The big sports news is a massive drug raid, the biggest ever.
Sorry, I have that sentence saved as a macro and I hit the wrong key by accident. Oh wait! It works out after all!
The Drug Enforcement Administration says it has busted 56 labs, arrested 124 people and seized more than 11 million doses of illegal steroids and an additional 530 pounds in raw materials in "Operation Raw Deal," the largest illegal-steroid investigation in U.S. history.
The federal officials say the investigation began with Chinese companies that shipped the raw materials to labs in the United States, and followed all the way through to labs, distributors and users in the United States. A DEA spokesman told the New York Times that thousands of e-mails have been seized that connect users to manufacturers. He said the Department of Justice and U.S. attorney's offices would decide whether to release the names of any athletes that turn up.
Forgive me for not jumping for joy. It's just that the drug cops have been making busts like this one since the days of Eliot Ness, and there's no evidence that it does anybody any good, except the drug cops maybe, for whom it provides a living.
A couple of interesting quotes, the first from DEA administrator Karen Tandy, in a statement:
"Today we reveal the truth behind the underground steroid market: dangerous drugs cooked up all too often in filthy conditions with no regard to safety, giving Americans who purchase them the ultimate raw deal."
Not exactly a major revelation, that a market that's unregulated beyond criminalization doesn't protect the consumer.
But here's the money quote. It's the one that shows why the DEA will be issuing this same press release in 20 years, with just names, places and figures changed. Look! Massive steroid bust! We've really put a dent in the underground market!
It comes from the Times report on the bust, written by Michael S. Schmidt:
"Operation Raw Deal followed on the heels of an investigation in 2005 that targeted eight Mexican steroid manufacturers. After those manufacturers, which authorities said provided four out of every five steroid pills in the world, were shut down, a void was created in the market for performance-enhancing drugs that Chinese companies filled."
So congratulations to the DEA for cracking down on the Chinese steroid-manufacturing market -- which the DEA helped create! Wonder which country will fill the void this time.
Athletes and others who have been using illegal drugs should steel themselves for a knock on the door, and we don't need to waste any time feeling sorry for cheaters willing to sacrifice their health and future for that extra edge on the field of play, or in the gym mirror.
But we also shouldn't kid ourselves that massive drug raids do anything to address the massive drug problem.
Next month's letters: "Ever heard of football, jerk?" [PERMALINK]
It has been almost all football and no baseball around here the past couple of weeks, and that has sparked some outrage. At least four (4) letter writers have publicly or privately taken me to task for ignoring baseball's denouement, or climax, or wheezing end, whatever you want to call it.
"Why is everything football football football?" wrote one correspondent. "Have been out of the loop recently, but isn't there a pennant race going on between the two superpowers?"
Another wrote, "You seem so bitter about the existence of the wild card -- which, in this case, only complicates the excitement -- that you refuse to enjoy great races when they're served on a platter."
At the risk of sounding like I'm defending myself, I'd like to answer.
I'm still a little bitter over the introduction of the wild card, sure, but here's the thing: It's not my fault that September baseball isn't nearly as interesting as it used to be. That's the choice baseball made when it expanded the playoffs. It traded the excitement of pennant races for an improved October.
I wouldn't have made that decision, but I can't deny it worked. October is more fun and interesting now than it used to be, and it's certainly more lucrative. September's more lucrative too, because more teams are still alive in the races for playoff spots later in the season. Good for them, and good for their fans.
But that doesn't make it interesting, at least not to me.
Is there a pennant race going on between the two superpowers? I assume that means the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, and the answer is no. It has been clear for weeks that the loser of the Yankees-Red Sox "pennant race" would win the wild card and make the playoffs. If they were tied going into the last game of the season, they'd be resting their best pitchers, tossing minor league call-ups out there so as not to disrupt their plans for the divisional series.
That's not a pennant race.
Similarly, while I can understand fans of, say, the Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals being interested in that slapstick race, I don't consider it terribly compelling to dissect the antics of mediocre teams as they stumble their way to a decision. The New York Mets committing a choke job for the ages and allowing the Philadelphia Phillies to steal the N.L. East would have been mildly amusing, but it didn't happen.
If I don't think something's interesting, you won't think what I have to say about it is interesting. The Web is filled with the writing of fine writing about baseball. If it were my job to just write about baseball, I would find it endlessly fascinating 365 days a year. But it's my job to write about sports, and in September I find the NFL a richer subject.
If I were alone in that -- if it were tiddlywinks that floated my September boat -- I'd have to adjust to the desires of the readers. But I don't see any evidence that I'm even close to being in a minority on this one.
In a week the baseball playoffs will begin, I'll find them more compelling than the early-middle part of the NFL calendar -- I might be in the minority on that score -- my weekly picks will come under the two-sentence rule and legions of readers -- at least three of them -- will write in wondering why I'm paying so much attention to boring old baseball and ignoring the sport that stands like a colossus astride our culture.
It's how we mark the seasons around here.
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