THE BUSINESS AND POLITICS OF SPORTS
It probably was not a good Friday for Jayson Stark and his cohorts who are members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Barry Bonds is not going to jail despite the best efforts of the federal government and Stark's cohorts to convict him of some heinous crime for allegedly taking steroids. The baseball scribes' handpicked choice to be the Most Valuable Player in the National League, Ryan Braun, allegedly failed a drug test.
Barry Bonds, pending appeal, will have to spend 30 days under house arrest at his home in the 90210 zip code, the same zip code that was part of an old FOX television show, "Beverly Hills 90210."
Bonds can always make an appearance on the CW Network's 90210 to re-enforce his house arrest status at some point. Bonds also has some other restrictions as part of a sentence that included two years’ probation and has to pay a $4,000 fine.
The United States Government spent multimillions of dollars in prosecuting Bonds.
The “people” were not impressed with the case or drug usage in sports.
That makes another group that has yawned at the drug integrity issue.
Included in that group are cable TV executives from Disney (ESPN) and Time Warner who give baseball truckloads of money for the right to carry MLB games on their distribution platforms and Rupert Murdoch (the alleged tough guy on crime if the Murdoch-owned FOX News Channel and New York Post are indicative of his thinking) who lavishly spends on baseball nationally and in some cable markets like Los Angeles and Dallas and San Diego for his regional networks.
MLB's corporate partners don't seem to be too perturbed with baseball's banned substance past nor do those who buy luxury boxes, club seats and season tickets. The only ones who seem to be bothered are Stark and his cronies and grandstanding politicians circa 2005, 2006.
Stark and his BBWWA colleagues cheered Major League Baseball's (using Commissioner Bud Selig's term) "renaissance" in the late 1990s which was fueled in part by a home run record race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Both men were accused by the scribes (including a classless bit of showboating by the scribe anointed as “great” by his peers Rick Reilly. The greatest writer of them all wanted to take Sosa for a drug test in what is now accepted as the truest form of self appointed seriousness in all of tabloid journalism) of taking performance enhanced drugs in the steroids category. Eventually in 2005 McGwire and Sosa were hauled before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to discuss steroid and other banned substance abuse in Major League Baseball.
As a result of Congressional pressure, the Major League owners and the Major League Players Association agreed to a stronger drug testing policy with meatier suspensions handed out to players who failed drug tests.
The Milwaukee Brewers player Ryan Braun failed a drug test and is now challenging the finding. Braun is facing a 50 game suspension and loss in pay.
In a country where the credo of innocent until proven guilty has become a forgotten proverb, Ryan Braun has been given the scarlet letter A by Jayson Stark. The baseball writers have coined a phrase to give them cover for keeping certain suspected steroid and other banned substance users or players out of the Hall of Fame. Those performers who complied record performing statistics —"the steroid era" — which according to “baseball historians” lasted between 1992 and 2006 or somewhere around those dates.
Enhancers were probably used in baseball as in other sports long before 1992.
The baseball writers and their little group—the BBWWA, a group that is about as relevant as McSorley's Old Ale House in Greenwich Village was to women prior to a judge's ruling in 1970 that they saloon had to admit women into the establishment—have assumed a moral guardianship of Major League Baseball.
Members of the BBWWA thought the "steroids" era was done and they could get back to doing what they did best —scribble a few sentences about the game and enjoy baseball. Braun's test result became a problem and Stark on the Mike and Mike show said Braun would have to live with a possible 50 game suspension for the rest of his life.
Stark and his colleagues seem to be reading from the 1850 Nathaniel Hawthorne classic. "The Scarlet Letter" and seem to be confusing Braun with Hester Prynne the woman who was scorned by puritan Boston in the 1640s according to Hawthorne. Prynne had to wear a scarlet A because she was an adulterer.
Stark seems to think Braun should have some letter attached to his clothing too. Maybe a "C" for cheater because sports people think that taking banned substances or performance enhancing drugs is not law breaking but cheating and they need to go all out in protecting the integrity of the sport.