Tuesday, January 27, 2009

We Are Not Alone...Just Lonely

Some people go to church every Sunday. Others may ride or race their bikes, watch sports, go shopping or even spend time with family and friends. For most, Sunday is a day of comforting rituals, both public and private, allowing for reflection on the past week as well as anticipation (or fear) of the next.

While I have been known to partake in some of these activities myself from time to time, there is no more regular part of my Sunday routine than watching ESPN from 7:00 to 8:30 am. For those unfamiliar with this particular block of programming, it consists of (the Emmy Award winning) Outside The Lines, The Sports Reporters and the first half of SportsCenter. Throw in a cup of good coffee (or three) and you’ve got the recipe for a pretty nice little Sunday morning.

So…I was intrigued when, a few hours prior to the Tour Down Under/Lance Armstrong Show on VS, (the Emmy Award winning) Outside The Lines focused on performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball and the Mitchell Report. Even though the topic is old, at least it wasn’t about drugs in bike racing.

Since the Mitchell Report is basically baseball’s rendition of Operacion Puerto, it was quite intriguing that the two primary witnesses were a sketchy personal trainer/gopher and a former batboy/clubhouse attendant for the New York Mets. Gee…no wonder there have been zero convictions after 21 months and $20 million. No subpoena power equals no...nothing. Way to go George Mitchell.

While I am not intending to compare the Mitchell Report and Operacion Puerto, it is striking how many similarities I envisioned between the various players in each particular drama. From the minutia of interactions between the “dealer” and the “user” and the common goal of success at all costs, all the way up to the near-if not outright-complicity of managers, teams and even the associations who organize and run the sports themselves.

While the latter issue is a touchy one at best, the former element regarding the process of sourcing and purchasing performance enhancing drugs is much more straightforward. Last Sunday’s (Emmy Award winning) Outside The Lines comes back into the picture now as it consisted of a lengthy interview with Kirk Radomski, the self-proclaimed steroid and HGH supplier to 200-300 professional baseball players.

But whereas Operacion Puerto has bags of blood with hokey nicknames, the Mitchell Report has Radomski, who is more than happy to eliminate any pet detective work by naming names. And I mean, lots of names. All of which you can now find at your local book store in his new punningly-titled literary masterpiece “Bases Loaded.”

Must every sports-related book title have some cheesy double entendre in order to be published? I’m not necessarily complaining because some of them are clever and if I ever write a book I will probably do it too but still…what’s up with that?

Anyway, Radomski is certainly no Pulitzer Prize winner (this is a clubhouse attendant we’re talking about here) but he did manage to come up with enough material to fill a book and many hundreds of pages in the Mitchell Report. Therefore, one may be inclined to think he’s not making this all up out of his own creative genius. The fact that he goes on to snitch on the likes of Lenny Dykstra. David Segui. Roger Clemens, Eric Gagne, Mo Vaughn, Chuck Knoblauch, Kevin Brown, Miguel Tejada, Andy Pettitte and Fernando Vina, all of whom have been somewhat suspect over the years, makes his story begin to sound downright plausible.

Consider also that Radomski has served no time in prison as a result of his confession to dealing prohibited substances and that none of the players cited have pursued legal action against him despite his very public accusations. These factors would seem to indicate a high level of probability that at least a portion of his testimony and book are accurate. I can only hope his chuckling claim that over 80% of players had used performance enhancing drugs was an exaggeration.

Sound vaguely familiar?

It should be noted that Operacion Puerto and the Mitchell Report differ in many critical respects. For example, we know that the reason for George Mitchell's lack of progress was because the Major League Baseball Players Association recommended a policy of silence and non-cooperation (no active players testified), but what is the primary reason for the failure of the Operacion Puerto investigation at this point? One judge? The Spanish legal system? High-profile soccer players?

With all due respect to the CPA (eh…), we can be fairly certain that professional cycling’s “union” has not been the problem in Spain. The MLBPA is the Bentley of Unions while the CPA is more like a Huffy with a flat tire.

Anyway, we’ll know we’ve hit the big time when (the Emmy Award winning) Outside The Lines on ESPN devotes an entire episode to a bike racing scandal. Or better yet...a bike race or racer without a scandal. But until then, we can at least rest assured that ours is not the only sport being publicly disgraced. So we’ve got that going for us. Which is nice.

No comments: