Friday, February 15, 2008

An Awkward Search for the Truth

As most of you know, Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee, along with their entourage of attorneys and advisors, were the focus of a Congressional Hearing this past Wednesday. Carried by the full range of ESPN networks, C-Span, and countless other media outlets, the supposed aim of the hearings was to flush out the truth about the Clemens/McNamee accusations, and take another step forward in ridding sports of steroids. While apparently there is some regret regarding the hearing (see, that can't change the fact that it has happened.

The question then becomes, what did the hearing produce? A lot of he-said/he-said, accusations thrown back and forth, possible witness tampering, and an interesting display of lawyering. While that may make for great TV, it really didn't get anyone any closer to the truth.

So, with this hearing joining the Barry Bonds situation, the previous Congressional hearings (Selig/Fehr, McGwire/Palmeiro/Sosa, etc.) and the Mitchell Report, are we any closer to solving the problem? And, if we are, what is the solution?

I don't have quite as much of an issue as some people with Congressmen (and women) spending time, and thus taxpayers' money, on this, if the aim is true. People claim that this is a public health issue, and if it that is the true impetus behind the hearings, then so be it.

Yet, there are some aspects of this that don't make sense. If you're going to call in Clemens and Petitte, why not call in Adam Piatt, Jack Cust, and the others who were named in the Report? Of course, we all know that putting Adam Piatt before Congress doesn't have quite the same flair as Roger Clemens.

Also, if the talking heads at ESPN are going to give their spins on the testimony and developments, why not leave that to the experts? Bring on someone with a sports medicine background (Will Carroll for instance), or people with legal experience, and leave the analysis to them. No offense to John Seibel, Stephen A. Smith, or any one of the other anchors or commentators on the network, but most of them have no relevant experience, besides covering the athletes who are involved. The opinions of Smith, Colin Cowherd, and a number of others have little to no value, if for no other reason than they don't have the professional or educational background to comment intelligently on the issues. This isn't a rehash of a baseball game; it's a moderately complex situation involving the worlds of sports, law and medicine.

Do we know anything more than we did a year ago? When I ask that, I don't mean just the names that have been released, but do we know more about the problem itself. Do we know about how to get effective testing in place? Do we know how to put out education programs to schools, so that young athletes don't start using steroids, HGH, or other performance enhancers that could endanger their health? Do we know how to improve the next 30 years, rather than how to rehash the last 20? Do we know how much of a problem steroids are in all sports, at all levels, from youth leagues to professionals?

These public displays may be good fodder for the evening news, but whether they get us any closer to answers depends a great deal on the questions we are asking.


RC said...

Here's the full link to the Waxman article:

Anyway, some points -

1 - Will Carroll would be inexcusably terrible in this capacity on ESPN - he has done the research to give a solid analysis, but his position (which appears to be inexorable, in his mind) is very close to "apologist." Besides this, it's not really a sports-med issue, so it's fairly outside his expertise - don't get me wrong, Carroll is invaluable during Fantasy Baseball season, but here is the wrong situation.

2 - That said, of course you're correct. ESPN's handling of this situation is laughably bad, up to and including it (along with MSNBC, CNN and every other 'mainstream' source I've seen) choosing to focus on awkward side-issues while ignoring the elephant in the corner: it is fairly clear at this point that Roger Clemens is full of shit, and much more likely than not that he used PEDs (put it this way: likely doesn't meet the "reasonable doubt" standard, but he's far beyond "preponderance" and likely beyond "clear and convincing" - he's lucky it's not a civil matter). That is inexcusable, in my mind.

cseguin said...

I could see your point on Carroll. Reading back through some of his posts, on Baseball Prospectus and other sources, he has slowly gone from a "here are the finer points of the issue" to a "well, I know better than you, and I'm correct" stance. I was either remembering his earlier articles too fondly, or giving him too much credit in the face of the other "analysis" (and I use that word loosely) on this.

I just feel, like you do, that we're focusing on the wrong things, and there's almost no one out there reasonable enough to listen to, or to talk about it with any bit of intelligence. I don't care who did what; I think to retroactively go back and start cherry-picking is impossible and doesn't accomplish a whole lot. You're absolutely correct, though, that if we're going to have people standing up and talking about/analyzing Clemens, I'd rather it be someone knowledgeable, not Cowherd/Andy Gresh/Seibel/Stuart Scott/etc.

The mainstream media has really dropped the ball here.

Without making this too long, I also think it's interesting how this has become kind of a line in the sand between the traditional baseball reporters and the Baseball Prospectus/number-based community. It's almost like both sides have dug into the ground and are spending more time criticizing each other's viewpoints than discussing some of the major issues. That's not necessarily a criticism, just an observation.