First impressions, second thoughts and the third degree:

We knew the latest vote for the Hall of Fame was going to be a referendum on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball as soon as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa retired and became eligible for consideration at the same time.

Bonds, Clemens and Sosa — the most scrutinized of the 37 names on the ballot because of their epic links to the steroid era — needed 75 percent of the vote to gain entry into Coopers town. As expected, they didn't come close. As expected, their candidacies detracted from the rest of the nominees, especially Craig Biggio, a member of the 3,000-hit club who managed only 68.2 percent of the vote.

Another referendum on the PED matter will be conducted a year from now and its volume could be louder. Not only are first-ballot no-brainers like Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas eligible for the first time, so is Jeff Kent.

Kent has a resume that merits inclusion in Cooperstown — he's the all-time home run leader among second basemen — but he also was an outspoken advocate of drug testing in Major League Baseball. He endorsed the idea of having players submit blood samples to detect the use of banned substances in 2008.

"If ultimately you want a clean game, then it needs to happen," Kent said.

That wish became reality last week when management and the players' union agreed to test for human growth hormones during the regular season. The announcement came one day after Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, got 37.6 percent of the Hall of Fame vote; Bonds, a seven-time Most Valuable Player, received 36.2; and Sosa, a member of the exclusive 600-homer club, got 12.5.

The message sent by those omissions would be amplified if Kent made it to Cooperstown before those three did.

TIME FOR YOUR COLINOSCOPY: The Packers won't soon forget quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his multidimensional abilities in leading San Francisco to a 45-31 victory over Green Bay in the NFC playoffs Saturday.

Question is, how should the Green Bay think tank respond to the weaknesses exposed by Kaepernick, who rushed for a quarterback record 181 yards while accounting for 444?

Does general manager Ted Thompson push the reset button and use his first six draft picks on defensive players as he did last spring? Does defensive coordinator Dom Capers get zipped? Does Thompson — gasp — look to retool the unit via free agency?

Or does Thompson elect to give quarterback Aaron Rodgers a few more toys to play with so that the Packers aren't inclined to punt on fourth-and-5 at midfield with 11 minutes, 28 seconds left in the fourth quarter while trailing by 14 on the road in an NFC playoff game?

REVISITATION: Big Ten Conference commissioner Jim Delany might consider axing the oft-panned Leaders and Legends divisions, which is bad news for those of us just getting used to those titles.

Besides, soon-to-be-members Rutgers and Maryland may interpret the move as a suggestion they lack in both categories.

SINCERELY YOURS: The biggest challenge for Lance Armstrong in his much-hyped mea culpa with Oprah isn't answering uncomfortable questions or even telling the whole truth.

It's whether he can strike a contrite, sincere pose about his reported use of performance-enhancing drugs and their impact on him winning seven Tour de France titles and becoming a global icon.

Armstrong, once a celebrated cancer survivor, has been stripped of those titles and his status as a respected humanitarian in the medical community has been forever tarnished because it's apparent he lied through his teeth about using PEDs. His deceit was made more distasteful by his vindictive treatment of those caught up in the swirl of his fiction.

To date, Armstrong has shown no public sign of humility or shame. He might actually do so in the company of Oprah — their interview was conducted Monday and will be aired Thursday — but it's an uphill climb more difficult than any he encountered on a racing bike.

Armstrong said he will answer questions "directly, honestly and candidly." For the sake of those who were inspired by his story and crushed by the harsh truth — especially those who have fought cancer — he better do so sincerely or risk falling further out of favor with a public he once charmed.


Contact Andy Baggot at abaggot@madison.com or 608-252-6175.

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