Considering little of sporting importance is supposed to happen in July, it is a great month for a vacation, which is why I took one.
Only this turned out to be a July like no other. Indictments, drugs and humiliated commissioners – and we aren't even talking about Barry Bonds. Hell, Barry looks like an angel compared to Michael Vick and Tim Donaghy, and that's just the start of the list.
And so, here's a few quick hits of the month that passed. With so much foolishness, maybe all of sports should consider some time off.
• The irony of the NBA's crooked ref scandal is that the league's critics have been bashing it for years in part because its players are too bold, too brash and, let's face it, too black for some people's comfort.
And then it's the clean-cut white guy who ruins the whole thing.
• There's no excuse for dog fighting, but why doesn't everyone get even remotely as outraged about all the pro athletes who simply beat on women? That's practically an every week crime.
• I all but gave up on cycling a while ago – great sport, bad cheats – but how does anyone remain a fan when UCI president Pat McQuaid said the following about suspected doper and defrocked Tour de Farce leader Michael Rasmussen: "It would be better if somebody else were to win. The last thing this sport needs is more speculation about doping."
Rasmussen was removed from the race Wednesday.
• And why was anyone surprised by Gary Player's claim that some PGA pros are on the juice, too? People cheat in every walk of life – religion, charity, government, marriage. Why would golfers tempted by millions of dollars be the only honest group out there?
• I am less interested in seeing how David Stern, Roger Goodell and Bud Selig deal with their assorted controversies as I am in how Dana White of the UFC deals with his.
The July 7 UFC 73 special was probably the best card in its history but was marred by the fact that both fighters in the lightweight championship bout – Sean Sherk and Hermes Franca – failed drug tests. Yes, both. If Franca had just gotten beaten up clean, he could claim the title. Instead he cheated and got manhandled anyway.
White needs to lower the hammer on these two and anyone else who violates steroid rules. The sport still is in too tenuous a position to do a Selig soft-step.
Sherk's offense is particularly egregious because almost his whole game is based on superior strength on the mat and hyper-endurance that wears opponents into a pulp.
Sherk even had the audacity to film a half-hour Spike TV special leading up to the fight, in which he worked out like a maniac, ate horrible-tasting food and popped about 500 pills right on camera. Sherk was a personal favorite because he reminded me of me, if only I were in incredible physical condition and actually were tough. That said, he needs to be hit hard here. The UFC has to be as vigilant as possible.
I have faith in White. He's too shrewd not to realize his sport's credibility is at stake. And he's way too tough to care about any backlash. He also has been open to significant oversight of the sport. Rather than lash out at Sen. John McCain's famed assessment that MMA was "human cockfighting," he embraced it and worked to create the regulation that made it legit.
But this will be a big test for a guy who has pushed his league to immense popularity and as a result has a lot more people watching his actions.
• Then there is the poor NHL, which can't even get a good scandal going.
• Before I left I recommended some summer reading books and generated a lot of emails. Just to note, all but Dan Jenkins 1970 epic "Saturday's America" were new releases. The list wasn't meant to be a comment on the greatest sports books of all time.
As for this vacation, I read a lot of non-sports books but did squeeze in two enjoyable ones on college football. First is Clay Travis' "Dixieland Delight Tour," which promises to be so popular down South it might replace the Bible in select SEC motel rooms.
In riotous fashion, Travis visited all 12 SEC football stadiums last fall and lived to write about the debauchery, drinking and diabolical life of a die-hard college football fan. Pretty much anyone will love this thing, but if you have even a remote interest in the SEC, this essentially is your new handbook on life.
Meanwhile, SI.com writer Stewart Mandel took a more journalistic look at the wildness that is the current state of college football in "Bowls, Polls and Tattered Souls." The book is only slightly more serious because both the beauty and the beast of college football is that it's an entertainingly disorganized pursuit, something Mandel has covered for years.
Both books are enough to make you thankful college football begins soon. We really need the return of a pure and honest sporting diversion that never suffers from cheating, referee controversies, reckless profiteering, political corruption, poor leadership, grade fixing, hundred-dollar handshakes, stripper recruiting parties or, of course, gastric bypass malpractice suits.
- Barry Bonds
- Michael Vick
- Sean Sherk