I have been trying desperately not to think about football. So far, these past two weeks, this endeavor has not been going well for me. The other day, for instance, my American history professor asked me if I could tell the class who led the Boston Tea Party. I answered Rodney Harrison.

While I still can’t be absolutely sure that Rodney was not in some way involved, it was not the answer my professor was looking for.

So, in an effort to extricate myself from my own maniac obsession, I leaned back in my seat on the sofa, took a sip of my warm Clamato, and paged through the Reader’s Digest that my 10-year-old cousin had given me as a Christmas present.

There was no hope.

I turned the TV back on, ready to submit myself fully to another hour of Super Bowl coverage on SportsCenter.

Then Sammy Sosa came to the rescue.

Now, every baseball fan who has listened to enough of the blathering of the experts in the newspapers and on TV knows that back in 1998, Sammy Sosa, along with Mark McGuire, saved baseball from the irrelevancy it had suffered since the 1994 players’ strike by staging the most exciting home run race in baseball history. Sosa was a legend, and kids across America were pounding their chests, kissing their fingers and showing the peace sign every time they knocked the ball around the sandlot. Sosa even helped the Cubs get within one out of the World Series two years ago.

But times change, and Sammy wanted out of Chicago. That’s when Peter Angelos, the free-spending owner of the Baltimore Orioles, gave his team the go-ahead to trade for Sosa, and I was finally given something to think about other than football.

When people discuss what’s wrong with Major League Baseball, the most frequent complaint is that the lack of a salary cap makes most teams uncompetitive. Some evidence would seem to support this idea. The Yankees, arguably the most successful team of the past decade, have also had the highest payroll during that stretch. The World Champion Red Sox have the second highest.

Then we get to teams like the Orioles and the Mets. The Mets had the fourth highest payroll in baseball last year, and the O’s, though they did an admirable job of paring down their costs last year, have also been among the payroll leaders over the past decade.

What has all this spending brought these teams? Except for a sorry performance by the Mets in the 2001 World Series, not much.

So here are the Orioles, who brought in Miguel Tejada with no supporting cast last year, trading for a one-year shot with Sosa, who is soon to be a free agent. A chance to see Sosa might put fans in the seats for the first few weeks of the season, but after that, people are going to realize that they don’t really want to pay to watch a team that’s not going to be contending come September.

As for the Mets, they habitually make the same mistakes as Baltimore, just on a much grander scale.

It is hard for me to watch this as someone who witnessed the Dan Duquette era in Boston – when the general strategy was to sign Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez to ridiculously large contracts and then fit whoever else you could find into the missing spots in the rotation and batting order – to witness what is going on in Queens and Baltimore without feeling some pity and sympathy.

Even as the Red Sox have tried the past two years to dump Ramirez’s enormous contract, this last time to the Mets, I now see Omar Minaya, the GM of the Mets, make the same mistake as Duquette, only with Carlos Beltran and a much older, more fragile Pedro.

With these kinds of moves, I don’t have much confidence in the Mets or the Orioles for the upcoming season. But one thing is for sure: I think it’s about time to start thinking about the Super Bowl.

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