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Silence is golden

It’s hard to put into words someone’s passion for sports. Is it the buzzer-beating plays that result in pure jubilation or instant agony? Could it be the atmosphere of a tailgate before the players take the field? Or is it just something that brings the family together?

Truthfully, I’m not sure I have a clear-cut answer myself, but I do know that sports are one of the best sources of entertainment in the world. Unfortunately, sports have also become synonymous with another word—scandal.

Last week I turned on ESPN’s SportsCenter and noticed that the rundown was full of interesting sports stories; however, none of the stories were particularly positive. 

The show opened with the Biogenesis scandal, revealing the newest crop of Major League Baseball players using performance-enhancing drugs. The list includes a slew of All-Stars, most notably Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, each of whom received lengthy suspensions. 

Later there were the most recent findings in the Aaron Hernandez murder case, followed by a brief report on seven of the victims in the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case finalizing settlements with Penn State. 

Needless to say, it was a rather depressing episode.

This is just a small example of what many sports fans have seen all summer long: an abundance of off-the-field issues overshadowing on-the-field accomplishments. 

Major League Baseball has been fun to watch this summer, due in large part to surprising success stories, including the Pittsburgh Pirates—who haven’t had a winning season since 1992—Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis and Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig. However, the sport is once again facing a PED scandal that has dominated the headlines for months. 

It has gotten to the point where America’s pastime has become better known for cheating than actual play on the diamond.

Performance-enhancing drugs also are the reason Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller will be sitting on the bench for almost half the regular season in 2013. Miller’s six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy became official earlier this week.

Baltimore Ravens cornerback Asa Jackson will serve an eight-game suspension for violating the same policy. Tyson Gay, arguably the best American sprinter for the past decade, tested positive for banned substances in a sport that has been marred by drug scandals for decades.

Sports are a form of entertainment, and the athletes themselves are celebrities. Like any celebrity, paparazzi constantly follow these athletes, a big reason why gossip website TMZ brought back their sports department after a three-year hiatus. Just this past weekend, TMZSports broke the news that NBA forward Lamar Odom has been missing for days and is feared to be on a crack-cocaine binge. I must admit, I cracked a smile when SI.com credited TMZ on a sports story, but in all seriousness, this is what sports news has become. Too often we see gossip stories transformed into well-researched reports in The New York Times.

Duke is no stranger to national controversy itself. In the past decade, Duke has been home to the most risqué thesis ever written, a full-fledged cheating scandal, a fraternity party gone wrong and the well-documented rape case that rocked the Duke and Durham communities. The national reaction, specifically from media outlets across the country, was ruthless. The backlash from the negative publicity surrounding each of these embarrassing events hit hard on campus as well, resulting in protest and even gang threats to students living off campus.

A few days ago, my colleague Andrew Beaton wrote about the changes he has seen in his four years at Duke. Perhaps the biggest change has been Duke’s ability to stay out of the national spotlight during what has otherwise been a tumultuous summer.

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is now being investigated by the NCAA for allegedly accepting money in exchange for autographs, but Duke football has been all business this summer as the Blue Devils prep to open the 2013 season this Saturday. While our Tobacco Road rivals have players facing misdemeanor charges and investigations concerning impermissible benefits, the top storyline for Duke’s men’s basketball program is the possibility of a fifth national title this season. President Richard Broadhead was on TV not to comment on scandals on campus, but to speak about the humanities, making a compelling enough argument to receive a fist bump from Stephen Colbert.

When I turned my TV off after that episode of SportsCenter, I found myself frustrated; however, I realized how thankful I should be that when I walked around campus, I saw no signs of controversy or scandal, but merely students preparing for the upcoming school year. It acts as a reminder that sometimes, silence is golden.

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