The saddest thing about former Senator George Mitchell's report on the
use of performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball is this...no
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
So how do we fix the problem? We organize...we form the biggest and
strongest union in history... the PSFO, Professional Sports Fan
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.