By Jim Caple
Purist Party Chairperson

EDITOR'S NOTE: In this most important of election years, it's time to find out where ESPN.com users ultimately stand. On sports, that is. So from now until Election Day on Nov. 2, Page 2 will present the campaigns, the platforms and -- yes -- the candidates for the two major parties of sports fans: the Purists and the Progressives. The primaries were held yesterday, and the two candidates for the office of President of SportsNation have been determined. Today, we present the Purist Party platform and its nominee for president: the inimitable Hank Lombard. Tomorrow, it's the Progressives' turn.

MEET PURIST PARTY NOMINEE ... HANK LOMBARD

CLICK HERE TO HEAR FROM HANK!
Name: Hank Lombard

Age: 38

Home: St. Paul, Minnesota

Party affiliation: Purist

Background: Lettered in football, hockey and baseball at St. Paul Central High School. Walked-on at University of St. Thomas and lettered in football and baseball. Graduated in 1989 with B.A., industrial engineering. Works in product design at 3M. Married (Cheryl) with two children (Kirby and Jake). Coaches and plays first base on company softball team and center on rec hockey team. Has served past eight years as commissioner of his fantasy league and Little League coach for three years. Owns three fantasy teams and a 1987 Homer Hanky signed by Tom Brunansky.

Favorite sports: Baseball, hockey, football, basketball -- in short, Hank loves anything that doesn't have an X.

Favorite active players: Torii Hunter, Kevin Garnett and Daunte Culpepper.

Favorite player, all-time: Kent Hrbek.

Favorite sports movie: "Field of Dreams."

Favorite sports book: "Ball Four" by Jim Bouton

Favorite news sources: ESPN.com, SportsCenter, Bat-girl.com and St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist Charley Walters.

The Purist Party Platform
Who we are not:
We aren't Bud Selig. We get our news from ESPN.com, not The Sporting News. We play Madden 2004, not electric football. We listen to our music on iPods, not eight-tracks. We don't want to return to the 1970s when TV aired exactly one college game a week, when boxscores didn't include updated batting averages and when the NCAA tournament was too small for a decent office pool.

Who we are:
We're the Purists, the Old School Party. We're as multi-hued and colorful as an old Houston Astros jersey -- we just wouldn't be caught dead wearing one. We're kids who want to know our heroes use no performance enhancers beyond Wheaties. We're parents who want to teach our children the triangle offense, not the legalities of sexual assault. We're players who want an equal chance to add a World Series ring to our collection of bling and be able to tattoo "2005 Champions'' on our biceps no matter where we play. We're coaches who want our players to stay in school long enough to be able sing the school fight song during rookie hazing. We're fans who want to feel an attachment to "our" home team players that is stronger than the bond to the guys on our fantasy league teams.

What we don't believe:
We don't believe everything in the past was wonderful. We don't believe you can ignore modern reality. We don't believe you can eliminate steroids, change the Pittsburgh Pirates into contenders and make college cheerleaders good-looking again just by holding a Turn Back the Clock Night.

What we believe:
We believe sports are best when they're about sports, not about celebrity. We believe money ruins sports more quickly than a playing of "Who Let the Dogs Out.'' We believe we should do whatever possible to decide championships on the field and not in the boardroom. We believe that as much as life and society change, some things in sports should be as pure and reliable as a Dodgers home jersey.

We believe the people in the bleachers are more important than the suits in the luxury suites. We believe athletes should save their posing for the team championship photo. We believe you shouldn't swing a bat unless you also wear a glove, and that real men throw complete games. We believe owners, and not the taxpayers, should pay for stadiums. We believe the World Series and Monday Night Football should end before midnight. We believe Little League should be for kids, not parents. We believe that there should be a stick of gum in every pack of cards.

And we not only believe in 24-hour sports channels, we also believe players should stay with a team long enough to have cable TV installed in their homes so they can watch it.

We're the Purists, the Old School Party, and we believe sports can be great again.

Where we stand
On the economy:
Here's the dilemma. Give players real free agency, as baseball does, and they move around too much for our liking. Give a league a hard salary cap, as football has, and management forces the players to change teams even more often. So what to do? Get back to the heart of the matter. We want all our teams to be competitive and our players to stick around longer. The key to both is not to make it harder for a player to leave, but to make it easier for him to stay.

The way to do it is simple.

Teams can generate as much money as they want, but they must remember that they couldn't raise a dime if it wasn't for the other team on the field. That's why -- in all sports -- every penny from ticket sales, luxury suites, advertising, sponsorships and broadcasting must be shared equally with that day's opponent. The big markets will still have advantages because of their location, but the small markets will have more than enough to compete and retain their players.

PAGE 2's ELECTION COVERAGE
  • Welcome to Election 2004!
  • Head-to-Head: Progressives vs. Purists
  • ELECTION CALENDAR
    Wednesday, Sept. 29: Progressive Party platform and nominee bio
    Thursday, Sept. 30: First Debate
    Friday, Oct. 8: Second Debate
    Wednesday, Oct. 13: Third Debate
    Tuesday, Nov. 2: The Election

    Stay tuned to Page 2 for up-to-the-minute action in the Race to the SportsNation Presidency! We'll have all the info on running mates, campaign stops and more as we head to Election Day.

    On education:
    We're pro-choice. Every high school senior has the right to choose whether to go pro or go to college. After all, if you're old enough to serve your country in the military, you're old enough to play pro sports. But once you choose a school, you've made a commitment and you'll stay there four years. Sound harsh? Maybe, but the athlete will be better for it; and we'll make it easier for him to stay by allowing the player, rather than the coach, to earn the money for endorsing the shoe he wears. Everyone wins. Athletes get a choice, money and an education. Fans get to cheer their favorite players for four years. And coaches don't have to worry about losing their Final Four MVP to the Denver Nuggets after one year.

    Next, is it any wonder our kids don't know geography when Texas plays in the Southwest one season and in the Southeast another? So no more nation building and conference jumping. Re-unite the SWC.

    And there's no way anyone is going to be happy no matter how you determine the national champion in football. But computers sure aren't the way -- the BCS is pure BS. Better to go back to the polls and let fans bitch about getting screwed afterward. They will, anyway.

    But the NCAA basketball tournament is great just the way it is. Adding teams only adds more work.for everyone. You think it's hard making your picks in a 64-team tournament? Think about picking 256 teams. And you know television would never show the right game.

    On drugs:
    Why do athletes use steroids? Because they think it will help them get bigger and stronger and earn them a huge contract. Reduce the financial incentive to use steroids and you reduce the temptation to use them. Our plan of Double-Jeopardy: Get caught once, you're out for one season, plus you lose arbitration and free agent rights for the rest of your career. Get caught twice, and your career is over. Leagues that think they can gain negotiating leverage over a player will be much more aggressive in their testing, instead of just setting up an easily-avoided policy as window dressing. (We're talking about the NFL.) And players will think long and hard about cheating if it won't benefit their bank accounts.

    On the nation's airwaves:
    First of all, no more NFL blackouts. We paid for most of these stadiums and we're entitled to watch the games on TV. Oh, and while we're at it, start Monday Night Football an hour earlier so it occasionally ends before midnight.

    Which brings us to baseball's postseason. The problem is not so much that the games start too late -- remember, there are four time zones to contend with, and that doesn't count Alaska or Hawaii -- but how long they last. Start the games a half-hour earlier, and cut out a half hour of dead time by forcing players to get in the batters box more quickly and slicing 30 seconds off each commercial break. You'll be amazed how early those games can end. Then give us one weekend day game per World Series (but only on the weekend so fans won't miss them while at work and school).

    As for the playoffs -- remember when sports knew their place? Baseball in the summer, football in the fall, basketball and hockey in the winter. We can have that again. We don't care how many teams get into the playoffs; just make sure they end on time. The Super Bowl must be played in January. The NBA and Stanley Cup finals must end by Memorial Day. The World Series must not be played in snow. And all major bowl games must be played on New Year's Day when we're all too hung over to leave the couch, anyway.

    On free expression:
    We love true expressions of emotion. We're all for spiking the ball or pumping your fist or leaping into the arms of teammates (or fans). But if you want to choreograph a routine, join a Vegas floorshow -- we've lost our patience for it in sports.

    And from now on, no taunting unless your team is ahead.

    On crime:
    We've had it with teams that care only what a player does on the field. From now on, you get convicted of a serious crime, you're out for a season even if the judge lets you off with probation and an autograph.

    On foreign policy:
    We would love to see the Olympics return to the days of amateur athletes, but that's not going to happen. We can, however, cure a lot of ills by requiring that all athletes, without exception, must stay in the Olympic Village dorms no matter what their tax bracket. No luxury hotels; no Queen Mary II. This will keep out the pampered and the boorish, and guarantee that everyone who competes does so with the true Olympic spirit.

    We're the Purists, the Old School Party, and we want today's fans to think tomorrow's sports will be better than yesterday.

    Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com




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