The Mitchell Commission
I originally put off posting this because I thought I might put it elsewhere, but I guess not…
So Roger Clemens was on steroids. Big deal. If your favorite player wasn’t listed in the Mitchell Commission Report, congratulations: he’s probably on steroids too.
I like the Mitchell Commission report because it gives baseball the illusion of closure. There are 85 players listed in the report as having bought steroids or Human Growth Hormone or, as the report so eloquently put it, were “shot in the buttocks” full of Deca-Duroblin. We’ll deal with those players and move on.
Baseball has survived worse. The 1919 Chicago White Sox scandal, wherein 8 players conspired to throw the World Series, is worse than the steroid scandal, for the simple fact that the players today are still trying to win the game. They’ve just replaced 10 minutes in the batting cage to shove a Vitamin B12 shot up their ass. The actual competition is still on the up and up.
Baesball has made a dog-and-pony show in recent years of cracking down on all illegal substances, including amphetamines. Amphetamines have been a staple of major league clubhouses since the 1960s, owing to the sport’s long season of games, travel and gin and tonics. In the age of Starbucks, the ban probably has had no net effect, but it’s all part of the act.
The fact is, the players in the Mitchell Commission Report were caught because they bought steroids through one of two distributors: a former clubhouse attendant for the Mets, or the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. If they got their steroids elsewhere, including those twin 24-hour shops known as “Mexico” and “The Internet,” they didn’t get caught. There is still not a reliable test for Human Growth Hormone because, as menacing as it sounds, it grows naturally in humans. Everyone who was fingered for HGH usage in the Mitchell report was busted for buying it.
Three hours before the Mitchell Commission report was released, a list circulated on many websites purportedly containing the names in the report. It was pretty convincing, and was about 60 percent accurate. The names that were wrong were those of all star players who have been suspected of using steroids, but the point is not that these players didn’t do steroids: they just weren’t listed in the report. Who knows if they used steroids? They do. We will never know. The cloud hangs over everyone.
The sport is not clean. No sports are clean anymore. But we can still love them. We can take refuge inside the games, instead of worshipping the players. There’s nothing that says players have to be role models, as we expected them to be as recently as 10 years ago. The rise of the Internet and day-long news cycle mean we know our athletes better than we ever have, and they’re almost universally boring or loathsome. They play sports for a living: they’re not paid, or taught, to talk. Yet their words receive more attention than most member of Congress.
There’s an easy fix to this problem: stop listening. Stop obsessing over what athletes put in their bodies. And if you can’t stand it any more, stop watching. Baseball is going to implement further steroid testing measures, but they’ll always be one step behind. The users are “cheating” in the same way our speeding or jaywalking is illegal. We’re just doing what we can for an edge. When the dust clears from the Mitchell Commission report, we’ll have the appearance of a clean game. Players will still be using. But we will have done what we can.