King Kaufman's Sports Daily

First sign of fall: A Michael Strahan-New York Giants controversy. Science journal Nature on performance-enhancing drugs: Legalize 'em!


Salon Staff
August 2, 2007 3:30PM (UTC)

Michael Strahan feels betrayed, according to someone close to him who spoke to the New York Daily News. The sack specialist is holding out of New York Giants training camp, but not over money, he says. He's contemplating retirement.

I'm contemplating retirement myself, so I can relate. I might need a day or two next week for deep thinking. Especially if it's sunny.

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The Giants are hitting him with a daily fine -- it's only $14,288 a day, but it's the principle of the thing, you see -- and talking about preparing to play the season without him. These are the things that have gotten Strahan's goat, evidently. It must be particularly galling to Strahan that the most prominent potential replacement is Simeon Rice, recently released by Tampa Bay and, the Daily News says, "Strahan's arch-enemy."

"How could he not feel betrayed?" the Daily News quoted the source close to Strahan saying. "After spending 14 years, after being a loyal and dedicated player to an organization, and now that he is considering retirement, the most difficult decision in his career, instead of giving him space to make this decision, people are talking about fines and replacements?"

The goat was unavailable for comment, but the source helpfully noted that this wasn't about money. Another source agreed that it was about respect, not money, and that Strahan has felt particularly disrespected by the Giants since they turned down his request for a salary increase in March.

Coach Tom Coughlin told the paper he spoke to Strahan Monday and that Strahan apologized for the timing of his Hamlet routine. General manager Gerry Reese also talked to Strahan Monday in a conversation Strahan's associate told the Daily News featured some harsh words from the player. Reese has said things like "We can win without him," which Strahan found insulting.

Wait till he hears about the '56 Giants, who went 8-3-1 and pounded the Chicago Bears 47-7 in the NFL Championship Game -- without Strahan even being alive!

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Giants co-owner John Mara told the Associated Press Wednesday that Strahan hadn't said he felt betrayed by the fines when they spoke, and he doesn't believe Strahan does feel that way. He also said the Giants aren't going to renegotiate Strahan's contract.

What's funny about this situation is that it's a New York media teapot tempest, it's a controversy in the first week of NFL training camp, when news is scarce and the scribblers are desperate, and Michael Strahan is involved, but almost everybody's acting pretty reasonably.

If we take Strahan at his word that he's struggling with the decision to retire, then those of us who have been around the block, or even down to the corner, know that these internal struggles can come up at any time. Sometimes a person has no choice but to make a choice. Like when that plea offer's on the table for 10 more seconds.

But if you can afford to take the time and really think it through -- and it's only costing Strahan $14,288 a day, so he can afford it -- you take it.

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Strahan's no rookie. It's probably not going to hurt him to miss a week or two of camp. In fact, any amount of wear and tear a 35-year-old NFL lineman can save on his legs has a good chance of being beneficial.

If Strahan really is still angling for a raise, then, like I always say, more power to him. He ought to come out and admit it, but whatever strategy he thinks is going to work, he should knock himself out. And if this is a strategy Strahan thinks is going to work, he must really think it's going to work, because it's costing him $14,288 a day to pursue it. You can get 14,288 lottery tickets for that!

Meanwhile the Giants, who have every right to say no to Strahan's demands for a raise, would be stupid to fall all over themselves in public gesticulations of agony over his absence. If the Strahan friends talking to the newspapers are speaking for him, he must not have had his eyes open over the last 14 years. NFL teams don't trade in loyalty.

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Whoever those friends are doing the bidding for, by the way, are the ones not acting reasonably. If they're speaking for Strahan, he's not doing himself any favors by whining through his buddies. If they're trying to do him a favor, they're not.

Big Blue would also be remiss not to prepare for Strahan not coming back. If he doesn't like it, too bad. That should have been incentive to come to a decision sooner, or quicker. If the Giants hit on a solution at defensive end that they like better than Strahan, he'll just have to be a grownup about it.

Kind of like how the Giants are being grownups about his holdout. "We'd like to have him come in," Mara said Wednesday. "If he decided to come in, that's great. We will be a better team with him in here. If he doesn't, we'll move on."

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So the team is doing the reasonable thing, hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.

The whole thing is going to blow over like all the little tempests involving Strahan do, like all the early-training-camp controversies, the boredom breaker uppers, do.

And the only conclusion to be reached from any of it is this: I need an arch-enemy.

I've got plenty of people who can't stand me, and the feeling is mutual sometimes, but an arch-enemy would just be so much cooler. Maybe if Strahan retires I'll call Simeon Rice. He'll be needing one.

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The journal Nature: Legalize it [PERMALINK]

The science journal Nature argues in an editorial in the Aug. 2 edition that it might be time to consider legalizing performance-enhancing drugs. It's an argument I made in these pages in 2000.

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But I'm a crackpot. This is the science journal Nature.

"To cheat in a sporting event is a loathsome thing," the editorial says. "For as long as the rules of the Tour de France or any sporting event ban the use of performance-enhancing drugs, those who break the rules must be punished whenever possible. But this does not preclude the idea that it may, in time, be necessary to readdress the rules themselves."

The journal acknowledges that "there would need to be special protection for children," but doesn't begin to address what form that protection might take. It also concedes that some athletes would no-doubt hurt themselves by using PEDs.

"That said, athletes harm themselves in other forms of training, too," it says. "They may harm themselves less with drugs when doctors can be openly involved and masking agents dispensed with."

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The biggest hurdle for legalization of drugs in sports is the same as the biggest hurdle for legalization of drugs in society: politics. It's just a hard idea to lobby for without looking like a scumbag.

It's been seven years since the stripping of Romanian gymnast Andreea Raducan's gold medal because she had used cold medicine inspired me to write that the sports War on Drugs is so ridiculous it should be abandoned.

In that time I've gone back and forth on the issue, sometimes believing all the drugs should be legalized, other times thinking the Hobson's choice that would give kids -- juice up or don't bother competing -- is a higher cost than that war's hypocrisy and illogic.

But for the moment, it's a moot question. Even if it's eminently beneficial to legalize performance-enhancing drugs, even if those benefits can be proven with studies and charts and graphs and actuarial tables and testimonials from Michael Strahan's associates, try selling the advertisers on the idea.

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Not to mention the rest of us. You've met the rest of us, haven't you? We're the ones who are shocked and outraged at the thought of athletes aiding their performance with drugs, and what was the number at the end of that Cialis ad again?

Or, as Nature puts it: "The first sport to change its rules to allow players to use performance-enhancing drugs will be attacked as a freak show or worse. The same may be true of the second. This may well have the effect b

Inevitable sounds like a strong word, maybe a crazy one. It's hard to think of drug legalization as inevitable, in sports or elsewhere. Then again, Nature points out that women and professionals were once banished from sport, and attitudes changed.

The editorial is online, but costs $30 for non-subscribers to read.

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Previous column: Baseball deadline trades

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