STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Our commentator Frank Deford has found something in sports that he thinks doesn't make sense - it's the way that athletes get suspended.
FRANK DEFORD, BYLINE: Since too few Americans go to the polls, I say what this country needs is a bobblehead election where voters will get free bobblehead dolls of their choice when they show up and vote for president. Hey, it draws crowds in sports, and what sports needs is some kind of uniform sensible policy relating to suspensions. There are just more and more suspensions for more and more reasons. But the length of suspensions seems so random. To begin with, although the NFL season starts tomorrow, the Patriots' sainted quarterback Tom Brady must sit out four games, suspended because he was generally aware of a nerfarious plot to deflate footballs in a playoff game.
Meanwhile, athletes in all sorts of sports are being suspended for taking performance-enhancing drugs, and it seems like it's almost part of the job description for football players to commit domestic mayhem and get suspended arbitrarily. The Giants have a kicker named Josh Brown whose ex-wife says he beat her up more than 20 times, so he's getting suspended for one game. Baseball players who slide maliciously into second base now get suspended, too. The most famous offender, Chase Utley, got suspended two games (laughter). And remember when Latrell Sprewell choked his coach? He got 68 games for that.
Then we have Hope Solo, the belligerent goalie for the U.S. women's soccer squad. She was handed a six-month suspension for expressing an unattractive opinion about another team. So far as I know, this is the first time an American athlete has been suspended just for freely expressing an opinion. Whatever you may think of Hope Solo, her suspension sets a terrible precedent.
Of course, suspensions are nothing new. All sorts of famous sports people have been suspended for extended periods - Paul Hornung, Alex Karras, John Daly, George Steinbrenner, Leo Durocher, Eleanor Holm, the Black Sox of 1919. And, wow, a lifetime suspension went to a tennis player named Earl Cochell back in 1951. He tried to commandeer the microphone from the chair umpire and then cursed the tournament referee. Don't mess with tennis muckety-mucks.
I think the four major leagues ought to set up a joint commission, say, of retired judges, to rule on athletes who are accused of doing bad things away from the game. Then each league would retain its independence in determining what penalties their players should get for infractions committed within the sport. Oh, and don't forget to watch that vandal Ryan Lochte suffer for his behavior competing on "Dancing With The Stars."
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
INSKEEP: Dancing with words - commentator Frank Deford, who joins us the first Wednesday of every month.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.