Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Illogic of Sports Radio

Hot off the heels of a infuriatingly glib interview with Jim Bowden last night (transcription services provided by Federal Baseball), Tim Kurkjian appeared on ESPN Radio this morning to discuss the reports that MLB is launching an investigation of the steroids scandal, to be lead by former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell.

Kurkjian's take, and Bowden's interview, are exemplars of why sports radio is repellent to those who can breath with their mouths closed. He said he doesn't understand why MLB is launching an investigation, given that it's too late to do anything like suspend those players who might have taken steroids, they are not going to remove any records or place any asterisks in the books, and people are still flocking to the ballparks in droves and don't seem to care about this issue. He also questioned the timing of the announcement given its proximity to Opening Day. He doesn't deny that many of the stars of the past decade like Bonds, McGwire, Giambi and Sosa most likely took steroids that improved their performance and numbers, but he said that there "will always be a story attached to those records now" which people can use to judge for themselves.

Well, Tim, who so far has written that story? Jose Canseco and Will Carroll are two that I know of, and I wouldn't trust those guys to judge a wet T-shirt contest. The San Francisco Chronicle reporters appear more credible, but their book, which seems to be the catalyst for the investigation, focuses on Bonds and BALCO and doesn't, as I understand it, get into McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro and other instances of steroid use. Reports are that the MLB investigation is not limited to Bonds, but will extend to other players, as it should. The "story that will be attached" to the records should come from more established sources than an idiot ex-jock and self-aggrandizing blogger trying to sell books.

Imagine if Bud Selig had taken the position that Kurkjian has, and said MLB doesn't need to investigate the steroid use because we can't do anything about it, fans are still coming to baseball games, and we don't want to sully the beauty of Opening Day. Tom Davis's head would have exploded if he had said that at one of the Congressional hearings. It is odd to find the "whitewash" position being taken by a journalist, not by the institution about which journalists make us so cynical.

I said here before that, despite being a hawk on the steroids issue, I don't think asterisks or changing the records are appropriate. But that position depends upon people having access to the facts about players' steroid use -- facts that so far have come to us piecemeal and from witnesses of varying credibility. A good investigation of all the circumstances will help us make those judgments about the players and the records they may or may not have deserved. It may also clear the names of players who have been unfairly lumped into the scandal by shoddy reporting or innuendo. Let's hope we get that good information from Senator Mitchell, because we sure ain't gonna get it from sportstalk radio.


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