The Mitchell Blues (The Curse of the Mannino – Update)

So now we hear, that, in 2008, two security staffers working in the clubhouse of the Boston Red Sox professional baseball team were fired for possession and use of anabolic, androgenic steroids. All involved have denied any connection between the staffers and Red Sox players. Nevertheless, coming on the heels of the Ramírez/Ortiz revelations, the news is ominous.

Even more ominous is the attitude of the commentator featured (featured) by ESPN in response to the story:

Nobody cares about the steroid use from six years anymore. Nothing is going to happen unless caught again. They were not banned in 2003 at the time, so sorry, no championships are going to be taken away, no asterisks are going to be used, baseball games are still going to be played today, so stop your whining and deal with it.

“So what”, right? Riiight. Tell it to the kids.

When the Mitchell Report on steroid abuse in professional baseball came out, a couple of years ago, the Red Sox escaped attention. What did not escape attention was that George Mitchell, the “Mitchell” of the Mitchell Report, was a once and future Red Sox employee. Wonder what he’s thinking now …?

The below, from Felloffatruck Publications, was originally posted on 16 December 2007.


On the day after the Mitchell Report detailing the scope and extent of “steroid“, HGH, and other illegal performance-enhancing drug abuse in American Major League Baseball was released, I heard the lead author of the report, George Mitchell, speak to the press.

I was listening to a radio news report, so I didn’t hear all, or even most, of what Mitchell had to say. What I did get to hear was enough. Mitchell, in effect, blamed baseball’s drug crisis on the Commissioner, the team owners, the players, and the union representing the players.

My first thought: You forgot someone.

After all, as anyone who has spent more than five minutes listening to sports talk radio (and yes, my hand’s up) has heard, any time the topic of how We the People can tolerate Alex Rodriguez making as much money in a day as a university professor, or any four full-time McDonald’s employees, make in a year comes up, “baseball is a business”.

“And a business exists for why, dude?”

    “To make money, dude.”

“And where does that money come from?”

    “From the people who buy stuff from it, dude.”

“So if people were really pissed off about baseball players using performance-enhancing drugs …”

    “Baseball’d go broke. Dude.”

“And is it?”

    Hell, no.

Dude. Indeed, when the press asked Bud Selig what the impact of the Mitchell Report would be, his reply was “We expect to break attendance records again this coming year.”

So tell me again why we’re prosecuting Barry Bonds, instead of handing him a medal for promoting The American Way Of Profit?

For that’s what we’re doing, any time we go to the ballpark, or turn the TV or the radio or the computer to the game, or buy My Favorite Team’s Official Gear, or even mention the Curse of the Bambino – or the Billy Goat – in a blog. We the People are voting for steroids in baseball.

Yes we are. Forget polls and sanctimonious pronouncements. The only – the only – way to get steroids out of baseball, not to mention the rest of professional and amateur sports, is to stop supporting those sports. To make them go broke unless and until they clean up their acts.

Every once in awhile, I would hear a caller on sports talk radio call for a boycott of sports for this reason or that. And the station hosts would immediately come down on that caller like the proverbial ton of bricks. “It won’t work. If you don’t want your seat, someone else’ll take it. Why hurt yourself for nothing?” Of course they would say those things, they like their money too. I wonder if they even take any callers like that any more? Somebody lets that idea onto the airwaves, it could hurt the station’s bottom line. No faster ticket to poverty for a sports salesman announcer.

Or a university professor, for whom the success of his school’s football team is his last hope of ever getting his leaky, burned-out building fixed.

Dammit, there are times when I like nothing better than to watch a good game. But I haven’t set foot in a stadium since that day in 1981 when I sat next to a faculty wife in a famous university’s gridiron house. An opposing player had crossed the 50-yard line during a game that the home team was winning 33-0, and she was angry, yelling for her side to “Spear him! Spear him!” Yes, spearing is illegal, and it has killed people.

I remember when John McEnroe rose to prominence in professional tennis. Because at that point, I stopped watching tennis, and have never gone back to it. Because John McEnroe’s artistic temperament was more than a match for his athletic talent. Not for him the unruffled demeanor of a Björn Borg – born of a father who, at the first sign of a thrown racket, grounded his son and made it absolutely clear that any repeat would doom forever his dreams of playing the game. A game in which manners mattered.

Why? Because its inventors, and the inventors of similar games, recognized that sporting events are rituals. Specifically, ritualized combat. Rituals that connect us with the other animals on this blue sphere, all the way back (at least) to the cartilaginous fishes of 450 million years ago. Rituals that permit the stronger of two contestants to be identified without exposing both to potentially lethal attacks except when absolutely necessary. Rituals whose rules serve to minimize the risk of mayhem, murder, war.

Well, screw the rules. John McEnroe would express himself.

And American tennis boomed.

Pete Sampras in his prime most likely would have given John McEnroe a good ol’-fashioned whupping on the tennis court.

But Pete Sampras played like a gentleman.

And American tennis went broke. Pete who??

Yes. When We the People call for spearing hapless opponents, or 73 home runs a year out of a bottle, or thrown rackets and F-bombing referees at a tennis match, or chest-bumping and F-bombing referees at an NBA game, or for Terrell Owens to pull his cell phone out of his pocket in the end zone after scoring a gridiron touchdown, we are voting in favor of all of these things. All of which stretch the rules of the rituals. No stretching? Boring! And it’s only boring – a moving target, constantly moving towards the bleeding edge – that can lead to a sporting event going broke.

Trouble is, when the rules of ritualized combat break down, there’s only one thing left.

The real thing.

Tell me again, how much was the Bush Administration asking us to pony up to support the war in Iraq? This week?

  – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2007, 2009 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.

One comment

  1. The tests in 2003 were only conducted because the Player’s Union was told the tests would be confidential and penalty free.

    Compared to track & field, swimming and cycling – the most often cited for drug problems – the American major sport leagues have no drug testing policies. If there were tests, there would be no major league sports.

    Therefore, the fans who have stuck with sports through the last several decades have done so with the full realization that most if not all athletes are doping. Those fans don’t care and never will. The line between entertainment and sport has steadily been eroded in America and now, there is very little credibility from either owners or players when it comes to drug use.

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