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Dowbiggin: Time for Hall of Fame to allow stars of baseball’s PED era in

There's no escaping it now. Major League Baseball has entered its no-go zone, when the names of confessed and suspected drug cheats appear regularly on the Hall of Fame ballot for admission. There has been a scattering of Mark McGwires in the process so far, but now the vast cohort of PED suspects has hit eligibility. The roid boys have come home to roost.

There are strong opinions on the issue of letting known cheaters into the Hall. Some voters have said they'll never allow a juicer into the HoF. Our own opinion has been, how can you distinguish between a generation that cheated using steroids and an earlier generation or two that used amphetamines to aid their performance?

As well, to punish the stars of the PED era while letting average players who used steroids – and they know who they are– escape scrutiny is likewise grossly unfair. Unless you can make a distinction between the syringe and the green pill that we haven't heard yet, our advice is simple: let 'em in.

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Not Pete Rose. But that is an argument for another day.

Yet our biggest concern about sports writers making these Sophoclean decisions is not roids versus speed. What we are uncomfortable with is the writers and journalists who vote being the story. When we sign up for this job it is with the idea that we do not affect outcomes or determine winners.

We simply watch, report and let the world outside decide who belongs or who gets the prize. We don't put money into one pocket and deny it to another.

It's a sentiment that ESPN's T.J. Quinn expressed in a recent column announcing that he will not vote for Cooperstown candidates any longer. "As a journalist, I was also never completely comfortable with the idea of being a participant in a process I'm supposed to cover. I enjoyed it immensely, just as I enjoyed voting for MVP, Cy Young and everything else when I was a beat writer.... But too often, I've seen writers use their votes as a way to punish or reward players, and I don't think journalists should be in that position."

We agree. Baseball created the drug conundrum now faced by the Hall of Fame. They should be required to solve it without implicating journalists in that process. BTW: Tim Raines should be in.

Breaking news: Canada loves hockey

How happy were Canadians to get word of the return of the NHL? According to TSN, very happy. In fact, nearly 2.3 million tuned in last Sunday to get a taste of TSN's panels, prognosticators and pans for the 113-day lockout.

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Online, TSN says its digital platforms recorded 10 million page views, while TSN.ca recorded 650,000 video views – the most since the network's Tradecentre last February. Much of this up against the NFL's wildcard playoff coverage on its CTV sister stations.

Sportsnet's Game On coverage on Sunday reached a total of 1.9 million viewers during the day. Its peak average audience occurred at 10:13 A.M. ET with 241,600. Online it had 39 per cent greater page views compared to the same day in Jan. 2012.

NHL Network forgets the fans

Then there's the NHL Network, the league's own TV outlet. As the NHL's chosen carrier, you'd think the league would give first dibs to The NHL Network on major stories like the solution of the CBA. After all, that's what usually happens on the NFL Network or MLB Network. Cutting edge and all that.

But viewers tuning into The NHL Network on Sunday to hear of the solution to the CBA crisis instead saw dated World Junior Hockey championships. Perhaps programmers thought that no one would notice if they were 12 hours late on the biggest story of the year in hockey-deprived America . Sadly, they're probably right as ESPN and FOX ignore the NHL like the plague. Still, the league has lost enough fans via its labour policy. Why toss away more fans by mailing it in with your exclusive network on a huge exclusive?

The Commish, The Great One and Grapes

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There's a firestorm in social media amongst fans demanding the head of commissioner Gary Bettman for his maladroit handling of the NHL labour file the past 20 years. Don't hold your breath. His supporters in the Board of Governors– who defied public sentiment during the lockout– will do the same to prop up the 60-year-old Bettman a while longer.

One suggestion to placate fans getting traction, however, is giving Wayne Gretzky a high profile at the league again, perhaps even replacing commissioner Bettman's duties at some hockey-related events. The "Boo Bettman" fad is amusing, but it should not be allowed to overshadow the awarding of the Stanley Cup or the announcement of the first overall draft pick. Getting Gretzky up front would be a Valentine to discouraged hockey fans. It would be a start to easing Bettman out the door with dignity.

Don't tell Don Cherry that Bettman's a dead weight, however. The hockey TV host believes that Bettman is to be commended for saving the season, not blamed for causing the lockout. "For all you people that are going to watch NHL hockey this year, make no mistake about it, you're watching it because of Gary Bettman," Cherry tweeted. "Bettman was the guy that had to pull the trigger whether this was done or not. He saved the season."

Well that ends that debate.

dowbboy@shaw.ca / @dowbboy

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