Friday, December 14, 2007

Doping: America's Real Pastime

[Racial Disparities Week Concludes at]

I really didn't wanna end the week like this, seriously. In case you haven't noticed, this week's posts all have a central theme: racial disparities in how certain individuals are depicted by the media. We've been all over the place this week, from the Black Runaway Bride, to Obama, to the Baltimore 9, and Crack vs Coke sentencing. I didn't plan the series, but midway through the week, the theme kicked. Our fine folks at Racialicious have been riding shotgun, and I thank everyone new who's dropped by and weighed in.

That said, it's Friday! Break out the Capri Suns!Today was supposed to be lighter, maybe a few YouTube clips, etc. But lo and behold, Major League Baseball's long awaited Mitchell Report on performance enhancing drugs finally dropped yesterday, and I couldn't resist pointing out some of the inherent media bias surrounding it.
A 21-month investigation into use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball concluded Thursday a culture of secrecy and permissiveness gave rise to a "steroids era" in the game that included some of its biggest names, most prominent among them superstar pitcher Roger Clemens.

The long-awaited report by George J. Mitchell gave a detailed account provided by a onetime team trainer who told the panel that he injected Clemens -- a seven-time Cy Young Award winner regarded as the greatest pitcher of the last half-century -- with steroids and human growth hormone while he was with the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees. Clemens was one of 91 players named in the report, a list that included 33 all-stars, 10 most valuable players, and two Cy Young winners.

Among the most prominent current and former players fingered in the report were Barry Bonds, Miguel Tejada, Gary Sheffield, Andy Pettitte, Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire.
While I'm a big sports fan, I will admit I don't follow baseball that closely. The game's too slow, too boring, and too long to watch on TV. On the other hand, the ballpark experience itself is pretty exciting depending on where you see a game. And with a young son, I'm trying to make myself a fan of our local Washington Nationals, although they suck like an Oreck [||]. Am I trying to recapture some childhood memories here? Sure. But I could be doing far worse things, so hey.

Anyways, considering the many big-name players mentioned here, it's no wonder that baseball is probably in some serious jeopardy moving forward. Yes, the NBA had it's minor referee scandal last fall, and the NFL's players seem to spend more time in court than on the field, but none of those issues is nearly as widespread as those alleged in this report.

Perhaps most damning is that some of the players who have long been compared and contrasted with The Most Hated Man In America: Barry Lamar Bonds, were named in the report as well. Namely one Roger "The Rocket" Clemens, who has remained a media favorite despite the oh-so-obvious enlargement of his head [||] over the past decade. So while Bonds has been booed mercilessly in stadiums nationwide for a good 7-8 years now, Clemens has been able to hold teams hostage annually by demanding ridonculously high salaries to pitch when he feels like it. Nobody ever raised much of a stink over the fact that he's still a solid pitcher in his mid-40's, just as Bonds is a solid slugger in his mid-40's.

Clemens didn't have his records and enshrinement in Cooperstown threatened with asterisks. He didn't receive death threats. He didn't have his marriage picked apart in front of the world. He wasn't pegged as a terrible role model for kids. He wasn't the subject of a media witch hunt that included an embedded ESPN reporter who followed him 24-7. He wasn't pelted with batteries and urine. He didn't have his weekend jumpoff mistress outed to the world. He didn't have dozens of books written about his alleged drug use. He wasn't just plain reviled.

Perhaps he will be now, but I seriously doubt it.

I'm sure pundits will say much of this disparity has much to do with the perception that Bonds is an a$$hole who doesn't talk to the media and Clemens is seen instead as an ultimate professional and generally All-American guy who got the benefit of the doubt. I've always felt that the media had it in for Barry because he didn't smile, shuck and jive, and cowtow like the puppet they wanted him to be. I'm sure that like most things, the real answer lies somewhere in between.

But now that all the facts are on the table, Major League Baseball and the media need to treat Clemens, Rick Ankiel, Mark McGuire, Andy Pettite, and company just like they've long treated Bonds.

There should be plenty of asterisks to go around.

Rube Foster is crying inside.

Steroid Report Names Star Players [WashPost]

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