What a wild Thursday for me.
First off, the NCAA Tournament began. I have DirecTV and bought the MEGA MARCH MADNESS package...so I "got all the games"!! God, I love basketball. I sat and watched all of the games. I have THREE TVs in my ‘Sportz Room’ so I did get to view 3 of the 4 games played without picking up a remote.
At 8:00, the Miami Heat hosted the LA Lakers on TNT. Well, that is Shaq v Kobe...but I’ve really gotten tired of the Lakers efforts this season. No, not their record....their efforts. If I wanted to see a team gun 3-point shots....I’d be a Wisconsin-Milwaukee booster or a JJ Redick fan. I’m neither. So, aside from catching glimpses here and there....I didn’t really focus on it.
But, something I had absolutely no interest in....yet found myself viewing...was the Senate hearings on steroids in baseball. It wasn’t enthralling, nor was it educational. Usually, in Senate hearings that involve issues in the mainstream...the politicians ask obvious softball questions that just furthers the thinking how out of touch they really are.
Some were....which was good.....and some were big baseball fans....which was good. For the most part, aside from the monotony of some of the questions....the committee members actually asked some uncomfortable questions.
I caught some of Senator Bunning’s remarks [he’s my elected official]. I caught some of the Witness Panel before the March Madness began. But, the players and baseball management panels were both quite interesting and quite disturbing. So, I caught myself tuning in from time to time.
First, the players. Curt Schilling [who along with Frank Thomas will be on a task force] looked and sounded very comfortable in his surroundings [it was even mentioned that he could have a career in politics]. He openly attacked Jose Canseco for writing his book [other players did it in veiled comments].
SammySosa, who had his lawyer and interpreter on the panel with him, sounded very composed. In his prepared statement, he states that he has never used steroids. Raphael Palmeiro came out the best. Not only did he flatly come out, pointing even, that he has never used steroids.....he sounded like a man with absolutely nothing to hide. When asked if it would take Olympic-type punishment to eradicate steroids from the MLB, Palmeiro, unlike others, said he wouldn?t care since he had nothing to hide anyways. Good answer. I?ve gained much respect for you!
How did Jose Canseco do??? Well, better than I thought. While jabs were sent his way for writing this book, which is pretty much why everyone is there, he did compose himself pretty well and came off pretty much as the guy who wrote the book. He was denied immunity, but still answered all questions, though in a manner that excused himself from anything, and made a good effort to get his message out. While other players downplayed the magnitude of steroids in baseball....Canseco stood by his claim that it is and was a rampant problem that needs government intervention. He opposed baseball policing itself [the others were willing to play out the new testing program]. His best quote was, "from what I am hearing, I was the only individual in Major League Baseball to use steroids. That?s hard to believe." Classic!
The big loser on the players side is easily Mark McGwire. While Big Mac is retired....his footprints are all over this "Steroid Era" of baseball. He was the one that set the home run record [that Bonds soon bested]. He is sixth all time in home runs. He has been linked to andro. McGwire, unlike Canseco, really contributed nothing to the hearings. When asked any uncomfortable questions, McGwire simply answered with "I?m not here to talk about the past." When asked how he could be a spokesperson for steroids being bad news if he never actually knew anyone [or himself] that was affected by the drug.....he pulled the "my attorneys advise me to not comment." Thus placing his name alongside the phrase "steroid user". He looked very, very bad. The committee members even seemed to grow tired of McGwire?s dodging of their questions.
AOL News - McGwire Steroids Statement to Congress
Then, the baseball officials came in....most notably commissioner Bud Selig and union leader Donald Fehr. The committee members essentially attacked Selig for poor leadership in striving for stricter penalties...and attacked Fehr for basically not letting MLB put in place the harsher penalties. The new drug policy was completely ridiculed for the variety of loopholes and "drafting errors" in it.
All in all, this was a horrible day for baseball in many aspects. Public relations-wise...this was a nightmare. You had players up there like ostriches, with their heads in the sand. You had baseball executives openly accused of being inept. You had, arguably, the most important baseball player in the last 20 years run and hide from any question about steroids. You even had some comments from committee members that baseball?s anti-trust exemption may be used as blackmail to get this straightened out.
People said that these hearings won?t amount to much. Maybe that is tangibly true. However, this is one of those forks in the road that baseball needs to assess itself. Continue down the path of "don?t ask, don?t tell" or really try to get this thing squared away before this is the WWE.
What do I think?? Well, I am in favor of ONE uniform drug policy over all of athletics. MLB, NFL, NBA, NCAA, high schools, whatever. Have that one uniform code that all sports must abide by. Maybe not as harsh as the Olympic code [which, by the way, doesn?t stop people from cheating there]. If they want to add even stiffer penalties...fine. But put it all under one umbrella so that athletes and the average guy will get the same treatment under the laws. Whether it is Barry Bonds or Joe Schmo.