Many people have thrown up their hands in disgust with all of the steroids news lately, and I understand that. It’s not baseball, for one thing. It’s also so unseemly and tabloidy that it’s easy to get fed up with it all in short order. But it is news and it is relevant, so simply hiding our heads in the sand about it all makes little sense either. What to do? Will Carroll has a suggestion:
If journalists are going to admit that they were asleep at the wheel throughout much of the steroid era, it’s time to start asking the hard questions. I’ve seen, so far, only one instance of this, with Ivan Rodriguez. Credit to whoever it was that asked, though I can’t find it online.
Finally, we need to take a look at players who have played their entire minor and major league career under a testing program and decide whether or not we believe in professional sports’ strongest testing program. I’m pretty sure that it’s done baseball no good, because no one seems to believe that it’s stopping things, despite positive results going from 96 to 2 in five years. I was at the NFL Combine today, watching 350 pound men running sub-5.0 dashes, lifting cars … and being called undersized.
We can continue to cover this story as if we’re the sports section of TMZ or we can do the hard work it takes to try educate and enlighten the story. If I were Dinn Mann, the editor of MLB.com, or any sports editor across the country, I’d have my beat writer asking the question.
Will plays with the idea of asking individual players if they used or not. I don’t think that’s the way to go. Way too Salem for my tastes, and it really only gives us one piece of information. But I do agree that we need to veer away from the sensationalism in which the current state of the coverage seems to wallow and focus less on the names for the name’s sake, because that leads us into the cycle of shallow journalism and opinion that gets us all sick of this subject to begin with.
As things are, your standard steroid story goes as follows: (a) user identified; (b) hysteria over the identification; (c) coverage of the apology/statement; and (d) some backfill on the player, usually of the salacious variety (e.g. Mindy McCreedy; phantom cousins in the D.R.). Then things are forgotten for a while, only to have the cycle begin anew when someone else is identified. How much nicer would it be if, instead of this endless cycle of tabloidism, we had some bedrock perspective on the issue as a whole? Some context into which we can throw the A-Rods of the world in at least an attempt to gauge the seriousness of their offenses against baseball and nature. Some depth of information that will allow us to properly analyze the history, culture, and impact of the steroid era and allow us to compare it with that which came before and since. To do that, we have to eschew the paparazzi mentality that currently reigns, roll up our sleeves, and ask some difficult questions. Questions like:
Obsessive followers of this blog will recognize those questions because I’ve raised them before in the wake of the Mitchell Report as a means of pointing out the flaws in that exercise. They’re still good questions, and remain largely unanswered. No, no one or two ballplayers are going to sit down and explain all of this stuff to someone, but they are questions that ambitious reporters and researchers can use to guide them over time as they explore this story with the depth that is so desperately needs.
And until they are answered, we will never be able to get past the gawker mentality of the steroids story. A mentality that sickens so many of us and accomplishes so little.
(thanks to Pete Toms for the link)