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Time to look in the mirror

Posted by Charles P. Pierce February 19, 2009 05:59 AM

It's been a great couple of weeks for those of us who study moralistic, self-important blowhards in their native habitats — i.e., on the radio and in America's corporate offices, in which half of the people are looking for handouts and the other half are looking out for the police.

Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Miguel Tejada, and Michael Phelps — and their various adventures with substances deemed unworthy of us as a nation — provided bait. And mercy, as the late Ned Martin used to say, it didn’t take long for the sanctimony to hit high tide in so many places. Rarely has what lawyer/blogger Robert Farley calls “The War on (Some People Who Take Some) Drugs” provided so much high hilarity. Where, oh where, does one begin? Let’s start with the really big fish in the really small barrels.

Clemens, Bonds, and Tejada do have something to teach our youngsters, and it has nothing to do with injecting, ingesting, or otherwise availing yourself of substances we consider unworthy of us as a nation. The takeaway lesson is this: If it’s clear that the feds are after your well-punctured hindquarters, don’t lie under oath. Not only will it keep you out of trouble, but it will keep the rest of us from having to deal with cowboy investigators like Jeff Novitzky — whom several federal judges have taken to looking at as though he were a two-headed fish — and Tom Davis, the former congresscritter from Virginia. Davis thinks people lied to him when he was running the congressional committee. Of course, when the names of CIA agents got leaked, and when the Department of Justice was turned into a political chop shop, he didn’t think there was anything for his government oversight committee to oversee. But he’s now very concerned about Roger Clemens. Oh, boy howdy, he is that. He can go away now. If Bonds and Clemens and Tejada had just ’fessed up, we wouldn’t have to deal with any of these people.

Then there’s Phelps, who recently found himself beset by some Gomer with a badge in South Carolina who apparently fancied himself Sonny Crockett, and who pretty plainly wanted to be on TV with Nancy Grace a little too much than is healthy. If you’re keeping score at home, Phelps did nothing that the last three presidents of the United States, at least two Supreme Court justices, and a handful of Nobel laureates have done. (For himself, Phelps has won 14 Olympic gold medals. So much for how marijuana destroys your motivation.) The laws against marijuana in this country are utterly, hopelessly insane — rousting elderly cancer patients in their beds for using a drug that eases their pain and helps them eat? — and the propaganda proceeding from them is even nuttier. This “scandal” is about nothing else except our being a nation of drooling, voyeuristic geeks. I wouldn’t blame the man if he swam for Holland in 2012.

Speaking of being a nation of drooling, voyeuristic geeks, let’s talk about what’s going on with Alex Rodriguez, shall we?

Frankly, I don’t like him very much, either. But ever since word of his steroid use got out, and especially since his chat with ESPN’s Peter Gammons — which reminded nobody of Oriana Fallaci jumping ugly with Fidel Castro — hit the airwaves, he’s become central to a perfect storm of nonsense. Pretty plainly, somebody leaked the results of what were supposed to be confidential drug tests. Now, we are told, the only fair thing is to release the names of the other 103 players who also tested positive in what was supposed to be a confidential testing program. How we remedy a violation of privacy by committing 103 more remains unexplained.

The argument, of course, is that, until we know absolutely everything about absolutely everyone, the rest of the players will be “under a cloud of suspicion.” Well, this is all bollocks, of course, but I heard perhaps the best example of this on our local sports-talk radio colossus over the past weekend. First, on Feb. 13, there was no little sniggering about the possibility that Manny Ramirez will be “one of the names on the list.” The next morning, it was explained to me that the A-Rod revelations made it possible for all of us to speculate wildly about people like Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. In fact, unless we wanted to be “naïve” or not “objective,” we were fairly well obligated to speculate along those lines. Which is the difference between mouths with microphones and what most of the rest of us in this business do.

Make no mistake. Without an ounce of actual proof, these people essentially accused Ramirez, Gwynn, and Ripken of committing federal crimes. (Let me hear no mealy-mouthed rebuttals about how you “weren’t really accusing” anyone. There’s a vast difference between throwing out a relatively baseless opinion in a bar and throwing it out on the public airwaves with 50,000 watts behind it, and you all know it.) There is no “cloud of suspicion” unless we raise it. We’re not all feathers in the breeze. It is possible to cover this story — including opining upon it — the same way you’d cover any other story. Don’t tell me you have a gun and ask for my wallet. If you have the gun, produce it. If not, go work for that sheriff in South Carolina. He really needs the help.

OT columnist Charles P. Pierce is a Boston Globe Magazine staff writer.

4 comments so far...
  1. As usual, Charles Pierce is absolutely dead-on. The pot laws are ridiculous, matched only by the compete jackasses on our local sports radio "colossus" (to which i refuse to listen). Their stock in trade is to create controversy as much as possible, for rating's sake. Never mind fairness, intelligent, thoughtful opinions or other blather. Their bigoted prattle is an absolute blight on this entire area. Basically, Charles' fingernail clippings are smarter than the whole boatload of them. Keep up the great work, Charles. (And when are you going to cover college hopps again? Those Friday columns in the 80's were classics.)

    Posted by Dom Feroce February 19, 09 10:20 AM
  1. Wow. Excellent stuff, Mr. Pierce. I'm here, I'm reading. Keep writing!

    Posted by Haggard February 19, 09 12:07 PM
  1. In competitive sports, there has been a shift from one extreme to another. It is so extensive now that athletes are being subject to multiple tests and harassment. They are
    too comprehensive, picking up anything from cough medicine, herbal remedies,
    cortisone, supplements, to ADHD medicine.

    The worst part are these tests are interpreted subjectively. These tests have never
    been calibrated for false positive ratio. Moreover, no baselines in body chemistry have
    been established. For example, a positive in synthetic testosterone in men could be just
    a boost in natural testosterone.

    Therefore, it is possible that innocent people, such as perhaps Justin Gatlin and Floyd Landis, will be falsely punished and labeled. It is also likely that a positive may be accidentally acquired.

    Do not athletes have the right to repair their bodies and relieve themselves of pain
    just like everyone else? Obviously in the case of Ben Johnson, whose yellowish eyes and
    bulging veins were a dead giveway or Chinese women and Soviet bloc women, whose
    masculinity were blatant, behooves the need for testing. However, testing should be
    limited to basic anabolic steroids in men and testosterone in women.

    On the flipside, testing may not be necessary at all. After all, is it not the intent of all medication to "enhance performance" , whether one is a professional athlete, a doctor, or
    a short-order cook? Here is a rule to understand- If any potent drug is taken when there
    really is no need, only harm will result. There has been a lot of people brainwashed into
    thinking excessive drugging can help create super athletes. That simply is not the case. The
    body is the ultimate healer of itself. Drugs and surgery can only facilitate.

    The athlete still has to execute in practice and in competition. The 100 meter
    dash, for example, may look simple to a "layman". However, it is highly intricate and
    technical. Excessive unnatural therapies will only impede communications between
    the brain and central nervous system to the necessary body parts. Athletes like
    Ben Johnson took steroids because he perceived a psychological edge. That edge
    was merely dependency and fallacy because there was no permanent physiological improvement. Ben Johnson would have run the same times without
    this steroid.

    Unless therapeutic, protracted drug use usually hinders rather than enhances performances by causing iatrogenic difficulties. Paranoia is a bureaucrats’ dream but
    an athletes’ and fans nightmare.

    The preceding is an obvious example of international organizations, usually in
    collaboration with BAR legal systems, wielding unbridled power. In the name of making something perfect, they will in turn ruin it. These concerns about "doping" are just false pretenses for them to arrogate themselves power, terrorizing and harassing people in the process.

    The preceding is also how science can be contaminated and distorted by
    bad politics. Too many medical community members are just simply not
    thinking common sensically.

    Very Truly Yours,

    Harsha Sankar
    201 Interstate Drive
    Covington, Virginia 24426

    Posted by Harsha Sankar February 19, 09 12:08 PM
  1. What's the difference between performance enhancing drugs and Pro V1 golf balls...between steroids and graphite shafts? Eras change, athletes are bigger and stronger, equipment is improved and performance is enhanced. If A-Rod wants to take steriods, I say leave him alone...who cares, except the media which always needs an issue. It is not something we fans care about. A-Rod...tell them all to take a hike! And, by the way, who cares who makes the Hall of Fame? A-Rod is the best player of all time and Pete Rose is right behind him..the HOF is weaker because Rose,, Bonds , McGuire are being blackballed.

    Jon Morris

    Posted by Anonymous February 19, 09 09:34 PM
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Charles P. Pierce writes for the Boston Globe Magazine. A long-time sportswriter and columnist, Pierce is a frequent guest on national TV and radio.
Tony Massarotti is a Boston Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. He is currently spotlighted as a featured columnist on Boston.com.
Tom Caron serves as studio host for NESN's Boston Red Sox coverage.
Bob Lobel was a WBZ-TV sportscaster for 29 years, anchoring more than 10,000 sports reports.
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