Thursday, March 17, 2005

Baseball Hearings

Unlike many others, I completely agree with Congress getting involved with the problems of steroids in Major League Baseball and in athletics in general. Congress controls national drug policy and if a large organization such as baseball is conspiring to hide their abuse of controlled drugs, then it is reasonable for them to investigate that. If this large organization is looked up to by millions of kids who might follow their example, then not only is it reasonable move to hold hearings, it is a necessary one.

Congress has in the past held circus-like hearings on subjects like payola in radio, fixes in game shows and other “unimportant” things. They waste their time hearing from puppets and celebrities opine on issues of the day. This is hardly an unusual use of their time. Besides, the national government is already regulating baseball by giving it an anti-trust exemption.

The steroid controversy comes down to the following. When one player decides to take steroids, it gives an incentive for all the others to take it in order to keep up. You end up having to cheat and ruin your body or risk being out in the cold, out of the game. This ruinous competition is a downward spiral ruining the lives of players and the game they play and love. This is addition to the problem of many young men dying trying to replicate their icons’ success. Steroids and other performance-enhancers are risking athletes’ health and are corrupting athletic competition. This seems a worthy enough topic to discuss in Congress.

Since they did not offer the players immunity (a mistake IMO) and the general reluctance among ballplayers to be seen as a snitch, we likely will hear nothing new, but at least it will refocus attention on the issue and perhaps push MLB just a little bit closer to joining the World Anti-Doping Agency and give some real teeth to regulations ensuring fair competition.

In order to sound contrarian or maintain their intellectual elitism, those in the sports media have criticized the hearings as pointless grandstanding. Maybe they are, but the side effects could be well worth suffering politicians’ egos. And besides, this is the same media establishment that kept on claiming that Joe Blow fan just liked “dingers” and didn’t care about the integrity of the game that he watched. This condescending attitude towards baseball fans turned out to be wrong then, I wonder if this incarnation of it will be as well.

ESPN.com is keeping a running summary of the day’s hearings.

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