If you like steroids and labor disasters, this has been a great week for sports.
You readers have had plenty to say about Jose Canseco's steroid apologia, "Juiced," and about Wednesday's announcement by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman that he was officially calling off the 2004-05 season, the owners and players having failed to reach an agreement to end the 5-month-old lockout.
We'll start with Canseco.
Geoff Wills: Isn't the fact that we see baseball's fraternity lining up to defend itself so vehemently against a whistle-blower a tip-off in itself? A classic case of circling the wagons. Here comes La Russa and all the rest trying their hardest to undermine Jose and dismiss his story without explaining the charge itself. Crisis Management 101 of any major establishment is to destroy the messenger and sidestep the issue at hand.
King replies: While I believe what Canseco says about steroid use in baseball, it's paradoxical and unfair to cite denial as proof of guilt. The baseball fraternity would deny the charges if they were true, but also if they were false.
Rick Ferguson: There's a fatal flaw in Canseco's argument that steroid use is good for baseball when properly controlled. Never mind the argument that it taints the game by disconnecting it from its history -- the "How many homers would Ruth have hit on 'roids?" argument, which, I believe, is a valid one.
The fatal flaw is that it's bad for business. If steroids were legal and permissible in the game, then every ballplayer would have to juice or they couldn't compete. Following Canseco's logic, widespread steroid use would merely level the playing field once again and increase the cost of doing business. What good would it ultimately do for the players and owners, let alone the fans or the game?
King replies: Canseco's argument is that it would make for a more exciting game because the athletes would be bigger, stronger and faster, and because fans love home runs. I don't agree with him that the game would be better, but I can't say for sure that it wouldn't be a more popular one.
Unsigned: I'm amazed you can't see the peril in the logic that a "talented" player from an abjectly poor background would see the financial attraction of taking steroids to get a big long-term contract. Maybe a $20 million contract looks humongous to this player (it would to me, and I've never known abject poverty), but how does this player know beforehand that he is "talented"? Steroids alone won't get you to hit a baseball.
And maybe this person has the focus and determination of a Barry Bonds (weight lifting regimen, diet, mental acuity) and decides he doesn't need "supplements." All this exposes the narrow logic expressed in the "poor player seeks financial security" paragraph.
King replies: Of course I can see the peril in that logic. The point is, it's unreasonable to think that some 16-year-old, probably uneducated, kid in a slum in a developing country will see it. I can see the peril in the logic of dealing crack too. Easy for me to say.
Josh: I have to say, Canseco's thoughts about legalizing steroids are interesting, but that option is certainly no panacea. Athletes are competitive and will do anything they can for an advantage. When steroids are illegal, players can use a safe regimen to gain that advantage. If MLB ever made steroids legal, we would see a whole lot more abuse among players. At least that's my theory.
King replies: Interesting theory, the idea that keeping something underground and illegal makes it safer. I don't buy it, but like I wrote, nothing else has worked in the drug wars either.
C.R.: You wrote, "Who are we to say that Canseco's idea that steroids should be legalized and used judiciously under a doctor's care isn't a better approach than the endlessly unsuccessful merry-go-round of testing and punishment?"
I am to say that because I'm a baseball customer and I want to purchase a product that is steroid-free. I don't give a damn what the players think they should be allowed to do -- if the customers think they should strip naked and sing "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," then dammit start stripping!
Here's the best way to take care of the steroids problem: Starting Opening Day, treat steroids like gambling. If you are found guilty of using steroids from that point on, then you are banned for life. And you want to know why? Because I'm goddamned SICK of all the steroids bullshit. Spring training is starting, but all we hear about and talk about is steroids. Just BAN the motherfuckers and get on with the freaking game.
King replies: Amen to to being sick of it all. I so didn't sign up for chemistry class when I became a sports fan. If only banning them and cracking down on steroids really did mean we could stop having to think about them. Ask the International Olympic Committee how that's going.
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The NHL's canceled season [PERMALINK]
Dan Breslin: Gary Bettman wants to break the union. He wants to keep his streak of winning these strikes/lockouts alive. (It stands at a whopping one!) What he, with plenty of help from the union, did do was break the fans. I'm in New York and have not bought a hockey ticket in years. Through my business I get to go to some games but I gotta say to Mr. Bettman and everyone else, those days when good Rangers seats cost $180 per and they were selling are gone. So too is the NHL as we know it.
Rebecca Allen: I don't think this was about stupidity. That assumes there was a good-faith interest in negotiating and saving the season. I think the owners' true objective is to break the union. Canceling the season makes that more likely, not less, so the owners' had little interest in saving it. Given that the owners didn't really want to save the season, it was difficult for the players to make proposals that the owners would accept, since the owners wanted unconditional surrender. The NFL succeeded in breaking their union, and is incredibly profitable as a result.
Craig Codlin: Your column accusing the owners (and players) of stupidity in their handling of the last days and hours of negotiation before the cancelation of the 2004-05 NHL season makes a huge assumption that the owners, in fact, wanted to save the season. In my view, the owners' goal is to render the players' union completely impotent so that they can spoon-feed the players whatever compensation plan the owners desire.
The owners, who are all either large corporations or extremely wealthy individuals, can very much afford a lost season. The same cannot be said for a significant portion of the dues-paying members of the players' union, many of whom have little more than a high school education and who are suddenly scrambling to figure out how they are going to make their next Porsche and million-dollar house payments. Don't mistake arrogance for stupidity.
King replies: I agree with these readers, and others, that the owners' goal was, and is, to break the union, which I think I've talked about before but didn't mention Wednesday. But I don't think I'm mistaking arrogance for stupidity. Arrogance in the absence of anything to be arrogant about is stupidity. And I don't think calling the owners stupid assumes a good-faith attempt at negotiating on their part.
I think the owners' plan to break the union is stupid. Even if they succeed, they'll have failed. They will have won complete financial control over a league they've reduced to a carcass. And by the way, I think Rebecca Allen has it backwards: The NFL was already incredibly profitable, and succeeded in breaking its union as a result.
Chris Dunlea: Couldn't agree with you more. Every day, the mental equivalent of retarded monkeys hammer out makeshift business compromises in boardrooms across the country. Why these lavishly paid buffoons couldn't do the same speaks volumes about their business "acumen," and that goes double for the owners, who don't have the players' defense of saying, "Uh, I'm not a numbers guy, I just chase a puck for a living."
Rana Buckner: What really sucks is that the fans didn't get their opinions represented at the bargaining table, cuz personally, the ticket prices far exceed my salary cap.
Derek LeLash: I scarcely know what else to say about the stupidity it took to get to this point. All I'm sure of is that obviously no one on either side ever read books about "win-win" negotiations. And if the owners think an above-average fan like me is going to pay NHL prices to watch the AHL, they can all get flushed, right after all my Sharks fan gear. Sigh.
James Morton: I do love reading about stupid people, but come now, does anyone really care about this hockey thing anymore? I prefer my figure skaters to prance about in skimpy clothing, not jerseys, and preferably with a full set of teeth.
Archie Anderson: I think Bettman is trying to get even for the last time this happened and everyone said that the owners got the better deal, but time has shown that the players certainly came out ahead. I dreamed last night that I played hockey, which I have not done since I was a teenager in Michigan, and woke up knowing that the dream was as close as I would get to the game for a long time.
Previous column: NHL season flushed
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