- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Monday marked my first day as co-host of “The Sports Fix” with Kevin Sheehan on ESPN 980, and we had to deal with King Kong and Godzilla right out of the box.

Pete Rose and Michael Vick are monsters of sports talk radio, and both were hot on Monday. If O.J. and Brett Favre had made news, I could have covered it all and retired after the first day.

Then there was the story about a canary-fighting ring busted in Connecticut - the gods of sports talk were watching over me.

I took a giant step from guest to co-host Monday. I had regularly appeared as a guest on “The Sports Reporters,” hosted by Andy Pollin and Steve Czaban, and for 10 years on the show managed to avoid an Imus moment.

But that was as a guest, and we all act differently as a guest in someone else’s home than we do in our own.

“Just be yourself,” people kept telling me.

Be myself? They must not know me well.

Fortunately, Monday delivered the gift of Pete Rose and Michael Vick - the latter courtesy of another sports talk radio staple, Terrell Owens, who at Buffalo Bills training camp sounded off on the potential suspension of Vick. (How great it is that Owens has been banished to Buffalo, which is the Buffalo of American cities?)

Owens argued against a suspension for the ex-quarterback, who has already served prison time for his dogfighting conviction, saying it was like “kicking a dead horse in the ground.”

At least he didn’t say dead dog.

And for once there was a legitimate reason to talk about Rose, who was banned 20 years ago by commissioner Bart Giamatti for betting on baseball while managing a club - the game’s cardinal sin.

Normally, Rose is a piece of red meat to throw to listeners on a slow summer day: Should he be allowed back in the game? Should he be allowed in the Hall of Fame?

But a credible report by Bill Madden of the New York Daily News suggested baseball commissioner Cadillac Bud Selig is seriously considering lifting the ban on Rose. A decision to do so could prove a destructive and divisive force among the Hall’s members, opening the door to years of bitter argument and controversy.

Rose would not be voted on by baseball writers because his 15 years of eligibility on their ballot have passed. Unless a special election is granted, Rose would go before the veterans committee.

Many Hall of Famers do not want to share a stage with Rose. Sides will be chosen. If Rose manages to get picked for Cooperstown, some Hall of Famers will stay away from the induction ceremonies.

And if Rose gets in, momentum will build to let in steroid cheaters like Mark McGwire, who failed to come close to the needed 75 percent the past two years, and the tainted 2013 class of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

Hank Aaron called for the cheaters to be let in with an asterisk. Many of his fellow Hall of Famers disagree, including newly inducted Jim Rice, who has spoken out against allowing steroid cheaters in Cooperstown.

The criteria for induction include character and integrity. If Rose enters the Hall of Fame and steroid users follow, you can just eliminate those two criteria. They will be useless.

Character and integrity are not needed to play in the NFL, and both Vick and Owens can be thankful for that.

Vick likely will think himself fortunate if he can get back into the NFL under the conditions set down Monday by commissioner Roger Goodell. Vick will be allowed to work out in training camp and play in the final two exhibition games, and he would be eligible to be reinstated for the sixth week of the regular season - providing, of course, that some team will take a chance on him.

I, of course, just hope Owens keeps talking. I’ve got five days a week of sports talk to fill.

Thom Loverro co-hosts “The Sports Fix” on ESPN 980 from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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