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Dan Levy
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Dan Levy

The host of On the DL with new episodes every weekday.

American Gladiators v American History

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Men only watch figure skating for one thing -- the crashes.

That saying used to be true for NASCAR as well, but when Dale Earnhardt died in a decidedly-unspectacular collision with the wall at Daytona it stopped being cool -- or in any way appropriate -- for the casual fan to root for crashes in auto racing. So to satiate our primal "smash is good" needs, we are left with women on skates.

Oh, and football.

Every play in football is an ongoing series of collisions and crashes from first whistle to last. Defensive linemen collide with their offensive counterparts. Linebackers and safeties crash into men carrying the ball. More times than not, a tackle in the open field or a sack of the quarterback is deemed bone-crushing or jaw-rattling or perhaps even spleen-liquefying (patent pending) by the crew covering the game. Immediately, slow-motion replays and real-time audio are played on a continuous loop in an effort to show the viewers just how crushing, rattling and/or liquefying the hit truly was.

Football players are modern-day gladiators. Each game is a battle of strength, power and speed. It stands to reason that fans want the team they root for to be the strongest, most powerful and fastest. By any means necessary. Football has always been looked at as a year-to-year, week-to-week, play-to-play sport. Sure, there are statistical benchmarks like 1,000 yards rushing and 3,000 yards passing in a season, but can anyone remember the number of yards Emmitt Smith rushed for in his career who is the NFL's all-time leading scorer?

In baseball, everyone knows 60, 61, 70, 73. Everyone knows 714 and 755 and 762. Everyone knows 56. And while few know 2,632, everyone remembers its significance. Players are bigger, stronger and faster in baseball just like in football. But the numbers have always been the generational equalizer.

Barry Bonds' career is measured against the greats of all time more than the greats of his era. The same can be said for Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez. Now, Rodriguez, like Bonds, is tainted. His numbers are as artificially-inflated as his muscles. Nobody cares if Emmitt Smith was on steroids when he passed Walter Payton (and nobody is saying he was). Heck, Shawne Merriman nearly won the MVP award during a year in which he was suspended for a positive steroids test and missed a quarter of the season. Clearly most players and coaches in the NFL didn't care. Most reporters didn't care. Most fans didn't care either. Because whatever he was taking made him bigger, faster, stronger -- and better at his job.

Our football stars are true American gladiators. We expect victory by any means necessary. But baseball...baseball is American history. And history never forgets a cheater.

By Dan Levy  |  February 9, 2009; 9:00 AM ET  | Category:  Dan Levy , Steroids Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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