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Forget juicing; go with the chip

With all of the attention being paid to steroids and HGH, one of the hottest performance-enhancing substances in sports is being overlooked, even though its use is at epidemic proportions. The chip. Specifically, the chip on the shoulder. Apparently, the chip on the shoulder can make you run faster, jump higher and generally help you be a better athlete. Now, there is no test that I know of for the chip, and there appears to be no policy against its use in sports. I'm not quite sure what sort of chip we are talking about here - a wooden chip, "Chips Ahoy" - the possibilities are many, which may explain the lack of testing. And the long-term effects are unknown as well, although if we are talking about a wooden chip, splinters could be a problem. That doesn't seem to deter athletes, who are fearlessly speaking out about their use of the chip on the shoulder. After the Cowboys 28-23 win over the Redskins, Terrell Owens basically credited his four-touchdown performance to the chip. "I get tired of the critics saying this and that," Owens said. "You know, I listen to it. And so I am, I'm playing with a chip on my shoulder." Now, T.O. didn't discover the chip. It has been around since the early 19th century, according to reports of its origin, which supposedly began when people wanting to fight would walk around with a chip on their shoulder. One of the first mentions of the chip on the shoulder reportedly came in the May 20, 1830 edition of the Long Island Telegraph, which gave this description: "When two churlish boys were determined to fight, a chip would be placed on the shoulder of one, and the other demanded to knock it off at his peril." Obviously, the chip on the shoulder has come to mean something else now, unless T.O. and others are inviting people to slug it out with them. With the chip on the shoulder on the rise, that could mean a lot of fighting, but now it is not against any particular person. It is a fight against the world. The use of the chip seemed to take off this season when Redskins running back Clinton Portis admitted he was using the chip, and also offered chips to anyone who wanted one after Washington's season-opening win over the Miami Dolphins. "I'm going to run with a chip on my shoulder from now on," Portis said after rushing for 98 yards and one touchdown, "If I don't, then I am going to get that pat on my shoulder from you, and then you're going to go behind my back and say get rid of him. So I'm going to continue to run with a chip on my shoulder. "It's cool," Portis said. "If not, I got a chip for you anyway." That seemed to open the floodgates, and it has risen to record levels recently. Baseball: Eric Chavez told the San Francisco Chronicle that he planned on using the chip this coming season. "I've busted my butt, and I've been at 30-40 percent," he said. "So I want to let fans know that I'm going to play with a chip on my shoulder next year." Playing with that chip can't be good for his back and shoulder problems. Boxing: Before his welterweight title bout against Kermit Cintron recently, Jesse Feliciano revealed his strategy to reporters. "I am going in the ring with a chip on my shoulder," he said. "No one thinks I can beat this guy, but I am here to prove everyone wrong." He could have used a bigger chip. Cintron stopped Feliciano in the 10th round. But the chip may have nearly worked. Cintron broke his right hand sometime during the fight, most likely when he hit Feliciano's chip on the shoulder. Drag racing: NHRA Top Fuel driver "Hot Rod" Fuller, who apparently is not a favorite among his fellow drivers, declared recently to the Long Beach Press Enterprise, "I've been driving with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder. It bothers me a little bit." That may be worse than driving while talking on your cell phone. In football, the chip on the shoulder has become nearly standard issue, like a helmet and shoulder pads. The Indianapolis Colts - the defending Super Bowl champions, mind you - have not just one, but two players who have come out with chip confessions. Antoine Bethea, the safety from Howard University, told the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette not long ago, "I'll always play with a chip on my shoulder. That's just the way it's been." And rookie defensive tackle Ed Johnson said told the Terre Haute, Ind., Tribune-Star, "I know I belong at this level, in this league. You have doubters everywhere about everything. So I guess that I have more of a chip on my shoulder than I am trying to prove anything to anyone." I'm surprised Nike hasn't come out yet with a version of the chip on the shoulder. Now, there may be some competitors who do not have the advantage of having a chip on their shoulder, or want to risk the long term effects of using a chip, so it may be time to level the playing field and have an independent investigation into the use of the chip on the shoulder. And who should run it? Erik Estrada, Officer Frank "Ponch" Poncherello himself, star of the 1970s series "CHiPS." Let the chips fall where they may.

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