Uncle Sam Fails at Babysitting the Baseball Public
Everything was perfect.
It was the summer of 1998 and the sudden revival of our nation’s pastime was in full swing. Four years removed from the nearly fatal work stoppage, many idle fans were once again gravitating towards the game that ruled the sweltering summer
Homer after homer, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa amazed wide eyed fans, young and old, with power never seen before in the sport. A two man assault on the magic “61” captivated a nation of hardcore and casual fans.
It was like a revamped Mantle vs. Maris slugfest a la 1961, but on steroids. Literally.
But, back then, that never penetrated our consciousness. This was our moment. Baseball fans deserved this. After being treated like fresh grass clippings and thrown to the side, we were led back in with a friendly face to one of the most exciting summers of our generation.
Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out in the form of that nostalgic conclusion. In the words of legendary radio host Paul Harvey, “Now you know the rest of the story.”
Along came the finger wagging, the refusal to talk about the past, the Mitchell Report, and so on. In the span of a few short years, the game had gone from a valley of embarrassment to the precipice of enjoyment. Now, baseball was simply on the run from the truth.
But, have no fear disheartened plebeians of the pastime, Big Brother is here to fight for your interests!
Long before George Orwell’s novel 1984 had citizens been cautiously wary of their government. Apparently, members of our congress had flipped through the pages as well because they were ready to make amends with the public.
From far and wide they descended on Capital Hill to tell (or try to) their tales. The accused, the schooled, and the shamed all took center stage in front of our gubernatorial leaders. Also, not to be forgotten a small laboratory on the West coast had generated some serious buzz and the feds wanted in. They knew the public was wronged by these “larger than life” men and they would use all the tax dollars they could to right it.
After Congress and the federal government had heard enough from the “Usual Suspects” of steroids in Washington and the BALCO debacle, they weren’t satisfied. It didn’t matter that the public was satisfied, they wanted more. In the court of public opinion, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were steroid cheats and no fancy lawyers could sway our collective opinion.
But in classic, ever-hungry political form, their thirst for attention and glory was unquenched. So, they waltzed the two legendary, and probably tainted, stars in front of a judge and jury and accused them of being bigger than the law, lying to the court, and even worse: deceiving the American people and everything they stand for.
Sounds good, right? Well, that’s the bill of goods they attempted to sell us.
Donning suits of the finest threads both Clemens and Bonds arrived at their respective courthouses to answer their plethora of charges, the most damning be that of perjury. The prosecutors and the congressman behind them could smell the blood in the water. It was time to show the American taxpayer they really were those credible and plausible godsends from their political ads.
No one messes with America and their pastime.
In the end, the most sensational crescendo was the cost of that said taxpayer. Clemens walked away scot-free and Bonds was convicted on the charge of obstruction of justice, a mere slap on the wrist.
After the dog and pony hoopla, the political intrusion, and the attempt to right baseball’s wrongs, nothing was accomplished. The ugly Steroid Era was awoken and dragged through the mud once again
Essentially, our elected leaders dined and dashed.
Handing us a bill with nothing to show for it.
This article appears on The Fan Manifesto.
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