Like I’ve written previously with regard to the whole NFL Network/cable/Sunday Ticket issue, I find Congressional involvement in professional sport devolves into the worst sort of Kabuki theatre; soapboxes have already been set up for Rep. Henry Waxman and the rest of the House committee set to grill MLB commissioner Bud Selig, union chief Donald Fehr, and former senator George Mitchell tomorrow morning with stock phrases about matters of “integrity,” “public health,” “doing it for the children,” and “America’s pastime” (as if the NFL had not lapped baseball completely by now). But, as the NFL did, MLB ceded its right to be free of certain forms of interference from the feds once it lobbied and received an anti-trust exemption, so Selig will have to take his medicine and lumps yet again.
However, it’s instructive to read the prep articles for this — and the copy from T.J. Quinn and Mark Fainaru-Wada over at ESPN is probably the most instructive, because it will provide Selig with the easy out of blaming it all on Fehr and the MLBPA, which ties nicely into a politician’s favorite sport — never let the party affiliation smoke you out, there are plenty of Democrats who are less than friendly to labor unions to begin with (Waxman is not one of them; you can’t be an L.A.-area congressman without strong labor support.) Regardless of what happens to players like Roger Clemens (who appears to be scurrying as quickly as he can in what appears to be an impending showdown under oath with Brian McNamee), the least Congress can do — if it has any concept of being remotely fair in its treatment of the issue — is line up as many executives, particularly those named in the Mitchell Report or having signed players named in said report, and ask them under oath what they knew and when they knew it.
In a better world, they might ask the former players why they did it, the reasons they used it, and ask doctors about the science behind it — the wear and tear of a 162-game season, and several playoff series. Maybe instead of starting another front of the colossal failure that is the War on (Some) Drugs, after asking the right questions about the report, those particular pezzonovanti might look at whether there are actual benefits for adult males in strictly prescribed and monitored use or not — and then consider whether it applies to other sports, particularly the one that has lapped MLB and has players with non-guaranteed contracts willing to do a heck of a lot to avoid being cut.
What we will get some damn good theater out of it that will make us feel good and have a scapegoat. Nothing productive will actually come of it. Jose Canseco said last time that Congress held hearings on baseball and steroids that the game could not be allowed to police itself or it would be back facing a House committee again. Well, we’re back again, and in front of representatives that can’t even pay enough attention to determine whether waterboarding is or isn’t torture or logical cases for war.
Color me less than optimistic.