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Back to the future

Thinking back to the wide world of sports 25 years ago, I realize it actually wasn't so wide. The market for professional and collegiate athletics has exploded in recent years, in much the same way Tamagotchi pets, pogs and pop/rock boy bands haven't. With professional athletes being elevated to almost demigod status and enough ESPN channels for each one of Tiger's mistresses, sports are receiving more media coverage than ever.

A quick poll of the five people sitting around me shows more of them can name the quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs than the Secretary of Defense - neither of which, I might add, has an enviable job.

So what happens next?

Well, I'm glad you asked.

First off, in less than 10 years, men's lacrosse will become more popular than soccer. Right now, Major League Soccer is hanging on the brink, while Major League Lacrosse is expanding. The recent economic downturn has hampered the MLL's growth, but the league nevertheless is burgeoning in size and popularity. ESPN2 is featuring more and more coverage each year, and at the same time, the NCAA has started televising its schools' regular season games in addition to postseason play.

Meanwhile, men's soccer is stagnant. Internationally, it is still the most popular sport. Professional soccer in Europe is king, with the UEFA Champions League, European World Cup and FIFA World Cup all boasting behemoth followings. Ironically, the strong presence of international soccer will keep the MLS from gaining a solid foothold in the United States.

In addition, steroids will continue to be a problem that plagues sports - most specifically baseball. The reason is fans. Sure, the commissioner and the rest of the league reps have the power to influence steroid usage in the MLB, but at the end of the day, they serve the fans. As long as fans continue to at best be only mildly opposed to the use of performance-enhancing drugs and at worst, blindly tolerate the problem, steroids will continue to persist.

As long as athletes like Barry Bonds, A-Rod, Roger Clemons, et al (al = a very large number) can get away with using steroids and make absurd amounts of money, they will still do it. And from where I stand, taking steroids is a form of cheating, but steroid use is so pervasive that the legitimacy of the sport has been called into question. The "steroid era," as it is being termed, could well be the end of "America's Pastime."

I further predict that Lebron James will have nine rings by the time he retires. James is having a slow start - in regards to a championship - but I am of the opinion that once he finds a way to win a title, he won't stop. Once he gets the right people on his team


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