How to save Baseball

The saddest thing about former Senator George Mitchell's report on the use of performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball is real surprises. Every owner, player and fan pretty much knew who was on the juice (steroids and Human Growth Hormone or GBH). It was obvious by the changes in their appearance and performance. If there was anything at all surprising about the report it was that it was able to name 88 players at all, given the fact that almost nobody in the sport wants to clean it up.

Here's the deal, baseball owners don't want to rock the boat because, bigger better players mean bigger and better attendance and television revenue. And the players union (Major League Baseball has the strongest union in professional sports) doesn't want it's members inconvenienced or embarrassed by something like unannounced or off-season testing (the off-season is when much of the "improvement" takes place). And it's not just baseball...there's no meaningful testing in the NBA, NFL or NHL either. Basically, the scrutiny professional athletes are under is laughable when compared with that of competitors the Olympics and other international competition.

So how do we fix the problem? We organize...we form the biggest and strongest union in history... the PSFO, Professional Sports Fan Organization.

Think about it, millions of people, most but not all of them Americans... collectively pooling their money and ideas to keep big sports honest. Dues would be low and voluntary, $5 a year would be nice...but since many of the members (fans) will be kids, nothing's compulsory. But with membership of hundreds of thousands if not millions, we can do several things right away.

1. Set up a pledge of sportsmanship and publish a roster of which athletes sign it and which do not. Among other things the pledge would require a standard of behaviour on and off the field, including an agreement to submit to a reasonable number of unannounced tests for any performance enhancing substance. These "samples" will be dated and stored permanently so they can be retested when the detection chemistry catches up with the "stealth" chemistry.

The athletes would be graded on their character, community involvement and sportsmanship in addition to their agreement to stay "clean" and these scores would be constantly updated on the PSFO website. Of course everybody's a fan for different reasons, but these grades would give fans another set of tools to use when deciding whose memorabilia to buy or who to vote for in an otherwise close all-star race.

2. Set up the "Fan's Lobby" in Washington and state capitals. The professional sports industry has some big-gun lobbyists on K Street and in every state in the union. They've gotten some very favourable legislation passed in recent years on everything from taxes to use of public property and transportation access to sports venues. The Fan's Lobby (and fans are taxpayers) might want to take a look at that legislation and future proposals...depending on how cooperative the owners and player's unions are with cleaning up their respective sports.

3. Give the players a venue to communicate with the fans and answer some of their email. And a chance to explain why they did something that might have dropped their character score.

Finally, this is bigger than baseball. Not every pro-athlete is on the juice, most aren't...but they have to compete against those that are, and that puts their careers at risk.

After all, athletes are fans too...we're working for you, not against you. As a matter of fact, we'd love to have you in the union...and you can damn sure afford the $5.