It’s spring again, and just like last year a major new book is prepped to blow the lid offa this steroid thing that everyone’s talking about. I’ve already said my piece (and a half) on Barry, on steroids, and on media hysteria. but in case anyone still cares, a quick rundown of the facts.
Fact: Barry Bonds used steroids, either intentionally or accidentally.
Fact: Sportswriters will drop everything to go on incessantly about steroids.
While we know the reason for the first fact, the second might be a tad murky, so Iâ€™ll tell you why it is: Sportswriters care about steroids more than ordinary people care about steroids, because sportswriters are paid to care about steroids.
Sportswriters arenâ€™t keepers of the faith, protectors of the gameâ€™s integrity (that one makes me giggle just typing it) or anything resembling ombudsmen for you, the fan. They simply get money for having strong opinions that attract viewers and listeners, and that move newspapers and books. The stronger the opinion, the more money â€“ there has proven to be a more or less direct correlation, with the extreme being â€œwelcome to the Monday Night Football broadcast booth, Tony Kornheiser.â€
That, together with the fact that most sportswriters are not exactly Woodwards or Bernsteins, is the reason arguments are kept simple, points kept blunt, and confrontation kept black-and-white. The world of sports reporting is very self-referential and insular, with incestuous intramural debate fast becoming a sport of its own, largely thanks to ESPN, where actual sports are becoming as endangered as music videos on MTV.
The point of all this isnâ€™t that Barry Bonds isnâ€™t guilty, guilty, guilty — itâ€™s that his being guilty means that the fans will serve the sentence by proxy, with their sports pages, magazines and TV shows held hostage by reporters who want to tell them how bad this is. Probably all summer and into the fall.
Theyâ€™ll first hound Barry and the Giants until he retires or is released — writing and filming the whole way. If neither result happens, theyâ€™ll keep working it on a daily basis. Then theyâ€™ll turn to â€œuncoveringâ€ other playersâ€™ dirty laundry. Palmiero, McGwire and Sosa had better work on their anger management.
Heretofore unhounded players will be queried anew (after all, Bonds has passed every drug test heâ€™s been given). Hey, Ichiro and Albert Pujols â€“ Rick Reilly has specimen cups with your names on them! Reporters will also resume hounding politicians, seeking some more Congress/MLB fireworks. Bud Selig may propose some ridiculous new rule, which Don Fehr will shoot down as the idiocy it is, while the â€œjournalistsâ€ argue its merits as if thereâ€™s something to argue.
By this time the playoffs will probably be starting, and weâ€™ll get to hear guys like Tim McCarver use his national platform to drone on about how you gotta understand that steroids are bad, they’ve changed the game, they’re bad, records made since 1995 need to be thrown out or asterisked, and steroids are bad. Peter Gammons will foam at the mouth and pine for the days of his youth when the only illegal substances players consumed were moonshine and bathtub gin. And donâ€™t even think about the 2006 season wrap-ups, which will all begin with the â€œcloudâ€ the game was under.
Enough. There are 749 other players in baseball (actually a lot more during spring training) and actual games of baseball (Iâ€™m assuming here that you enjoy watching baseball games â€“ if not, you might have come here by accident thinking itâ€™s Buzzmachine or something, in which case I apologize for not being as outspoken as Jeff Jarvis). There might actually be stories there too.
Update: I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend a good, hype-reduced book on the steroid controversy: The Juice: The Real Story of Baseball’s Drug Problems, by Will Carroll. You’re welcome.
about the author
Michael Cox has used caffeine extensively in his quest for the title. Remind him of what title that is (he’s too jittery to remember) on our contact page.