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Madden: Arresting officer was out of line

Saturday, May 18, 2002

If there aren't as many refreshing sports notes in this column as you expected, well, keep in mind the kids aren't out of school yet. And the weather hasn't been very good. And 9/11 is still screwing up the economy. If you write me in care of this newspaper, however, you can purchase a whole season's worth of refreshing sports notes in advance. At no discount, of course.

I believe Plaxico Burress. I think he got a raw deal when he was arrested for public intoxication in Virginia Beach, Va. The arresting officer probably pinched Burress based on his status as an NFL player, not for what he was doing. I'm appalled that the arresting officer called the Post-Gazette to volunteer details of the bust. Cops shouldn't strive to be media figures. Now that I've stated my unflinching support of Burress, I have some advice for young Plax: Stay out of bars for a while.

Jerome Bettis says he reinjured his groin in the AFC Championship, but it's OK now. That's probably true. But Bettis and the Steelers have lied so much and so long about this particular injury, I won't believe anything said about it. Plus, I don't enjoy talking about groins.

Penguins General Manager Craig Patrick isn't known for being stupid. But Patrick's refusal to speak with Petr Svoboda and Ron Del Duca because Robert Lang hasn't personally contacted Patrick to confirm them as his new agents is not only dumb, it's childish. Svoboda and Del Duca are registered as Lang's agents with the NHL Players' Association. That should be good enough for Patrick. By declining to talk with Svoboda and Del Duca, Patrick is not only creating an undercurrent of bad feeling, but he's also wasting time. The Penguins have exclusive negotiating rights with Lang until July 1. Patrick should do his job and start negotiating, not entertain himself with kindergarten baloney.

The Penguins will not raise prices on season tickets, but will raise single-game ticket prices. Not the ideal move after missing the playoffs, but probably a necessary one when you play in a building where revenue streams have long since been maximized. This strategy is designed to push season tickets. But nothing could push season tickets like a statement from Mario Lemieux saying that the recovery from his hip injury is on schedule, which it reportedly is. People buy tickets to see Lemieux. A positive "state of the hip" address from No. 66 would be a big help to the Penguins' sales staff.

Check out this quote from Kevin Young: "I don't know if every team equal in the type of talent they have and having an equal amount of money is good for the game or not." Not only would it be good for the game, it would be good for Young's team, the Pirates. It would not, however, be good for Young, who would be sitting on a bench somewhere making a fraction of his $5.625 million salary if not for small-market teams who have to pay scrubs like him way too much to play way too much.

Young is not in a slump. He is not continuing to feel the effects of personal problems that, unfortunately, plagued him last year. Young is washed up. Period.

As pathetic as the Pirates' offense is now, things are only going to get worse as the few legitimate big-league hitters the Pirates have get fewer and fewer decent pitches to hit. Brian Giles will be lucky to see a strike after the All-Star break. Heck, he's lucky to see one now.

As we brace for -- or, in my case, breathlessly and eagerly count the days until -- baseball goes on strike, Pirates fans should remember this: If the financial playing field gets reasonably leveled as the result of a work stoppage, then a strike is good no matter how long it lasts. But if the players win -- and they will, because they always do -- then no one in Pittsburgh should ever go to a Pirates game again.

If replacement players had been used in the 1994 strike, and if the "real" players had never come back, we wouldn't even know the difference by now. There would be a whole new set of stars, somebody would win the MVPs and Cy Young Awards each year, and baseball would go on exactly as before. Out of sight, out of mind. Want proof? Before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, the all-white major leagues played a brand of baseball far inferior to what it could have -- and should have -- been. Yet players from that era were revered, and their accomplishments remain sacred to this day. Everything is relative. Some fans are sophisticated enough to know the difference between good and bad baseball. Most aren't.

I'm weary of columnists that lambaste rotisserie league nerds, especially super-smug Rick Reilly's annual crucifixion in Sports Illustrated. If living their lives vicariously through mathematical manipulation of real-life sports makes rotisserie geeks happy, at least they're happy. Happiness is a quality that seems in short supply, and, if someone has found his/her own personal formula, no matter how irregular, who is anyone to condemn it? If you find true joy when Derek Jeter goes 4 for 4, that's great. Sure beats reading another cookie-cutter look-at-me-I'm-cool Rick Reilly column.

For the record, I am in one fantasy league, the Press Box Hockey League, which I win every year. It's like taking candy from a baby. Well, money from dolts, actually.

Mark Madden's talk show is heard from 3 to 7 p.m. weekdays on WEAE-AM (1250).

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