Thursday, March 23, 2006

Field of Cream and Clear
By Ben Valentine

Here we go again. Or not.

Wednesday more excerpts from the now highly anticipated Game of Shadows hit the news waves, and these go on to indict Yankees outfielder Gary Sheffield in with Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi as players who knowingly used banned performance enhancers. In addition, retired linebacker Bill Romanowski and track and field stars Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery were also named as clients of BALCO. With all of these athletes getting outed (again, since they were named back in 2003), it should be big news right?

Wrong.

The revelation of their alleged involvement has not, as of Wednesday night/Thursday morning, created the hoopla that Bonds did a few weeks back. It is one of the top stories on ESPN.com, but the story itself leads with more Bonds, then gets into Sheffield and Giambi. The story only mentions Romanowski, Jones and Montgomery by name. Still, that’s better than CBS Sportsline, which had no report of it whatsoever on its page. And people wonder why Bonds hates the press.

Now the fact any of them, especially Sheffield, used steroids is about as shocking as Bonds using at this point. Anyone familiar with baseball has heard Bonds and Sheffield used to train together. Who can forget Shef’s declaration to Newsday’s Jon Heyman that he would take a drug test to prove his innocence? Later, Sheffield was one of the players called to testify before the grand jury, along with Bonds and Giambi, Jones, Romanowski and Montgomery. It could be inferred pretty easily they were involved. Of course, one can easily say the same thing about Bonds, yet the excerpts facings on him were major headlines.

Where are the cries about the integrity of baseball today? Is anyone demanding the Yankees give back their division crowns or playoff wins now that it’s clear they employed at least TWO key hitters who violated the rules of the game? Are there any calls for Sheffield and Giambi to fess up, come clean or step aside and retire for the good of the game? Is anyone asking the IOC to take away Jones’ gold medals?

Of course not because they’re not Barry Bonds. And that is a double standard; one that people should be upset by.

You want to talk about integrity? How about the integrity of journalism here? The authors deliberately waited to release these excerpts separate from the ones they used earlier, all of which focused solely on Bonds. Doing so created an image that Bonds was the lone villain; a surly, greedy man who was jealous of others’ success and thus broke the hallowed rules of baseball. That sells more books. Unfortunately, that is not the truth. People should be angered by this; facts were withheld from them for the explicit purpose of generating more hype and money. That is at best false advertising and shoddy journalism at its worst.

Barry Bonds did steroids. So did Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi and the other athletes mentioned in this book. Yes, Olympic hero of years back, Marion Jones, along with arguably the most hated man in sports, Bill Romanowski did the same thing Bonds did. Again, this is not at all a shock. However, if these names were presented two weeks ago, the focus would have been far less on Bonds and far more on the broader problem facing professional sports; athletes seem to be cheating to gain an edge using substances which cannot be traced. Instead we were treated to the idea of Bonds as the maverick rule breaker, someone who spit on the ideals of fair play.

The reality appears to be far murkier. Instead of being the lead figure, Bonds now looks to be just one of many who joined into the “steroid revolution” if you will, looking to gain an edge anyway they could. And they got away with it too. Marion Jones will keep her gold medals no matter what this book says. Jason Giambi will keep his millions and his MVP. Romanowski can still wear his Super Bowl rings.

Yet Bonds deserves to have everything he’s done stripped away? What kind of logic is that? What makes him different than those other athletes?

The answer is he isn’t any different. Sports today are filled with cheaters, from baseball, to cycling, which is probably been hit with more doping scandals than any other sport in the last five years. These athletes are driven to be the best and are willing to do anything necessary to reach that goal. This is not by the tens, but by the hundreds and perhaps even thousands. The development and distribution of undetectable performance enhancers is a huge, international business. Contrary to what many seem to believe, Barry Bonds alone couldn’t fuel it.

Unfortunately for Bonds, that reality doesn’t sell many books.

2 Comments:

Blogger Commish said...

More warped logic Ben.

Simply because others cheated and didn't get caugh - that means Bonds was alright for what he did and shouldn't be punished for it?

As for how the information about the book was leaked - that isn't the authors doing - that's the publishing company - and has nothing to do with journalism or integrity. And everyone knew Bonds wasn't the only steroids guy in the book or the Balco controversy. Everyone already knew, as you said earlier in your article, about all these players being outed. So how does the way and order of information leaked effect anything?

Im confounded by your obsession with defending Bonds. Is Sosa and Mcgwire just as bad? Yes - but they are gone. Bonds still plays and owns the single season homerun record - and is chasing the career record. PLus he's an absolute jerk off the field. That's why he gets bashed more than everyone else. It might not be fair, but that's the way it is and for good reason.

6:22 PM  
Blogger Ben Valentine said...

Well they've been "caught" as much as Bonds have. Those athletes have been accused in the book but none have flunked a drug test. No matter how convincing the speculation is at this point, and it is very much so, it is not enough to convict in any court of law.

The publishers leaked it, but the journalist made the rounds with interviews. They could have mentioned the other athletes; after all the book was written and it was all going to come out a few weeks later anyway.

It shouldn't affect people how the information was leaked. But unfortunately it does. If it didn't then the teasers for the book would have included everyone. Out of sight, out of mind applies here. People were demanding all of these punishments for Bonds while conviently forgetting that a player LAST YEAR had already admitted to steroid use (Giambi in front of the Grand Jury), yet nothing was done because there was no failed drug test. Because Bonds was the only person named, he was the only person attacked. Publishing companies know what sells books, so when they released the information as they did, it was to generate the most interest possible.

I have a peeve against hypocrisy. This Bonds steroid mess is full of it. Is he a good guy? Probably not. But does it change the facts that a ton of players also cheated, baseball looked the other way, Bonds hasn't actually been caught cheating? (like it or not a failed drug test SHOULD be the only way to prove innocence or guilt)

And Sheffield is by all accounts, a jerk too. (And he actually committed errors to get himself traded) But it's a combination of the media hating Bonds and him being historically good which creates a lot of these issues. And no, him being a jerk doesn't give journalists license to attack him.

10:03 PM  

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