The message sent by the Associated Press voting panel yesterday was loud and clear: They simply do not care that athletes cheat and are then rewarded for it.
Now, the cynics out there will say that all football players are juiced, and that no one cares (or should care) about some supposedly "meaningless award" was given to a player that pretty much everyone in the league knows is a juicer.
No, seriously. EVERYONE KNOWS the dude juices. From an anonymous NFL GM, quoted on PFT:
"We did our research on him before the draft last year and we concluded he was a chronic steroid user dating back to high school," the unnamed G.M. said. "More than a few people were surprised when he passed the steroid tests at the combine. I think the guy became a pro at masking it, until he was caught. I definitely would have taken my vote back on that [defensive rookie of the year] award if I had one."
Again, cynics will just shrug it off and say, "Whatever," like this guy over at Deadspin did. It's my personal belief that is this is how you view sports, why the hell do you bother watching them or writing about them? If you have no desire to see a game played and managed in the absolute best way possible, then what's the point? Why care about it, or spend money on it? Go watch re-runs of Alf, or that semi-porn Spartacus show on the STARZ network.
Personally, I think most sports fans feel that sports is a step above that kind of mindless entertainment, and if the viewers of a sport simply stop caring about how that sport is overseen in terms of fairness, then the sports descends into the realm of thoughtless, bubble gum entertainment no different from watching Paris Hilton partying with a bunch of frat guys.
And that is exactly what 18 members of the AP's voting panel for Defensive Rookie of the Year did yesterday. They basically told everyone who watches sports that they do not give a sh*t, and if you don't like their apathy you can go f*ck yourself.
"The message is that a lot of sportswriters believe that what Cushing did is nothing more than what a lot of other players do, and that message greatly disappoints me. This kid had the look coming out of college. Everybody knew it but we all turned our back on it. The use of performance-enhancing drugs sickens me. It is, in my opinion, the ultimate in cheating. This is far worse than what Bill Belichick did with a video camera. As everyone knows, I'm a firm believer in the philosophy of innocent until proven guilty. In Cushing's case, he's been proven guilty, yet, he's being suspended for two games fewer than a guy who wasn't even charged with a crime.
"Worse, yet, my media brothers are allowing Cushing to keep his award. Shame on them. They sold out."
"Sold out" is a bit misleading here. When you look at the list of 18 people who voted for Cushing, or changed their vote to Cushing as a protest to the re-vote process, it's a list of schmucks who "sold out" a looooooooooooooooooong time ago.
Don Banks, Sports Illustrated.com
Bob Berger, Sporting News Radio
Chris Berman, ESPN
Steve Cohen, Sirius Satellite Radio
Frank Cooney, SportsXChange
Mark Craig, Minneapolis Star Tribune
Tom Curran, Comcast Sportsnet
Vinny Ditrani, The Record
Rick Gosselin, Dallas Morning News
Paul Gutierrez, Sacramento Bee
Clark Judge, CBSSports.com
John McClain, Houston Chronicle
Gary Myers, New York Daily News
Danny O'Neil, Seattle Times
Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com
Adam Teicher, Kansas City Star
Charean Williams Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (changed to Cushing)
Really, Chris Berman? Chris friggin Berman has a vote?
As you can see, many of these names are associated with people we have often tagged on this site as out-of-touch, cynical douchebags who care little about accurately covering a sport we love and more about their own high profiles in that sport. Some names of people who changed their vote after they found out Cushing was juiced were Peter King, Adam Schein, and John Clayton. I don't think it's a coincidence that those are people we like (or who we have warmed to of late) and have displayed the backbone and integrity most real sports fans demand from the people who cover their sports.
One schmuck in particular, Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette, actually changed his vote to protest the process. I mean seriously, WTF is that kind of childish crap? If you didn't like the re-vote process, DON'T VOTE! Or, better yet, if you feel that it was "absurd" to do a re-vote, when the notion seemed to be very well received by the fans, resign your position as a member of the voting panel. That's how someone really "protests" something.
By the way, are we all shocked that the friggin beat writer for the Texans voted for Cushing? Anyone who says the traditional media is not as homer as the average Joe Blow fan is someone divorced from reality.
What this re-vote offered was a chance to "get it right." Cushing is a juicer. Everyone in the league knows it, and no one who cheats should win an award that recognizes them for excellence on the field. If you personally do not believe that, then my response is you are not a "real" sports fan. I realize the players like Shawne Merriman likely juiced their way to a DRotY award in 2004, and the 1970s Steelers juiced their way to four world championships.
Good for them, but that's past.
Now, in the present day, the panel of voters for a pretty important AP award had a real chance to send a hard, in-your-face message to cheaters: If you cheat the sport, we can retroactively take away important awards you've won. I mean, seriously, that's a pretty big incentive to follow the rules and "play fair," don't you think?
Mike Florio sums it up best for me:
Really, if the voters disagree sufficiently strongly with the decision to conduct a second vote that they're willing to go Veruca Salt and vote for Cushing again despite clear evidence he was using a banned substance that is the lemon juice to the hypodermic tequila shot, why in the hell didn't they simply quit instead?
John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, whom we respect and like, has taken this thing to a new level, openly calling it "absurd" to have a second vote.
Again, then why participate at all?
And if the folks who decided to make a mockery of the process didn't have the nerve to walk away from the 50-person club, the AP should force their hand, and force them out.
Sadly, 18 people lost their spines and acted like cowards. The word is out that there is backlash against what they did, which was, in my opinion, almost as disgraceful as Cushing injecting himself with steroids (or the like) in the first place. Both acts cheat the fans, the game, and the game's legacy.
Both Cushing, and the 18 writers who clearly stated it was a-okay for him to cheat, should be ashamed of themselves.