In the Cheap Seats

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor

July 26, 2007 - These are the darkest days in memory for American professional sports leagues. In at least two of the cases, it's because the commissioners of the leagues abdicated their responsibilities to the players and fans.

If you want to trace the troubles of the NBA and MLB to their respective sources, start at the top with David Stern and Bud "Lite" Selig. A dead fish stinks from the head down, and these two lunkheads are odoriferous.

I'll leave NFL commissioner David Goodell out of this because he appears to be doing the right things in terms of cleaning up his league.

As president of the Fire Stern Committee and CEO of the Fire Selig Movement, I have to just sit back and say, "I've been telling you so for years and years." Though that gives me a very slight measure of satisfaction, it does nothing to ease the problems those two have created.

Stern has continually turned a blind eye to any criticism of the NBA officials. All you need to know about NBA referees is that Tim Donaghy - the referee who is alleged to have bet on games, fixed scores and called fouls to benefit game-rigging mobsters - was considered one of the best. If an out-right cheater is one of the best, how bad is everyone else?

If the FBI hadn't gotten wind of the point-shaving scandal, Donaghy would be gearing up to fix next year's NBA Finals, courtesy of David Stern.

For those of us who believe Stern's crookedness is surpassed only by his arrogance, this scandal simply reinforces that notion. No other professional sports league has the reputation the NBA has earned - under Stern - of being rigged, fixed and manipulated. Don't forget it was Stern who engineered the draft lottery to keep teams from losing. If your league has teams trying to lose games, then you've got problems that a lottery won't fix.

If teams will purposefully lose in the NBA, then why is Stern surprised an official would call games for his own edification? That's just the culture of Stern's league.

If the NBA wants to clean up its image, start by firing Stern. I've been driving that bandwagon for years.

As for Bud "Lite" Selig, the so-called commissioner of baseball ruled over the league when steroids first emerged, and he couldn't have been happier. Balls were flying out of parks, people will filling the stands, and more importantly money was being put in the pockets of owners (of which Selig is one, don't forget).

Now, the wind has blown Selig's toupee the other direction and he wants to stand firm on a no-steroid policy. Why now? Because the public has grown tired of the cheating, and Selig will flow wherever the current takes him, like any jellyfish.

Selig is shocked - shocked, I say - by allegations of steroids. Why, he thought it was normal for men to get better athletically after the age of 35. He thought it was OK for a grown man's hat size to increase by one full size. He didn't see anything wrong with 50-pound muscle gains in one year.

I, on the other hand, don't see anything wrong with him being fired for incompetency.

Go, Selig. And take Stern with you.

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