Jon LesterI am a sports fan. Not simply a fan of my hometown Boston teams, which I am, but of the sports that these teams play. I love the games of baseball and football, and I’ve watched my fair share of the Celtics and Bruins in basketball and hockey while I was growing up. Sport inspires me, and occasionally you hear great stories of athletes who overcome incredible odds to do something they love. One of the most powerful moments for me last baseball season, for example, was the return of Jon Lester to the mound after beating cancer (at least for the time being). I remember Mario Lemieux’s triumphant return to the ice after his own battle with cancer. Josh Hamilton’s story is one of an all-world talent, drafted out of high school, who was led to the depths of potential suicide, only to make his major league debut on the baseball diamond for the Cincinnati Reds last season after battling demons of drugs and depression. This past football season, I watched on TV as Kevin Everett nearly lost his life on the football field and who was supposedly not ever going to be able to walk again, let alone play football. And it was only a few months later, in the same season, that Everett was able to walk onto the field at Giants Stadium, inspiring the Bills, the Gians, and football fans nationwide.

I am not alone here, of course. Millions of sports fans worldwide likely feel the same way. But here in America, our passion for sport has created a monster of idolatrous proportions. Here, right in our midst, is our very own golden statue, one that Nebuchadnezzar himself would have been proud of. And the ramifications of that statue’s presence is on full display today on Capitol Hill. One of my childhood idols, Roger Clemens, will almost certainly face perjury charges for lying under oath in a Congressional hearing over his reported use of performance enhancing drugs. Not far from this, Sen. Arlen Specter is grilling the commissioner of the National Football League over its handling of the now-notorious “Spygate” incident that involves my hometown New England Patriots. All this while the same government is passing new surveillance laws, is unable to do anything about healthcare, and is unable or unwilling to stand up against the Iraq war. But against cheating in professional sports? Call in the bastards! This is America! There’s no cheating or blackmarking our great pasttimes! They’re not going to get away with this!

The golden statue of American Sport is casting a very, very long shadow. For years, I have looked forward to spring training. It is a sign of hope, of forgiveness of the past, of looking to the future. But I’m finding it awfully hard to embrace the upcoming season. I wish that Roger Clemens would have just come clean, as so many other athletes are doing when caught using PEDs. His career would still be over. His reputation would still have taken a massive hit. Now, however, Clemens is adding his own shadow to that of the Golden Statue. Between the two of them, its getting hard to see the light from a game that many of us have loved our whole lives. A GAME.

Jayson Stark of ESPN notes that he thinks this is bigger than Watergate, of Oliver North, even of McCarthy hearings. Over GAMES.

The darkest shadow of all is that he may very well be right.

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