Saturday, December 15, 2007

Say It Isn't So, America

This past week former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell published his report on his two year investigation of drug use within Major League Baseball. As expected, the report was full of reports of abuse of steroids, use of human growth hormones, and other performance enhancing drugs. Of course, like people slowing down to view the aftermath of a traffic accident, the American people (especially those of us who love baseball) paused briefly to see who the report would name. Big names such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Miguel Tejada, Rafael Palmeiro, Jose Canseco and several others were identified as allegedly taking steroids or some other performance enhancing drug over the course of their careers.

Also, expected, denials from the players, especially Clemens came swift and vigorous and Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig promised action.

Sigh.

One of my favorite movies is Casablanca. I never thought anyone has been cooler than Bogart playing Rick. But, my absolute favorite scene in this film is when Claude Raines, playing the Vichy police Lieutenant Louie proclaims to Rick after closing down his club that "I'm Shocked! Shocked to find gambling going on in this establishment!" Immediately after saying this, the croupier comes up to Louie and gives him his winning which he immediately pockets with a hearty laugh. See, the deal is that Louie is being enormously obvious and hypocritical.

Commissioner Selig isn't Louie in this sense, rather he is the pious, somber guy who promises to reform the game. Bullshit. Selig, along with the rest of the owners (he owns a stake indirectly in the Milwaukee Brewers), the players and the fans (yes, my friends, us) is complicit in allowing this to occur. My beef is we exclaim disgust, disappointment, outrage (see Congressman Chris Shays R-CT bloviating about this on the House floor this past week) that we cheaters in Major League Baseball.

Please Bud, get over it. Stop trying to sell us a line. We know you've ignored this as just about every other baseball commissioner has since Kennesaw "Mountain" Landis. As long as the game has been played there have been people cheating. Anyone remember the Black Sox Scandal of 1918? Perhaps the name Shoeless Joe Jackson brings it back to you? Whether it's stealing the other teams signs, cheating by throwing spitballs, corking bats, running out of baselines to avoid being tagged, there are a number of ways that one can and does cheat in this game. The fans have been there all along, never doing anything more than shaking there heads in disappointment when one got caught, but lining up the very next day to buy their tickets, hot dogs and beer to watch some other juiced guy hit a home run.

Didn't we always know? Didn't we understand that when men turn from lithe, graceful speedsters who can hit for average to hulking, muscle rippling, homer pounding behemoths whose heads look like they've been inflated by an air pump, that something was up? Sure we did. We kept going anyway. We'll keep going anyway.

The problem with drug abuse or any other type of performance enhancing activity in professional sports is that it is expected behavior and the only time it's punished is when it is caught. To stop this, the fans (yes, you and me again) will have to cut the monster's head off. We'll have to stop going to the games. Can you do that? Would you do that for Baseball, Football, Hockey, Soccer, Tennis, Running, Golf, etc. etc. etc? Can I do that?

Tell me what you think,

Regards,

Dennis

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