Saturday, November 26, 2005

There was invective and anger around the National Hockey League on Friday, but it wasn't being directed at ownership, NHLPA head Ted Saskin or NHL poobah Gary Bettman. No, a man with no ties to the NHL with squarely in the crosshairs.

Dick Pound, the chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said in a recent interview with the London Free Press that he told Bettman as many as one-third of the NHL's players were using performance-enhancing drugs. That would work out to around 230 of the league's 700 players.

Now, as easy as it might seem to dismiss the intelligence of someone whose parents actually named him Dick Pound, there are issues here worth discussing. Pound is no rookie when it comes to dealing with banned substances, and while he's known as a grandstander at times, he can't be immediately discredited by the words of such NHL beacons of discourse as Todd Bertuzzi and Tie Domi.

"Who's Dick Pound?" Bertuzzi said Friday in a newspaper report. "Tell him to come in our dressing room with our shirts off and we'll see how performance-enhanced we are. Tell him he can come hang out with me and see my workout. Trust me, we're not."

And therein lies the problem. In our post-BALCO world, we read "performance-enhancing" and we immediately think, "Oh, he means 'steroids'." And maybe he does, to some extent.

But in the world of Dick Pound and WADA, "performance-enhancing" also means popping a couple Sudafed before the game to get up. This practice isn't a big secret among players or management -- former NHLer and current TSN commentator Nick Kypreos apparently talked about it on-air on Toronto's FAN 590 last year.

And the same station's Mike Hogan interviewed Justin Williams of the Carolina Hurricanes Friday morning. Williams said he didn't know of anyone taking steroids, but when Hogan asked about taking amphetamines and slugging back pots of coffee, Williams would only say he didn't use that method, and that players got up for games in different ways.

In fact, Sports Illustrated did a huge story on the use of Sudafed in the NHL way back in 1998. It described Montreal goaltender Andy Moog's use of the drug, and here's a direct quote from the story:

"There are all kinds of overdose stories—guys not being able to finish the first period because they get the shakes, paranoia, anxiety," says Detroit Red Wings athletic trainer John Wharton, who's been with the club since February 1991. "There are some guys who have been able to tolerate [large doses of pseudoephedrine]. The most I've seen a player take is eight pills. That dose would put some people in the hospital."

See, Pound and the WADA will be overseeing the drug testing at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin. And while the NHL apparently doesn't consider players scarfing Sudies a problem, WADA will. Amphetamines are on the agency's banned substance list.

It's also not a stretch to think Pound would like either to see WADA's list imposed on the NHL during its upcoming hearings with the U.S. Congress, or for WADA to be put in charge of drug oversight of all five major sports (sorry, but I count NASCAR).

So it all depends on what you consider cheating. Dick Pound and WADA consider spending the pre-game hour packing in the cold medicine and Folger's to be doping. The NHL doesn't.

But if players consider the practice to be a way to ramp themselves up for a contest that sitting around and focusing on the game won't, a way to gain an artificial edge -- well, what's not cheating about that?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Here's a nifty little end-of-the-Earth simulator to kill some time. How close can you get the numbers before you blowed up the planet real good?
And check out the speed of the shock/wind wave ... when the comets come, don't forget your kite!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

No funny stuff this week ... just putting them up for the record.

Detroit at MINNESOTA (-1.5) -- Detroit 23, Minnesota 16
San Diego at NEW YORK JETS (+6) -- San Diego 31, NY Jets 14
Tennessee at CLEVELAND (-3) -- Cleveland 20, Tennessee 16
Oakland at KANSAS CITY (-4) -- Oakland 31, Kansas City 30
Chicago at NEW ORLEANS (+3) -- Chicago 26, New Orleans 24
Cincy at BALTIMORE (+3) -- Cincinnati 27, Baltimore 10
Carolina at TAMPA BAY (pk) -- Carolina 24, Tampa Bay 20
Jacksonville at HOUSTON (+13) -- Jacksonville 30, Houston 20
Atlanta at MIAMI (+2) -- Miami 23, Atlanta 21
NY Giants at SAN FRANCISCO (+10.5) -- New York Giants 34, San Francisco 17
Seattle at ARIZONA (+4) -- Seattle 27, Arizona 20
Pittsburgh at GREEN BAY (+3) -- Pittsburgh 23, Green Bay 19
Philadelphia at WASHINGTON (-3) -- Philly 19, Washington 17
Indy at NEW ENGLAND (+3.5) -- Indianapolis 28, New England 19

Lock of the Week: Cincy
Trifecta: Cincy, New York Giants, Miami

Week Eight, Straight Up: 9-5
Week Eight, ATS: 6-8
Week Eight, LOTW: 1-0
Week Eight, Trifecta: 0-1
Week Eight, Bank Statement: $0

Season, Straight Up: 67-51
Season, ATS: 56-60-2
Season, LOTW: 4-4
Season, Trifecta: 0-8
Season Bank Statement: -$2,200

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Time again to play ... Spot The Typo!

A customer came in my store the other night and browsed a bit before approaching me. Here's the conversation, as best as I can recall it:

Customer: "Is there another store like yours around here?"
Me: "I'm sorry?"
Customer: "Is there another store like yours around here?"
Me: "Are you asking if there's another store in town that sells autographs or jerseys?"
Customer: (getting snotty) "I'm asking if other stores sell the same things you do."
Me: "Yes, there are other stores that selling autographs and jerseys, although I can't guarantee they'll have the same mix we do."
Customer: "Where are they?"
Me: "Is there something specific you're looking for? I might be able to ..."
Customer: (interrupts and now rude) "I just want to know where the other stores are!"
Me: "They're at other malls! There's one THAT way (pointing south) and one THAT way (pointing NORTH)! Tell them we sent you!"

I felt like John Cleese in the Monty Python "Bookshop" sketch -- "Why don't you try W.H. Smith's?"

I'm going to start advocating the modification of an old bit Gallagher used to push. It involved receiving a small kit when you renewed your license plates. The kit contained a dart gun and three suction darts with "moron" flags attached. That way, when you saw someone driving like a fool, you'd shoot the car with the dart and a cop could write you a citation for, well, "being a moron."

My variation also involves three "MORON" stickers issued by the government on your birthday, and when someone sufficiently pisses you off, you affix the "MORON" tag to his or her forehead. As an added bonus, you get to slap the person with no fear of repercussion.

I think this would be a terrific step toward injecting a little more courtesy and civility into our world. You'd have to be judicious about issuing the "MORON" tag, as you'd only get three a year, and you'd certainly think twice about being rude if you thought you might get a pop in the mouth.

And yes, I know I'm being hypocritical. Reintroducing manners through violence and fear might be a bit harsh ... but the little bastard wearing the "God is a cunt" t-shirt deserves it.