Thursday, February 26, 2009

Why is A-Rod targeted while Stallone is not?

Why is A-Rod targeted while Stallone is not?
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February 26, 1:44 PM
by Evan Weiner, Business of Sports Examiner
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The Salem Witch Trails ended in 1692, Senator Joe Mc McCarthy's reign of blacklisting came to a sudden halt in 1954 but in the world of baseball writers, sports radio talk show hosts and sports TV's talking heads The Scarlet Letter (a book which was written in 1850 by Nathaniel Hawthorne) of S, for steroids, has been pinned on Alex Rodriguez and it is seemingly being done so for the benefit of fellow baseball writers and certain politicians not the general public.

The whole Alex Rodriguez situation is a dog and pony show with little journalistic integrity.

The problem for the writers is two fold. Elected officials have far more to worry about than the results of Alex Rodriguez urine sample and most baseball fans don't care. The writers, the moral guardians of baseball, are the only ones who are writing about whether Alex Rodriguez should get booed or whether he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

The writers are complaining about Alex Rodriguez news conference and how he didn't answer their questions to their satisfaction about getting supplements in the Dominican Republic. One New York newspaper, the Daily News, which recently cut its contribution to the employees 401k plan, sent a reporter to the Dominican Republic to see how easy it was for Rodriguez and others to get steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. It was pretty easy for me to find it in Samana in December; it is all over the place. It was simple for the Daily News reporter to find it too. Steroids are sold over the counter in the Dominican Republic pharmacies.

One by one, the bad guys or the ones who don't necessarily play footsie with the regular baseball beat guys, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez are falling and the scribes are having a conflicting time over this. The bad actors, or the ones they perceive as bad actors, are paying the price by their daily public humiliations. But baseball is being tarnished.

But missing in a lot of the prose written about Alex Rodriguez is the fact that he took performance-enhancing steroids in the Dominican Republic, not the United States and that is the way of the culture there. This remains a law enforcement issue or an immigration issue. Border patrol is not going to give drug tests to athletes. Miguel Tejada got a visa to play baseball this year even though he plead guilty to one count of perjury for lying to Congress in his testimony in 2005 on whether or not Rafael Palmeiro lied about whether or not he used steroids. Tejada faces a year prison term.

Tejada got into legal trouble, not for taking illegal substances but for lying to Congress. Alex Rodriguez is only in trouble in the public court of opinion with sportswriters and columnists presenting the story.

Players like Alex Rodriguez better apologize to the baseball writers or else. The or else is you can end up like Barry Bonds, intensively disliked by people who never met him personally in the perceived perception imaginary that is sold by the media because you didn't kiss the butts of baseball writers. After all, the baseball scribes matter, just ask them even if their jobs are being lost as many newspapers globally go out of business or go into bankruptcy. After all, the baseball scribe is the eyes and ears of the fan who has no access to players. They are acting on the fans behalf.

But all of this brings up a very troubling question. Is there a new Mc McCarthyism being practiced by baseball writers and is there a media double standard when it comes to baseball players and other athletes and baseball players and entertainers?

The actor Sylvester Stallone told Time magazine in 2008 that he used human growth hormone to get in shape for his new "Rambo" movie and added "HGH (human growth hormone) is nothing.

"Testosterone to me is so important for a sense of well-being when you get older. Everyone over 40 years old would be wise to investigate it because it increases the quality of your life. Mark my words. In 10 years it will be over the counter."

In 2007, Stallone was caught smuggling 48 vials of the banned human growth hormone Jintropin into Australia. In May, he was ordered to pay $10,651 in fines and court costs. It was the end of the story; Stallone paid his fine and moved on with his life. No one was calling for the removal of the statue of his Rocky character that sits near entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art as a cultural landmark. After the Australian conviction, a statue of Rocky was also erected in the Serbian village of Zitiste. His film Rocky has been inducted into the National Film Registry as well as having its film props placed in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC. The film and the props have not moved since his sentence.

Stallone made big news this week when it was announced that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will be shooting a cameo appearance for his new movie the spring. No where in all the publicity stories surrounding "The Expendables" is there a mention of Stallone's Jintropin court appearance or Schwarzenegger use of steroids during his body building days before US made steroids a controlled substance yet the stories written about Alex Rodriguez continue a pace with the emphasis on steroids and how fans should be booing the Yankees players.

Entertainment writers have not editorialized about how Stallone has let down kids for taking drugs but baseball players are role models or at least there is a mythology about athletes as role models. Stallone could not have been a role model because actors and musicians aren't heroes like athletes.

Athletes are divided into two segments, baseball players and others. It seems very few sportswriters have ever complained about National Football League players being suspended for using banned substances. Sports and entertainment writers don't even approach professional wrestling even though the body count from performers that have died unnatural deaths in the past decade have skyrocketed with many of those deaths attributed from the use of banned performance enhancing drugs.

But for some reason only baseball players have the Scarlet Letter S as a permanent part of their wardrobe. Baseball scribes are seeing to that. Perhaps the baseball writers are trying to make up for the fact that they led the cheering in Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig's hope for a "Baseball renaissance" after the 1994-5 players strike (the owners were found guilty of non faith bargaining in that work stoppage) and accepting the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run race as an important part of the "Baseball renaissance" and looked the other way despite whispers in the industry that certain players were juicing.

In 1997 and 1998 “juicing” was illegal in the United States and that has been forgotten by the baseball writers community.

For some reason baseball, which has endured a betting scandal in 1919 (eight members of the Chicago franchise were banned from baseball for throwing World Series games, giving the victory to the Cincinnati Reds, the players were acquitted after a Grand Jury was convened) and a drug scandal in 1985. The game goes on and it will survive Clemens, Barry Bonds, Rodriguez and scorned baseball writers and columnists even if there are just a handful left after newspapers succumb to financial pressures and the recession.

Perhaps one day, Congress will delve into the entertainment industry that feature Stallone and Schwarzenegger and will address why there is no outrage that performance enhancers are used by actors and actresses and ask why there is no call for testing of actors and actresses whose bodies are their livelihoods as well and also hold hearings on why non-high school athletes are taking banned performance enhancing drugs. That would force baseball writers, who really are only interested in watching games, to do some real journalism.

Right now, all baseball players, including those who never took an illegal performance enhancer, are now forced to wear the scarlet letter S, placed upon them by the judge and jury baseball writers. There is an awful lot wrong with the way the whole baseball-steroids-HGH affair is being played out. Where have law enforcement people been over the past 18 years after steroids possession was made illegal? Why did it take until 2002 for an investigation into the use of banned substances to begin, which happened in the BALCO case in San Francisco? After all there were hints for years that something was going on.

Why is the focus just on baseball players in the US? Why haven't there been Congressional hearings about banned performance enhancers in other industries and finally why are baseball writers the judge and jury and placing the scarlet letter S on baseball players? Why does Sylvester Stallone get a pass and no one is looking to throw him in jail when he is caught red handed with HGH and baseball players scrutinized?

The Salem Witch Trails, the Scarlet Letter and McCarthyism live on if you are a big league baseball player.

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