Friday, March 18, 2005

Congress on Steroids...
I watched the farce that was the Congressional Hearing on Steroid Use (or whatever they're calling it) on television, and came to several, familiar conclusions.

1. Professional athletes live on a different planet than the rest of us - I saw Jose Canseco beg for immunity, Mark McGuire, for all intents and purposes, took the Fifth, and Sammy Sosa pretended he didn't speak English when the questions got too specific. Any average citizen dragged before a Congressional committe would not have gotten away with what these guys have; they took illegal substances to acquire fame, and then use that fame to shield themselves from the consequences of their actions. McGuire was the worst. His repeated mantra of "I'm not here to talk about the past" (i.e. I'm guilty as hell, but don't expect me to fess up -- I don't have to) was nauseating. Jose Canseco is still the slimy piece of shyte he's always been, and you know he only agreed to show up because he has to push a book. Even when he was confronted with the contradictions in his book, such as the fact that he claims steroids are fine and here to stay, contrasted with his "do as I say, not as I do" spiel, he came off as someone who feels that he is above the rules.

2. Congressmen live on different planet than the rest of us - One only had to look at the Mouse of the House, Henry Waxman (Idiot-California) and his asshole buddy, Bernie Sanders (Communist-Vermont), and the absolute glee they both displayed at being in front of a TV camera, to know it. Bernie took the opportunity to rail about a healthcare "crisis" in this country, which was totally unrelated to what the purpose of the hearing was. Waxman continued his usual practice of speaking from his rectum. This is another instance of Congress deciding it has a right to stick it's colelctive nose under any goddamn tent flap it wishes to. Baseball will not be cleaned up by Congressional action. Marijuana and cocaine are against the law, people in everyday life are randomly tested everyday, and still people use marijuana and cocaine. Laws will do nothing to fix this problem --- the marketplace must correct itself, once again. If baseball were serious about this issue, then players who were caught using steriods would not only be suspended, they would lose serious money, not these measly fines that Bud Selig bandied about as proof positive he's being tough. In this instance, the owners and the baseball folks must realize that many people do, in fact, care about the integrity of the game. Once that integrity is violated, people begin to stay away. Once star athletes who draw the crowds tot he stadium every day start dropping like flies because of suspensions, people will stay away in droves. At that point, the owners will get serious before they lose fans and, more importantly to them, money.

3. Some people still refuse to take responsibility for their actions - this was evident in every way from McGuire refusing to fess up, to Canseco pretending that he didn't start this whole brouhaha and Selig pretending that he is the Commissioner. However, the best and worst example of not taking personal responsibility were the parents of the youngsters who died because of steroid use. Their responsibility as parents was to ensure their children were okay. If, for example, your 15 year old bulks up from 100 pounds to a hefty 180 in a short period of time, you should realize something is up. When your typically mild-mannered child begins to act out in rage unexpectedly, the red flag has been raised. However, in the society we live in we always find someone else to blame. In this case, baseball players caused these kids to do nasty things to their bodies that eventually killed them, and their parents did not notice or did nothing until it was too late. Granted, these players are role models, but they are not a substitute for interested, involved, loving parents. I feel bad that they lost their children, but at some point, you have to take the responsibility of finding out what your kids are up to.Your son is not dead because Jose Canseco took steroids -- he's dead because he took steroids and you didn't do anything about it. Blaming McGuire and Canseco may ease your conscience, but it doesn't erase the fact that you failed as parents.

4. Steroid use is merely an aspect of technology - what I mean by this is simply that science continues to advance, in all aspects of human endeavor, and occasionally, that technology is going to be misused. Steroids were intended to help people with specific, physical maladies, and it's the side effects (boost in testosterone, muscle bulk, increased strength, etc) that were the payoff in this particular misuse of the medications. Technology has affected sports in almost every way imaginable: we have better, stronger materials for our equipment, althletes have access to more information on nutrition and strength training than ever before. Physics has been applied to every aspect of sport from the action of a curveball to the ergonomics of a running shoe. Sporting implements that used to be made of natural materials such as wood and leather have given way to polycarbons and advanced plastics. Newer techniques of production and design have made equipment more effective than ever. How many home runs do you think Hank Aaron would have hit if his bats had been designed on a computer capable of taking the physics of the swing and contact with the ball into account? If he'd had the access to nutritionists, personal trainers and sports medicine specialists would he have played into his 40's, like Barry Bonds is set to do? An intersting point was made by Arnold Schwartzenegger the other night on Hardball: how would a pole vaulter of 50 years ago fared with today's polycarbonite pole that flexes and literally flings the vaulter over the bar as opposed to the old-fashioned wooden poles with very little give? The point is that science enters into our daily lives on every level and that today steroids are the enemy while tomorrow it might be genetic engineering.

5. The Players have the owners over a barrel and they know it - Listening to the folks from MLB try to explain their non-policy policy yesterday, it became obvious that the point of collective bargaining for the players is to protect their own asses, especially when ti comes to the use and distribution of illicit substances. The fines and penalties for drug use outlined yesterday were atrocious and some Congressmen were actually smart enough to notice. Some even did the math to the extent that they realized the fines and suspensions were little more than nuisances to a guy who makes several million dollars a year. The players could never get away with negotiating this good a deal for themselves if the owners were not complicit. After yesterday, I think that's all changed; the public now knows that that players have "get out of jail free" cards written into their contracts.

I personally stopped following baseball, except for occasional encounters with the game, several years ago. A decade of strikes by grown men who get paid a great deal of money to play a kid's game struck me a somewhat retarded. I'm even sicker over it when my favorite sport of hockey is now involved in the same thing. However, I have, in the past couple of years, actually gone to the ballpark and watched a few games, both pro and A-ball. I liked the A-ball game better, since the players there were hustling, diving, sliding and striving; it was fun to watch. I'd rather watch people who are hungry, who want to make a name for themselves, who play hard everyday with enthusiasm than to watch a drug-enhanced, multi-millionaire who won't even try to leg out a ground ball. That's baseball. What we have now, with junkie players and timid owners more concerned with their wallets than their product, is too painful to watch.

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