On a Tuesday morning in Washington, the wrong questions were asked of the right people, and the result was four hours we'll never get back. You could imagine Donald Fehr and Bud Selig giving each other a quick low five under the table when the committee wrapped up business. Buddies for a day, they fooled 'em again.
This might be the best time for someone in a position of power to stand up and cast a vote for amnesty. Dole out equal amounts of blame in all directions -- players, owners, general managers, you, me, the MLBPA, the media, Donald Rumsfeld, Jessica Simpson -- and get on with the business of (a) convincing players to stop injecting their bodies with syringes full of perceived wealth and fame, or (b) developing a more efficient way for everyone to ignore the problem and cover their asses.
AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari
Bud Selig told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee members what they wanted to hear -- even if some of them can't pronounce his name.
Oh, did we mention the great strides baseball has made since its last glorious appearance before Congress? Apparently, according to a bunch of elected officials, it's been wondrous. If you just started paying attention at the opening gavel, you would have thought Bud Selig would be a good candidate for the country's next drug czar. Please, spare us.
Here's one argument for amnesty: There were ominous signs that Selig ("Sell-ig" to many on the esteemed panel) is considering offering up a few nonuniformed sacrifices to the gods of apple pie and 3-1 sliders. At the top of the list appear to be two San Francisco Giants executives, general manager Brian Sabean and managing general partner Peter Magowan.
Now, we enjoy the occasional handcuff-accessorized Armani as much as the next guy, but where does this stop? There is no question the players are taking a disproportionate amount of blame for an entire era of profiteering, so some balance is in order. But if Sabean and Magowan are punished, then what about managers and legitimate trainers and PR people and everybody else on the payroll smart enough to wonder how a guy might gain 30 pounds of muscle and a third ear over one offseason?
Plus, how do you punish Sabean and Magowan? No overspending on old ballplayers for 90 days?
The Giants' cowering leaders did exactly what Selig did -- they looked the other way. They looked the other way because it was good business. They looked the other way because their problem -- Barry Bonds, Inc. -- became bigger than their capacity to solve it.
So just stop. Take a breath. See the Mitchell report for what it was -- a completely incomplete blast of names and accusations and suggestions that could wind up putting a stop to the era of steroid madness, if only through universal oversaturation. Call it steroid fatigue and get on with the task at hand.
The big topic, at least on Capitol Hill, is the impact steroid use at the big league level has on kids. Despite the typically overheated what-will-we-tell-the-children rhetoric, it's a valid concern. However, does anyone besides Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., really believe there are kids "going to the store" on weekends to spend their allowance on HGH or steroids? This is similar to Roger Clemens "proving" he didn't take steroids because he doesn't pull a tractor with his teeth. Is there room anywhere for reason to clear its throat and enter into the discussion?
Here's an impolitic aspect of steroid madness that never gets mentioned: Kids need to be told the difference between self-administering steroids they might get at the local gym and the highly supervised, highly expensive regimens employed (um, allegedly) by guys like Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi. It's not an excuse for the players, or a justification, but it's a fact: The way those guys acquire and "take" steroids -- it was often said that one guy's system cost $40K a month -- is different from the way a high school baseball player does it. Any reality-based education needs to include that sort of information, and not just a statue with its arms crumbling in Selig's oft-mentioned PSAs.
One problem with rooting the problem in reality, as exemplified by the Congressional Committee on Aggressive Mispronunciation, is the hackneyed view of baseball as a romance novel. This concept is traditionally espoused by people who see the game from a distance, or -- in the case of many committee members -- don't see the game at all.
Add to the list of great defenders of the grand old game Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., who sat there straining to read something about apple pie and hometowns and other things she believes shouldn't be messed with. She read a prepared statement as if each word existed completely independently of the ones that came before or after. She mispronounced Sabean as "Sabeen" and Segui as "Sa-gee." Even before she dropped a "boughten" on us -- "Every fan who has boughten a ticket to see the game for the past 20 years has been witness to a fraud" -- I was wondering how the person feels who actually lost an election to this person. Do you ever recover?
It just isn't that hard to come prepared. It isn't that hard to ask someone how to pronounce the names of prominent public figures before you go on national television to shatter your credibility. The hearing had everything -- various pronunciations of "Palmeiro," interchangeable versions of "Tejada" (you say "Tay-ha-da," I say "Ta-hey-da"), "postsession" for "postseason" and, of course, the obligatory groan-inducing Yogi Berra "deja-vu-all-over-again" reference.
The best line of the day came from Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., who said, "This doesn't seem to be something Congress should be doing." He was right, but only to a certain extent: The reason they shouldn't be doing it is because they've repeatedly proved they can't.
Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Sound off to Tim here.