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Mud in your eye

The images of the Big Four leagues have taken a dive

Posted: Tuesday July 24, 2007 1:16PM; Updated: Tuesday July 31, 2007 1:01PM
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If image is everything, the NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball are taking a nice long mud bath right about now. Actually, to be fair, the comparatively clean NHL is mostly trying to locate its high profile of 20 years ago. No age has ever been a paragon of virtue, but compared to these days of endless police activity, brazen cheating and unsavory scandal, each of the four leagues has enjoyed a time when its games actually garnered the bulk of the headlines and its claims to now-quaint notions like role models or honest achievement did not inspire gales of helpless laughter. But just as art imitates life and vice versa, the changes of their respective images can be vividly represented by the films and TV shows that come to mind when you think of the traditional Big Four leagues.

What comes to mind...
League Golden Age Now
WHY: When Michael Jordan was at the height of his powers, the NBA was a colorful, wildly entertaining place populated by often cartoonish characters like Dennis Rodman. Now that the tidal wave of the Jersey mob-flavored referee gambling scandal has hit, fuhgeddaboudit.
WHY: The legendary home run kings of yesteryear have been steadily and often spectacularly supplanted by monuments to the power of chemistry. The impending coronation of Barry Bonds amid ongoing steroid investigations could be entitled Squirrely Times at Selig High.
WHY: Paul Tagliabue was wise to bail as commish. The noble mud-caked warriors of the frozen tundra have been sacked by the ignoble blood-caked warriors of the strip club parking lot.
WHY: There was star power and something for everyone when highly-visible stars Wayne "The Great One" Gretzky and Super Mario Lemieux plied their dazzling trade amid foil-fisted enforcers called Cementhead and The Grim Reaper. Alas, the post-lockout NHL hath vanished into the obscure cable channel Versus and the nether reaches of the sports pages.