HARTFORD–Don’t know about you, but I’m a huge baseball fan and have been totally immersed in this year’s World Series. I’m a diehard Rangers fanatic, but I’ve also been a Giants fan for many years so this Series has been amazing one. (Before you read any further, be aware that my little missive this week has nothing to do with running and everything to do with our health. So be it.)
Anyway, during several of the Series games, Major League Baseball has made a big deal between innings about its Stand Up to Cancer campaign. On the surface, it’s a great public service bit but in reality it’s just about the most hypocritical thing I have ever seen.
During the minute or so the Series devoted to Stand Up to Cancer, the TV cameras panned the dugouts as all the players held up the same signs the fans did with a cancer victim’s name on it. The cameras even included the broadcasters and then zoomed in for the money shot of the players holding up their own signs and lo and behold, a good percentage of them had these bulges in their cheeks which as any red-blooded American sports fan knows signifies one thing: Some type of chewing tobacco. The Giants starting pitcher that night—Jake Peavy—even went so far as to say he couldn’t pitch without a chaw of tobacco.
It’s the most disgusting carcinogenic crap on the planet and millions of young guys, trying to emulate the big leaguers, have become addicted to it and many have died horrible deaths from using it. And baseball’s role in this country wide addiction is front and center as its so-called role models still continue to dip and chew in full view of a worldwide audience, despite its gutless Stand Up to Cancer message.
The reason it’s so gutless is because baseball continues its self-serving PR and yet has looked the other way despite the many retired players who have died from the type of cancer this stuff causes. Most dramatically, in June, Tony Gwynn, one of the greatest hitters of all time, died at the age of 54 as a result of salivary gland cancer which he attributed to his long addiction to chewing tobacco.
You don’t have to look at any further than ESPN to notice that one of the World Series analysts on the pre-game show—Curt Schilling—has mouth cancer after dipping for 30 years. Schilling is lucky to be alive, but has lost his sense of smell, taste and his speech is impeded. A survey of one of his old teams–the Boston Red Sox– revealed that 21 of the 58 players on its spring training roster, including the manager, admitted to still using chewing tobacco, snuff or the vile smokeless stuff.
This stuff has been ingrained in our culture for years, largely because of the rotten example of baseball which has virtually done all the marketing for the smokeless tobacco industry which preys on hooking teen-age boys—or younger.
All I ever wanted to be was a big-leaguer and when I was a kid, I was a batboy for a semi-pro team and almost all of the guys chewed. Wanting to be just like all the players who had bulges in their cheeks, I pretended to use Red Man by chewing on peach pits. At least I could look the role. The only time I ever actually tried it was in college and after throwing up, never touched the stuff again. But plenty of my friends used it, even some runners who grew up around it.
It’s such addictive stuff that I have running friends who to this day still crave it 10 years after stopping. I used to run with a guy who chewed while he ran, periodically spewing out a disgusting brown stream. He even raced with it and said he could never ever quit using it.
We all know the dangers of smoking by now, but chewing tobacco is actually more addictive and more of a carcinogen than cigarettes—if that’s possible. Evidently, smokeless tobacco delivers a greater does of nicotine than cigarettes and it stays in the bloodstream longer.
I realize I’m preaching to the choir here, but the health of our nation’s children is at stake. And baseball does very little or nothing to stop this–Stand Up to Cancer or not.
While it’s true that Major League Baseball has tried to discourage its use—all tobacco products are technically banned from the minor leagues–the rules covering the big leaguers are a joke. Teams can’t provide tobacco products for the players, the players can’t smoke in the dugout and aren’t supposed to carry the stuff around in their uniforms. Clearly, they do as evidenced by the World Series players reaching into their pockets for a little dip between innings. If they do, they’re supposed to be fined but that doesn’t happen.
Actually, pretty much nothing happens. In 2011, baseball tried to ban tobacco use entirely but the major league players union rejected it.
So all we are left with is the toothless Stand Up to Cancer campaign of empty rhetoric. Maybe baseball should stand up to its players for once and ban all tobacco products entirely (or face stiff fines or unpaid suspensions).
Baseball needs to clean up its own house and set an actual example.
O While we’re on health topics (see above), a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health has found that drinking sugar-sweetened soda may lead to aging at an accelerated rate. The new study reveals that drinking soda prematurely ages white blood cells in a manner comparable to smoking. Drinking just a single 20-ounce sugar-sweetened soda a day can lead to 4.6 years of extra aging. The researchers didn’t find any correlation between diet soda or non-carbonated sugar sweetened-drinks and accelerated aging. It isn’t as bad as smoking or smokeless tobacco, but it still sucks.
O The New York City Marathon is Sunday and it will be televised live nationally on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes, starting at 8 a.m. (Austin time). The telecast is also available on WatchESPN. There will also be a taped highlights show on Sunday afternoon from 3-5 on KVUE (ABC) in Austin.
O The MetroPCS Dallas Marathon on December 14th is also getting TV coverage. Dallas reached a deal with WFAA to air three hours of live coverage of the 44th annual marathon for the next three years. It will also be streamed live on WFAA.com.
O Marathon2Marathon in west Texas was Saturday and the warm, windy marathon was a fight to the finish between James Boddy who won in 3:09:13 and Ina Ables who won the women’s division but was just nine seconds in back in 3:09:22. Christian Lambert of San Antonio was the second guy in 3:10:04. Patrick Hall of Austin was fifth overall in 3:12:34 and Paul Salazar was ninth in 3:19:36 and won his 50-59 age group. Lisa Mazur of Austin won her age group (40-49) in 3:59 as did Chris Berni (50-59) in 5:12. In the accompanying half, Travis Prater of Corpus won in 1:24:29 with Tess Outlaw of San Antonio taking the women’s title in 1:42.
O In the Chosen Marathon in New Braunfels on Sunday, David Davila of Kyle won it in 2:53:27 with Mitch Kies of Kyle second in 3:10:38 and Austin’s Phil (The Panther) Carmical third guy (and first masters) in 3:18:45. Jessica Knoll of North Fairfield, Ohio won the women’s division (and was third overall) in 3:16:56 with Jo Gregory of Austin second in 3:18:44.
O Former Austinite Jason Epstein was the overall winner of the Paso Robles Marathon on Sunday in Northern California with a time of 3:00:27. A former member of Gilbert’s Gazelles and the Austin Runners Club, Epstein, who used to wear his Yankees cap wherever he went, now lives in San Francisco where he writes software and does standup comedy.
O Bits and pieces continue to dribble out on course changes for the Austin Marathon which hasn’t made an official announcement yet and won’t until all the changes are certified. The latest news is that the half marathon course will go around the Capitol and then finish on Congress, rather than making the climb up San Jacinto, a block east of the Capitol.
O Kristen Findley, who finished second in 58:02 to Tia Martinez in the Run for the Water 10-Miler (her first 10-mile race) on Sunday, has a varied background. She’s been in Austin for about a year training with Steve Sisson’s group at Rogue, but was primarily a miler/1500-meter runner (bests of 4:14/4:49) at Vanderbilt. She’s just 23, a biomedical engineer at ArthroCare, has lived all over the world and lists Dhahran, Saudia Arabia as her hometown.
O The Big 12 Cross-Country Championships are at Kansas on Saturday. The Texas men are ranked 29th nationally, behind Big 12 brethren Oklahoma State (4) and Oklahoma (26). The Texas women are not ranked nationally. Both teams will need to finish in the top two at the South Central Regionals (November 14) to qualify for the NCAAs.
O Don’t forget that this Saturday marks the one-year anniversary celebration of the Ready to Run store (3616 Far West). There will be a costume fun-run on Saturday at 7:30, complete with prizes for best costume, raffles and giveaways. The first guy and gal in the fun run gets a backpack stuffed with all sorts of goodies. Several of the shoe brands such as New Balance, Mizuno, Brooks and Asics will have new shoes to test drive.
O What I’m listening to this morning: “Brothers in Arms,” by Dire Straits. Most people would go with U2’s “Joshua Tree” as the album of the ’80s, but this is my favorite.
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