Government In Sports? No Thanks!

May 14, 2009 |

As I was taping the Time Warner Sports 32 Roundtable in Milwaukee yesterday, the subject of steroids in Major League Baseball came up. That wasn’t a surprise, considering how the news of Manny Ramirez’ suspension broke late last week. It also wasn’t a surprise given Roger Clemens‘ recent interview on Mike & Mike (ESPN Radio).
What was a surprise was what the host – veteran Milwaukee television anchor Dennis Krause, asked my co-panelist – Craig Coshun, who is the sideline reporter for Brewers and Bucks games on FS Wisconsin. Krause asked whether or not the governement should get involved (based on a recent column by Jason Whitlock of the Kansas City Star), considering the lack of success baseball has had in curbing the steroid problem. Coshun said he believed that the government should, indeed, intervene. To say I totally disagreed would be an understatement.
I am not against bigger government. I am also not necessarily for a hands off approach. What I am for is common sense.
To understand where I’m coming from, I think I need to tell you that I consider myself a moderate. On social issues, I tend to side with those on the left. On other issues, you can normally find me on the right side of the aisle. I voted for John McCain, but was not upset to see Barack Obama win the election last November. I believe the President has new and bright ideas which will make us all better off in the long run.
That being said, I don’t want the government intervening in sports.
The biggest reason is because the government has more pressing issues. The economy is in bad shape right now. In case you missed it yesterday, retail sales were down in the month of April. The Dow took a bit of a tumble as the result of the news. The numbers that came out yesterday indicate that the recession isn’t nearing the bottoming out point that some had talked about previously. Jobs are still being lost in many industries at a staggering rate. The bailouts of banks and automakers hasn’t been as successful as the Obama Administration would have liked up to this point. The government needs to get the economy moving in the right direction before it can really think about getting its hands dirty with professional sports.
The last time I checked this country was also involved in a couple of wars. There’s the continuing effort in Iraq, which seems to be going better after the surge. And then there’s Afghanistan – which is a classic case of taking your eye off the ball. While everyone was concerned with Iraq, things took a turn for the worse in Afghanistan. The Taliban has seemingly made a comeback, and they are making gains in Pakistan as well.
There are things in life called priorities. The economy and two wars seem more important to me than the continued use of performance enhancing drugs in pro sports. The economy and two wars are also more important to me than the issue of a playoff in College Football. In case you missed it, Congress is attempting to get involved in that as well.
Do steroids and the use of other performance enhancing drugs bother me? Absolutely. Does the lack of a true playoff in College Football bother me? You bet it does. Does the government have a right to get involved? Maybe, but now isn’t the time.
And let’s say the do get involved. Let’s just say that the government sinks their teeth into the steroid problem. Is it really going to change anything? I don’t think so.
First of all – and we’ll keep it in baseball – Major League Baseball has strengthened their steroids policy to the point that most seem happy with the rules that have been instituted. Is it working? Well, it did it’s job in the Ramirez case. He got caught and was suspended for fifty games. Bring up Alex Rodriguez and Roger Clemens all you want, but the steroid use we know about came before MLB instituted their policy. On top of that, since true testing began in 2005, those two haven’t been caught with anything illegal in their system.
In fact, the number of players caught over the last couple of years has gone down from where it was a few years ago. Does that mean the sport is clean? No, not by a long shot. MLB still doesn’t test for Human Growth Hormone (and the government isn’t going to catch up to science because there is no accepted test for HGH right now). I would bet my last dollar that there are plenty of players using HGH. I would also bet that there are newer drugs – more synthetic steroids – that have been invented since the advent of the cream and the clear that players are using. The dug makers, dealers, and players are always going to be a step ahead of the testers. A good example is the cream and the clear, which was being used for years before anyone in a position of authority figured it out.
It’s a romantic idea, this thought of the government getting involved in pro sports. But I for one don’t see it having a tremendous affect. Athletes will still do anything they can to gain an advantage because there is too much money on the line. Fans have become de-sensitized to the whole thing.
But most importantly, I want my tax dollars going to more pressing issues. I want our men and women overseas to come home soon, and come home in one piece. Selfishly, I want to see this economy turned around. You see, I, like many of you, have been affected by the recession. I’ve been out of work for almost seven months. The sooner this economy gets turned around, the sooner I might be able to get my life and career back on track.
Again, it’s a romantic thought. But I think there are bigger fish to fry.