, and ridiculous fines for violent hits, the NFL is evolving yet again.

Trend 1: There’s a new breed of NFL QB
They’re young, they’re fast, and they have the innate ability to be great on-field decision-makers. Between RG3, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton, these guys all have HUGE arms. Not only that, but they have an incredible ability to extend the play and find the open man by deftly dodging defenders while they stretch for the first down or end zone. In NFL history there have never been so many young prolific quarterbacks who are quickly becoming the league staple for greatness, scratching and clawing to reach the levels of a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Clearly, they’re not at the elite level yet, but they are definitely changing the scope of the game.

Photo Credit: (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Photo Credit: (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The way that current trends are going, your typical pocket passers may be a thing of the past. Many people say that this new QB prototype is a fad that can and will be figured out. Well, I think not. The originator of this type of quarterback is Hall of Famer Steve Young. He was clearly in the pocket much more than all of these young guns but he made defenders miss and what would look like a sack would turn into a 30-yard gain.

What these players have in common and what separates them from someone like a Mike Vick is their pass first, run second mentality and their solid decision-making even while being so new to the league. Cam is the only one who hasn’t laced up in the playoffs and, while he does throw a lot of interceptions, he has made himself known as an exciting player around the league. Those of you who’ve had him on your fantasy football team know this to be true.

One could bring up the point that Joe Flacco did just take over the playoffs on his way to becoming Super Bowl MVP; however, the NFL is changing and I’m not too certain players like him are going to be looked at the same way in future drafts. Although these new quarterbacks are taking the league by storm there have been some other QBs of late who almost fit this speed and gunslinger mold. The Steeler’s Ben Roethlisberger may not have the blazing speed but he does extend plays and escapes pressure unlike a lot of players out there. Andrew luck is right there with him and I legitimately think he is Big Ben reincarnated. Luck and Roethlisberger are the new pocket passers, while RG3, Cam, Wilson and Kap are an entirely new breed of passer.

This quarterback type is widely hated on and is disputed as being a “fad” or just engaging in a “trendy” style of play because of the pistol formation and read options they run. When you have a guy who can run by you and throw over you, why not employ the read option? The NFL is an ever-evolving creature and this is part of the process. So five years from now when everyone is trying to get quarterbacks like this new breed and your standard Dan Marino pocket passer is fading out you can refer to this article and thank me for letting you know ahead of time. I’m not saying pocket passers will ever go away completely, but you will see more and more Kaepernicking, RG3ing and Superman in the future.

Trend 2: The NFC West will be the best
Watch out NFL, there’s a new division in town. Maybe consistently losing teams and high first round picks do pay off? With the exception of the Cardinals’ run four years ago with old man Warner, the NFC West had been a joke for the better part of a decade. Now the Niners, “Seagulls,” and Ram’s could all make the playoffs next year. With defense and good coaching being a strong suit in this division, look for the NFC West to dominate in coming years.

Trend 3: Pass first. Run never
Largely to do with rule changes and horrendous secondary play (See Rahim Moore and Chris Culliver this playoffs), the NFL is developing into a pass only league. The teams that were more balanced did have more success deeper into the season, but when quarterbacks like Stafford and Brees are having 50-plus attempt games on a regular basis, and are successful, it’s hard to argue with passing the ball a lot. Running for those teams consists of dumping the ball off to a back coming out of the backfield or employing a screen play. Fullbacks are for the most part, a completely extinct beast and it was almost an anomaly to see two great fullbacks who essentially only block out of the backfield play in this year’s Super Bowl. Look for Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster to get their carries but I don’t see many teams changing as long as quarterbacks and receivers have the advantages over pass defenders.

Trend 4: Eventually we’re going to be watching flag football
With big hits being limited, it’s compromising the epically violent sport. In boxing, competitors hit each other in the head, face and body repeatedly and yet people turn a blind eye to it. Extreme sport athletes break limbs and risk their lives for their sport. These NFL athletes have trained their bodies to give and accept big hits. I think the NFL is becoming over-zealous with fines and suspensions on some players. I am all about player safety and protection against concussions, but there comes a point in time when these players know the risks and dangers they face. I don’t mean to sound insensitive but these guys are making millions of dollars. Let them play. How would Ronnie Lott and Lawrence Taylor feel about getting fined for making big plays and dominating their opponents so much that they were feared? I can’t shake the feeling that preaching better technology and tackling is what the NFL needs, not fines and suspensions.

Photo Credit: (Jared Wickerham / Getty Images)

Photo Credit: (Jared Wickerham / Getty Images)

Trend 5: America’s Sport
Football has clearly taken the place of baseball in the U.S., and that’s nothing new, but with your average fan thinking they are a football guru and ESPN’s year-round coverage of Tim Tebow, everyone from that homeless guy on the corner to your grandma can now call themselves a fan at one level or another. My point is everyone can find something to relate to in football and it is one of the bright parts in American society. The sport of football is transcendent and preaches hard work, dedication and a kind of showmanship and confidence, which essentially are the values of this country. Football is on an extreme national stage and has such great storylines that it benefits both those who play the game and the fans who love it. Our economy might plummet off the face of the earth but the sport of football won’t.

By Alton Beermann
Follow Alton on Twitter at @altonbeermann
You can contact Alton at alton@thecouchletes.com