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Archive for Saturday, December 15, 2007

Commentary: Mitchell Report holds few surprises

December 15, 2007

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Baseball, drugged up on pills and potions, has never been healthier than it got by going through the pharmacy. Steroids, it turns out, gave the game strength in more ways than one. Attendance, revenue, salaries and interest were like those baseballs bloated humans kept hitting. They kept going up, up, up and into unprecedented places. Never has something this allegedly poisoned and contaminated felt quite so good.

So all that howling you heard Thursday, when George Mitchell produced the most anticlimactic announcement in the history of 409-page announcements, was just like the inflated era Mitchell's useless investigation documents. It was quite the entangled lie.

The loud consternation you hear is just as artificial as baseball's players allegedly were. Never in two decades covering sports have I seen a larger disparity between what journalists keep telling me is important and what fans keep telling me isn't. For all the names that got smeared Thursday, for all the shame that got slathered upon an entire sport, is there one fan out there who won't go to games because of Thursday's news? Never mind thousands or hundreds. Do you know one person out there so indignant about Thursday's noise that he/she will stop giving baseball money?

Baseball has never been more popular than it is today in the only important way we keep score about these things in sports: revenue and attendance. Your customers aren't that upset when they keep reaching into their wallets and setting attendance records even after Rafael Palmeiro wags a finger at Congress. It is instructive that the politicians in our poor city were approving a plan to give the Marlins tax dollars for a new stadium Thursday while you could still hear the droning echo from Mitchell's news conference.

You don't hear a lot of remorse, do you? You hear a lot of denials and excuses from players. You hear a lot of "It was B-12" and "It was for an injury" and "I thought it was flaxseed oil."

But what you don't hear is "I'm sorry." Why? Because they aren't sorry.

Oh, sure, there are some baseball players who don't like that they were caught. But regretting the reaction isn't the same as regretting the action. Roger Clemens isn't sorry that he extended his career into another mountain of millions that wouldn't have been available if not for the healing health of hormones that kept him playing into his 40s. Sammy Sosa isn't remorseful that he juiced himself to global icon. And all those named fringe players who got help to climb from minor-league buses to major-league pensions and health benefits aren't partaking in regret today about what they did for their families.

Looking for edges is what athletes do. Of course they would use pills and potions to heal and help. The surprise isn't that some would. The surprise is that some wouldn't.

We want our athletes to care irrationally. We just don't want them to care too much?

Baseball's players did what competition-aholics will always do. You can't allow athletes to police themselves, as baseball did. Its like asking piranha to be polite about feeding. When the choice in this cruel and lucrative an ecosystem is between being honorable or losing to the guy who isn't, that isn't much of a choice at all. Especially not when a few more miles per hour on your fastball is the difference between the minor leagues and setting yourself up for life with one contract. So baseball became pro wrestling - big and fake entertainment.

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