"Pro sports have the morals of Bush

This is the week where NFL fans and videogame addicts come together to celebrate one of the most hallowed events of the year: “Maddenoliday,” the annual release of the John Madden-endorsed football videogame from EA Sports.

For years, I’ve been a willing participant, even camping out at my local GameStop store at midnight to be among the first to get my hands on the game. Every year, I’ve willingly plunked down the $50 for the game, plus another $15 for the accompanying guide.

But not this year. This is the season where I say enough is enough. There will be no Maddenoliday in the Hammer household this year. Santa Madden will not drop down the chimney. There will be no first-week frenzy of endless video football matchups. I’m through with the Madden series.

It’s not just the cost, although $50 is an outrageous price for a last-generation videogame in the disastrous Bush economy. And it’s not even the fact that the game has changed little in the past four or five years, offering only a roster update and some much-hyped but useless gameplay innovation.

The reason for my Madden boycott has less to do with the game itself and more to do with the people who play it. Like our president, who shamelessly stole votes and lied to the nation whenever it served him, Madden players love to cheat.

Each year, the online play has increasingly become more important to the overall Madden experience. Every year, online players find ways to exploit flaws in the software to their advantage. Whether it was the infamous run-pass glitch of 2005, where opponents could tell in advance whether their opponents were going to run or pass, or last year’s nano-blitz scandal, where linebackers could plow through the line and sack the quarterback before he even received the snap, Madden has become a haven for cheaters.

But it’s not just the videogame that’s corrupt. It’s all of American sports that exists under a cloud of scandal. No sport can be trusted to be honest and fair anymore. Our sports have followed the moral authority of our leaders’ “win at any cost” philosophy.

Baseball’s new all-time home run king achieved his feat by gobbling and injecting illegal drugs. One of basketball’s top referees resigned after being implicated in a gambling scandal. And several of football’s biggest names have been suspended after being arrested for violent and reprehensible crimes.

(One of those stars, the Atlanta Falcons’ Michael Vick, has always been a favorite among the Madden cheaters, due to his ungodly running speed and rocket-powered arm. Even though he won’t be playing this season, he’s still in the Madden game, available as a tool to exploit the programming code.)

All of our major pro sports are suffering from the sickness of corruption, brought on by a lack of ethics, a need to maximize profit and the belief that fair play is for suckers. Even top NASCAR drivers are flouting the rules and juicing up their cars with illegal modifications.

It’s a sad day when pro wrestling is the most ethical and straightforward of the most popular pro sports. Its only scandal came when a leading wrestler murdered his wife and children before taking his own life.

The only sports not suffering from corruption are the ones at the fringes, the ones that don’t have big TV contracts dangled in front of them: women’s basketball, hockey, minor league baseball and pro soccer. They’re relatively pure because there’s no profit to be had by playing unfairly.

Coincidentally or not, though, they’re also the ones experiencing the biggest growth in interest. Maybe there are more people who like to see fair play and teamwork, rather than egomania and corporate profiteering, rewarded as a virtue.

Average fans have long since been priced out of attending pro sports events. The price for a family of four to attend a pro football, baseball or basketball game is around $500 or more, while the best seats are reserved for rich people and corporations.

But what else can one expect when our president has reserved the best tax breaks and public funds for those same corporations? What is the moral difference between shaving points from a game or rigging electronic voting machines in Ohio?

Until the cancer of corruption has been removed, I’m not going to buy into it by supporting the major pro sports. The WNBA and the English Premier League are thrilling sports that don’t engage in Bush morality. I’ll support them.