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For sports fans, the verdict comes in

I've already written extensively about the doping fallout and other crises of US sports culture here, here, here, and here:

Rethinking Lance Armstrong
Harsh reality sets in for a sports fan
A baseball rant
Who are your heroes?

Well, yesterday the verdict came in and the jury has spoken. Baseball's steroid era is a black mark on history. Despite a long laundry list of superb players on the ballot, the baseball writers voted to select for the Hall of Fame...nobody. Good luck getting in, Sammy, Barry, Roger et al.

And nothing gets a triathlon forum going like mentioning Lance Armstrong's name. He's talking with Oprah, you know. And, apparently, may be willing to confess if it means he can come back to endurance events. Never mind that an entire cycling drug culture existed while he was there or that he did more for the sport's popularity and future success than anyone in recent memory.

But the same could be said of Barry Bonds, right? That sure was an exciting time when homer after homer meant the records were sure to fall. On the other hand, who here really thinks of Barry as the "champ?" You still think Babe and Hank were better, right? Be honest. I do, too.

As I've written about previously, however, I'm willing to cut him some slack these days. Lance is cool in my book. Sports isn't a fairytale world outside the messy, complicated everyday world of life. I'm glad Alabama kicked Notre Dame (who shouldn't have been there) around the field for the BCS Championship. Though there was only ONE undefeated team last college football season...and that was Ohio State, who was banned from postseason bowls because of...wait for it....wait for it...some tattoos.

On NPR's Morning Edition today, Steve Inskeep had some insight into the situation--particularly baseball--where he said that these players have 15 years on the ballot. Times change. Views evolve. The Hall of Fame may need to become something else. A museum (more than now) that tells the history of the game or goes strictly on performance, not morals. The public in a decade may feel very differently about the Steroid Crew. Look at marijuana and gay marriage. If you told me 10 years ago that states would be voting to legalize both, I'd have said you were crazy.

I'm particularly interested in the way journalists have been handling Lance Armstrong, too. It's amusing to see which outlets use the phrase "cycling hero" to introduce him and which use the term "disgraced cyclist." Chances are he's both. Like Joe Paterno. Like Pete Rose.

People are only human. The older I get the more I'm willing to forgive...or at least not forget accomplishments and let mistakes blot out the successes.

Heck, if I judged my kids the way we judge athletes and coaches, I'd have sold them a long time ago.