Not AIG, but in need of help ASAP

The Baltimore Sun

You've got to appreciate living in a country with a government as benevolent as it is merciful. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and AIG all had checkbooks with more red scribbled in them than your kid's first spelling test. But in swooped the government with a charitable bailout.

Well, why should such generosity be limited to failing private companies? Here in the sports world, there are plenty of organizations, teams and athletes in need - believe me - and plenty could benefit from a similar government bailout.

* Like the Atlantic Coast Conference. It has been more than three years since the ACC finished 'roiding up from nine teams to 12. Mismanagement, greed and foolish decisions - the AIG blueprint? - have resulted in what? The answer: watching the Big East and Conference USA pass the ACC by.

* The Orioles' farm system. It was no great mystery that the minor league pool was lacking, but this final month of the season is a horror flick. The starting rotation from April? Not a single one starting now. The result is a batch of not-ready-for-prime-time players that reveals just how shallow the system is. A caring government would have fixed this injustice five years ago.

* The New York Yankees, once a perennial playoff visitor, but now simply humbled and overpaid. I'm sorry, I can't say this with a straight face. Scratch them. They deserve a bailout as much as O.J. Simpson deserves a reality series.

* Chicago Cubs fans. You're telling me Beverly Hills 90210 fans had to wait only eight years to have their prayers answered but the poor Cubs fan must wait 100 years?

* The Maryland men's basketball team. A complete bailout might not be in order, but perhaps just a little government assistance on the recruiting trail. Maybe lend the team Uncle Sam as mascot for a couple of years? Or perhaps institute a draft requiring able-bodied, athletic young men within a 500-mile radius to enroll at College Park.

* The Maryland football team. With conference games beginning next weekend, we're about to see the Terps' true face. Let's call this a provisional bailout. Are the real Terps the ones who lost to Middle Tennessee State or the ones who beat California? If the answer is the former, fans have a tough reality to face, one that even a bailout might not cure.

* The European Ryder Cup team. Shouldn't they have blown the Americans clear out of Kentucky on Day One? The Americans have lost five of the past six, and half of this year's team members are rookies. Americans J.B. Holmes and Hunter Mahan weren't even old enough to drive the last time the United States won. I know it's a bit odd for the U.S. government to bail out the Euros, but frankly, they should be embarrassed to be trailing heading into today's competition.

* Michael Phelps. Oh, wait. I got this one backward. Actually, can't Phelps help bail out our troubled economy? What if he just melted down some gold and ...

* Adam Loewen's baseball career. If you were to draw a pitcher on paper, he might look like Loewen, so it's too bad things didn't work out. A second life as a position player would be fortunate but might require a lot more than government assistance.

* Troy Smith. He doesn't have the option of moving to first base or the outfield, so here's hoping illness doesn't ultimately rob him of his best chance at starting in the NFL.

* Boxing's heavyweight division. Quick, name one of the world's heavyweight belt holders.

* The Oakland Raiders. The entertainment value has faded. For all the talk and romanticism tied lately to this nation's mavericks, Al Davis is one who probably needs to be saved from himself.

* Willis McGahee's offseason workout habits. No one else can get through to him. A federal government bailout might be the last hope. Assuming it's not already too late.

* The NFL Players Association. They leaned entirely on their executive director for 25 years and he had his hands on everything. So much so, the union might be scrambling to prepare for its looming labor fight against the owners.

* The Milwaukee Brewers' brain trust. Ned Yost took over a joke of a team in 2002. He helped turn the organization around and had the Brewers in the thick of the playoff hunt. Never mind those six years, he was shown the door based on a two-week struggle. The Brewers have already won more games than they did a year ago (when a late collapse didn't do Yost any favors).

* The Cincinnati Bengals. No, literally. Odds are, they're going to need someone to bail them out soon. Anyone know a good bondsman?

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