MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
NPR's Mike Pesca took the opportunity to look around and assess the state of all of our games. Sorry is among the kinder words that came to mind.
MIKE PESCA: Sport is a contract. Yes, there are the kinds of contracts between players and owners, the kinds that have two leagues shut down simultaneously. And, yes, there is the literal contract in tiny print on every baseball ticket taking away a fan's right to sue if struck by a foul ball.
D: With a loser for every winner, the universe is sitting at .500. This is why the current situation isn't merely a bad time for sports. We, are in fact, experiencing a rift in the basic compact.
JON WERTHEIM: I mean, this has been sort of a bummer sports summer for fans. It's sportspocalypse.
PESCA: L. Jon Wertheim has written for Sports Illustrated for 15 years. He looks at the trial of Roger Clemens, the bankruptcy of the Dodgers, the lockouts in the NFL and the NBA, the sad fate of Tiger Woods, and a Tour de France with a doping appeal hanging over the top rider and sees the sports landscape as unprecedentedly bleak.
WERTHEIM: Yeah, we've had labor strikes and work stoppages in the past, and teams have gone into bankruptcy in the past, but not this daily drumbeat where you just say, oh, no.
PESCA: And even when we're not robbed of the product, we're robbed of the normal rhythms of victory and celebration, as with the NHL finals.
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B: This was the catalyst. The first car set on fire. It would be the first of many. This is just moments after the cup was delivered to the Boston Bruins.
PESCA: And anytime a baseball player shows offensive promise, fans can't help but cast their eyes at the Rocket in the federal docket and other alleged steroid abusers, says L. Jon Wertheim.
WERTHEIM: Mark McGwire and Bonds and Clemens are the shoe bombers, and players today are the guys getting groped in the security line. And, yeah, you can't achieve anything in baseball today without having a fairly big chunk of the sports public raising a skeptical eyebrow - I know exactly.
PESCA: But veteran reporter Robert Lipsyte, who covered the tumultuous times of trailblazing baseball free agent Curt Flood and Muhammad Ali, says we are living in a summer horribilis.
ROBERT LIPSYTE: Sports is soap opera. The statistics, you know, are great, and who wins and loses are great, too, but the idea of having, you know, heroes and villains, people that you can identify with, is extremely nourishing and gets you from day to day.
PESCA: Right. And that is why these strikes are different. It's not like a bad development in your soap opera. It's like your soap opera getting canceled.
LIPSYTE: Absolutely. That's why this really is, you know, the end of the soap opera. What are you going to do tomorrow?
PESCA: Mike Pesca, NPR News.
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