Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Rodriguez, Bonds and the Steroids Issue

I'm going to take a pass on this issue (for now) but want to refer you to some great work done by Jeffrey Standen (a.k.a. The Sports Law Professor). In recent posts he goes into many of the problems (legal and cultural) surrounding both Bonds and Rodriguez and their (alleged in the case of Bonds) steroid use.

Click here to access his blog.

Update: Here is another take on A-Rod from Timothy Egan (sent to me by both Daryl and Scott). Egan argues that A-Rod is trying to wriggle off the hook by simply dismissing his drug use as a youthful indiscretion when he was, well..., too old and too wealthy to use his naïveté as an excuse.


Robert J. Hudson said...

Having read both Standen's blog post and Egan's op-ed piece (which prompted a post of my own), I return to these two ideas to say:

1) I appreciate everything The Sports Law Professor has to say about ethics and the "leak." Why (and how) is Congress involved in baseball? This whole Neo-McCarthian "witch hunt" is really disturbing... and leads me to my next point,

2) This damning asterisk (*) Egan wants Bonds and A-Rod to take to the grave is really nothing more than a scarlet letter that reflects our own purist ideals and will, hopefully, fade with time and memory.

Claims to purism do not promote a fan to the ranks of moral judge, and they certainly do not give us the right to cry our heroes sins from the rooftops.

Corry Cropper said...

Like corporate sponsors, lawmakers see an opportunity to capitalize on sports' visibility and they take every opportunity to grandstand and moralize. What happened to standing up for those who can't stand for themselves? Picking on A-Rod amounts to picking low hanging fruit. Congress: Go after the BCS, big corporations and Bud Selig. Leave the players alone.

And I completely agree: the scarlet letter analogy is the right one here. For the health of the players I hope they stay clean. But the kind of moralizing (Ophir calls it a "morality play") that goes on in the American press is beyond the pale.

SM Sprenger said...

Aren't you guys really saying in a roundabout way that doping is ok? I don't disagree, but it seems to go against earlier posts.

The Law Professor is focused on legal niceties, which is his job. What most normal people care about, however, is the truth, which we now know: A-Rod confirmed it on primetime television. I personally couldn't care less if he uses steroids (especially because I never watch baseball), but the fact that people are outraged by A-Rod's lying and hypocrisy should hardly surprising. If we know that he cheated, isn't the asterisk in order, if only out of fairness to those who didn't cheat? This seems inescapable. Sure, there's a lot of blame to go around, but I think people still believe that players know what's right and wrong and need to take personal responsibility. Another bolder tactic would be to go public.

Robert J. Hudson said...

See my post above about "heroes." My point is not that I condone PEDs; it is that I think its a shame that we make a villain of A-Rod, Bonds or McGwire for doing what, purportedly, 300(!) other baseball players were doing at the same time--simply because they were the best. Steroids help build stronger muscles and increase muscle stamina. They do not help develop quick wrists, an eye for the zone or swing technique. This is all talent. They're guilty of being the best. An asterisk is a mark of resentment invented by preachy, soap-boxing, soi-disant purists--like Egan. My point is these players' accolades will outlive the asterisk, which is but the emblem of Bud Selig's Neo-McCarthyist, witch hunt that is the "Steroid Era."

While I dislike the use of steroids for the players for health reasons, I will not condemn a player who a "leak" reveals happened to use (note that of the five names the "source" had, only A-Rod went to the press). While responsibility should fall to the individual players--IF ALL PLAYERS are treated equally, the responsibility for this thing being blown out of proportion fall on the shoulders of Bud Selig and Congress.

As I said above, I appreciate The Sports Lawyer's detailing legal niceties--especially surrounding the unethical foul play of the "leak." As for going public, Scott is right: look at Andy Pettitte--the man is loved, even admired, for stepping forward, admitting his fault, and apologizing to fans.

SM Sprenger said...

I didn't mean going public *after* getting caught--I meant exposing the fraudulence in advance. A-Rod said quite clearly that he used steroids because he felt pressured to perform, to justify the huge money. He could have come clean then if he felt so uncomfortable with the moral (and perhaps) legal dilemma. But why would he do that if everybody else is doing the same thing?

Again, I personally think big-league players should use whatever they want because in the end baseball is now just about entertainment and big money---whatever it takes to gets fans in the stands buying beer and $8 hot dogs. We could then stop the surveillance culture and endless handwringing about the morality of this or that enhancement. What the masses want are homers, so let the players bulk up all they want if it sends more balls out of the park. Maybe they should even allow corked bats.

By the way, McGuire clearly became a lot greater after the enhancement treatments. I remember the dramatic change being somewhat of a joke back in the 80's--but a joke fans were willing to overlook because it made the game more "exciting".

Corry Cropper said...

We are all dopers... (?)

SM Sprenger said...

We are all complicit in the doping to the extent that we knowingly watch sports that have been juiced up for our excitement. To say that we're against doping only if they go after everybody (and not any particular individual) is, in practice, not that different from simply saying let's allow doping.

Anonymous said...

That's true about McGwire, although he did hit 49 HRs before he started juicing.

To be honest, steroids do not bother me any more than would finding out my favorite NBA players smoked pot (or purportedly slept with 20,000 women). For me, its a mute point.

For self-labeled baseball "purists," the main question concerns the record books. "If Babe Ruth had steroids, how many home runs would he have hit???" This is a pointless question. You have to take into account the evolution of the game. If the Babe had a personal trainer, lifted weights, didn't smoke or drink before games, got his amino acids from a source other than hot-dogs, slept (alone) 8 hours a night, wasn't also a pitcher, etc., etc., etc., how AWESOME would he have been. What if... What if... What if...

What we have are the facts, the records. Every player could have his asterisk for some reason or another. But, do we want baseball record books to be a collection of defamatory footnotes?

The hype behind "the Steroid Era" is killing baseball. After all, it is a game--and I long for the day we can approach it, ignoring all scandals, once again through the naive eyes of a 10-yr-old.

SM Sprenger said...

Baseball is dying on it own without steroids. It's the game of another era that lacks appeal for most wired-up, speed addicted youth. What I used to like about going to baseball games, compared to football or basketball games, was precisely that it was slow and quiet. But ostensibly to attract more fans in the late 80's (and in my view the wrong kind of fans) baseball started adding all kinds of sideshows, almost as if to take the focus off the game. The brainshattering music they played at Oakland Stadium between innings
was the last straw for me. What are people so addicted to noise???

Robert J. Hudson said...

I completely agree with you, Scott. It was actually Michael Eisner of Disney that MLB hired to spruce up the game in the late 80s. He is responsible for the between-innings jumbo-tron races, the music, laser shows, mascots, etc. It's hard to even keep score anymore. The face of the game has completely changed since I started going to games in the 80s. It's almost like the baseball is a sort of entre-acte between some computerized circus. And, like you said, with speed-addicted fans buying tickets, who crave bigger, faster and stronger, steroids are the logical answer.

Corry Cropper said...

Yes. Baseball was a pastoral sport in an urban setting--a place to theoretically escape the corporate world and find relaxing, occasionally quiet entertainment. Now it's just one more loud corporate laser show.

Sometimes at college baseball games, the guy running the music falls asleep and fans get some needed silence between innings.

The big problem, though, is that all the side shows imply that baseball execs think the game itself has little appeal so they're compelled to detract from it. Some owner should be courageous and cut all the noise during a game--he may actually attract new fans.