The League

Emil Steiner
Editor and Blogger

Emil Steiner

The author of NFL Crime Watch and Founding Editor of The League.

Baseball or Circus?

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Many baseball fans woke up Saturday to yet another nightmare. A-Rod had cheated and the game of their youth had once again lost its innocence.

Not me. You can only lose your innocence once. I never looked at baseball the same way after the strike of 1994. Football seemed much more exciting. Like a lot of us, I tuned back in when Big Mac and Sammy Sosa made their runs at 61, but I was watching a race to break a record, not a sport holistically.

When that race turned out to be rigged, I could only chuckle. It felt like Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon, when he catches the "healer" faking. Of course the Simpsons had foretold the farce years earlier, but when is satire ever prophetic?

Football is America's pastime now -- and not only because of the playoff structure, or entertainment level or revenue, all of which out pace Major League Baseball. It's also because of public relations and the perception of integrity -- when Jose Canseco appears to be the most honest person in your sport, you have a problem.

As we have seen in so many trials, from Martha Stewart to Barry Bonds, in America the true malfeasance is not the crime, but the cover-up. And of that, in the court of public opinion, baseball is guilty. Yes, its reputation had further to fall than the NFL, because of statistics and history and games of catch in the backyard with dad, but the cover-up -- if you can even call it that -- feels so juvenile that it's insulting. At best, Bud Selig's reaction to the issue of performance enhancing drugs was slow and simple, at worst it was fraudulent. Either way, baseball will never be the same.

The NFL tackles steroids -- which should be more prevalent than in baseball -- head on. It has for decades. Will some players cheat? Yes, the NFL acknowledges that. But it's not swept under the carpet and the fans and media appreciate that. They also know that the penalties are strict when cheaters are caught -- sometimes to strict as in the case last season when players tested positive for masking agents.

People watch sports to find out who's the best. The rules can never be perfect, mistakes are made, but fans expect that playing field to be even and the rules to be respected. It is a public trust that justifies commissioners making $17 million per year and players making $25 million. But when entertainment is valued more than fairness, we are no longer at a sporting event, we are at the circus -- and clowns are not so well-compensated.

By Emil Steiner  |  February 9, 2009; 11:41 AM ET  | Category:  Emil Steiner , Steroids Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Hey Steiner why don't you go soak your head in some clorox. Maybe you should read your own book "NFL Crime Watch" next time you think that your sport is so superior. Here's a little rub that most people like you don't get, most people are sports fans, put a TV in front of them with a game on (any-game) and they will watch it. I guess you must spend alot of time with not much to do since the NFL only plays 16 games. Gee wiz can't we all just get along?

Posted by: TippyCanoe | February 9, 2009 2:48 PM

I thought this was a pretty thoughtful column, thanks for it. I used to live and breathe baseball until 1994 and then picked it up again until Montreal was screwed by MLB in return for not wasting public funds on a new stadium and the Lorias. Football is just as or more dumb than baseball imho but much better managed. The only way baseball could climb back out of the hole it's dug for itself is probably to throw all the publicly known cheaters out literally and expunge their records. Going old-school on us - removing all the screaming digital scoreboard BS, lowering ticket prices so the middle class family can afford it again, etc - would also help bring me back to season-ticket holder status.

Posted by: accha | February 9, 2009 5:03 PM

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