Saturday, August 1, 2009

Murdoch, Giuliani, other Jock Sniffers and Steroids

Murdoch, Giuliani, other Jock Sniffers and Steroids

By Evan Weiner

August 1, 2009

6:00 PM EDT

(New York, N. Y.) -- Only a fool would conclude that Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Donald Fehr are responsible for apparent wide spread banned substance usage in baseball since United States President George Bush signed legislation in October 1990 which made steroids possession illegal. The list of enablers is long and among the people and institutes on that list are Rupert Murdoch, Goldman Sachs, Rudy Giuliani, the Walt Disney Company (ESPN), newspapers like the Arizona Republic, the Chicago Tribune and all the other elected officials, the jock sniffers and hero worshippers who genuflected at the thought of having or maintaining a Major League Baseball franchise in their city and paid hundreds of millions of public dollars for that right with relatively little return on the investment.

None of the enablers ever asked questions if Major League Baseball was on the up and up and whether any of the players were taking illegal performance enhancing substances. There was the possibility of money to be made.

The jock sniffers and genuflectors are still out there and include the billionaire mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg who somehow found hundreds of millions of dollars of city money to help build the new Mets and Yankees privately-financed ballparks and the politicians in Miami who despite not really having money recently approved a public-private financial package for a stadium to house the Florida soon to be Miami Marlins.

No, it is far too easy to blame Bud Selig and Donald Fehr. Major League Baseball understood back in 1991 that the new federal ban of steroids was in place when then Commissioner Fay Vincent released a seven page memo which included the following. "The possession, sale or use of any illegal drug or controlled substance by Major League players or personnel is strictly prohibited ... This prohibition applies to all illegal drugs ... including steroids."

Apparently people like George W. Bush and Jose Canseco missed Vincent's memo. Canseco alleges that he turned people onto steroids in the Texas Rangers clubhouse after Oakland traded him to the Arlington, Texas based team that received publicly funding for a new stadium along with tax breaks on land ceased by eminent domain by Arlington officials at well below fair market value. The managing general partner of the team? George W. Bush.

Canseco was conducting business in the clubhouse of the son of the sitting President of the United States who had signed the legislation making steroid possession illegal.

Not everyone turned there back on what was going on in baseball. The Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell and the commentator Bob Costas were sounding alarms.

They were ignored.

It is funny how those perceived as tough like Murdoch, like Giuliani didn't bother to ask any questions about baseball's integrity. Murdoch, who has only one political ideology and that is to make money, is perhaps Major League Baseball's number one enabler.

Murdoch's over-the-air FOX entity, which technically is a syndicator not a TV network, threw billions at baseball through both the national over-the-air TV package and his various regional cable TV sports networks. Murdoch also bought the Los Angeles Dodgers with a plan to make the Dodgers Asia's team or at least the northwest Pacific Rim’s team.

There were no questions asked about steroid usage in baseball. Murdoch's tough guy FOX News Channel never posed a question during the network's infancy about what was and is illegal drug usage in baseball. By the way, the players if they were taking anabolic steroids broke United States laws, it wasn't cheating it was illegal activity. But Murdoch's law and order, no nonsense talking heads, never bothered to ask about an industry than has been helped out by government largess. Of course, the FOX News Channel lives off of a Reagan era Cable TV law that allows it to make money despite a dearth of viewers as cable TV socialism allows the network to get money off of virtually every basic expanded subscriber whether that subscriber ever views the channel. Ninety eight percent of the cable subscribers are paying for what two percent out of 100 percent watch.

The Clinton White House was an enabler too. No federal agency, whether it was the FBI, DEA or the justice department went after the players who were getting bigger and bigger and credited their physical improvement with a rigorous off season workout plan.

Baseball newspaper writers have repeatedly claimed they had suspicions but no proof that players were juiced and it would have not been responsible for them to write about their hunches. Of course that didn't stop Boswell from writing his thoughts in the Washington Post or Costas giving a lecture at Columbia University in New York talking about what he perceived. Baseball newspaper writers were cheerleaders for the game after the 1994-95 strike and it was in their collective best interest to push the game whether it was because being a baseball scribe was a plum position on a paper or looking to get a baseball job.

In many cases, reporting on steroids probably would not have been in the best interests of newspapers when the business was viable in the 1990s. Newspapers like the Chicago Tribune (Cubs), Arizona Republic (Diamondbacks), the McClatchy Company (Pirates), the New York Times/Boston Globe (Red Sox), New York Post (Dodgers) owned teams others had marketing relationships although the New York Times has been reporting on the issue, recently. Magazines like Sports Illustrated (Braves) came went to the reporting party too, but SI did report in 2002 that Ken Caminiti used steroids in 1996 when he won the National League's Most Valuable Players Award. This year, SI scored on Alex Rodriguez being outed for failing a 2003 baseball drug test.

Did the New York Times obtain confidential information such as David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez failing drug tests illegally and is someone with an axe to grind singing in dribs and drabs about the 2003 confidential drug tests in an effort to embarrass baseball? The New York Times has put its share of the Red Sox up for sale.

CNN in the 1990s was part of Turner Broadcasting and among the businesses Ted Turner owned was the Atlanta Braves. When news organizations own sports entities, it is extremely difficult to report negative news and sure there is the mantra of there is a wall between news reporting and other businesses and the news reporting has a free reign but that simply is not true. Not in a vertically integrated business.

Money talks.

Goldman Sachs has been a part of baseball for a while. The New York financial company helped broker deals when owners wanted to sell teams and had a partnership with George Steinbrenner when the Yankees owner started the Yankees cable TV network which is reportedly worth more than any other regional sports cable TV network in the U. S.

Sports in the United States have three basic tenets. Sports need government, cable TV and corporate money to make it go whether it is baseball, hockey, basketball or college. Football is a bit different in that over-the-air network TV money is still a major component of financing. Without government, there probably are no new stadiums or arenas because facility builders would lose a lot of money on the ventures. Without the 1984 cable TV act, without the 1986 tax reforms, sports monies would not have grown exponentially and abnormally.

Sports left behind the rank and file blue collar worker and their families and wanted corporate dollars and those corporate dollars for tickets meant companies could write off luxury box and club seat tickets as a business expense. Spinmasters sold the public on the need for new stadiums and richer people as customers because the well heeled would pay the freight for increased costs. Somehow the spinmasters convinced voters to agree to sales tax hikes, "sin" taxes with increases on alcohol, cigarettes, hikes in hotel and motel room taxes, sewer taxes, utility taxes, car rental taxes and other funding mechanisms to fund more and more expensive stadiums and arenas.

The public was asked to pay more taxes and it didn't matter from the money came from a Democrat or a Republican run town as politicians of all stripes including those who keep pushing for tax cuts rolled out the public green for sports, Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball included.

The enablers like the former prosecutor, law and order guy like Giuliani wanted new stadiums because those stadiums in New York for the Yankees on Manhattan's west side and for the Mets in Queens would be economic engines. Giuliani fawned all over the Yankees, threw lavish New York City parades for the 96, 98, 99 and 2000 Yankees World Series victories. How many players on those teams used banned substances? Maybe none, but all players are suspects now.

There is also a thread here; some of the enablers also seem to be in the middle of the global recession. Wall Street helped get sports deals brokered and bought tickets. The cable TV news networks also never seem to get around, FOX and CNN, never did seem to report on the economy other than to tout Wall Street numbers. Guess it is easier to celebrate accomplishments on a baseball diamond or chasing blue semen stained dresses than do real reporting.

So don't blame Selig or Fehr on the so-called baseball sportswriters called "steroids era" as there is plenty of blame that can be go around. People might as well blame Selig and Fehr for the economic meltdown too, that might be a stretch but the people that helped enrich baseball also were involved both directly and tan gently in the economy breakdown. The enablers never stopped to ask questions, they just poured money into the game whether it was through government (new stadiums and tax breaks), media (cable TV) or corporates who bought the big ticket items, the luxury boxes, club seats while dining in expensive stadium restaurants and taking what they could off as business expenses.

Money still flows into baseball and other sports. Presidents, CEO’s, newspaper barons, TV executives all get misty eyed when it comes to sports. Fans cannot get enough of sports which is why all is forgiven. And the jock sniffers love being around athletes.

At one time, the French-born historian Jacques Barzun observed that to understand Americans you must first understand baseball. Barzun was so correct; just connect the dots, even an Australian born, naturalized American citizen named Murdoch bought into Barzun’s notion.

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