The most significant document in the history of sports? Perhaps. Certainly the most significant sports-related document in recent memory, the result of an investigation by Congressman George Mitchell into steroid use in baseball. Among Mitchell's other claims to fame? Brokering the peace process in Ireland. Also, the President of the United States was called upon to comment on the document; I heard his statements rebroadcast last night.
I do have to wonder if perhaps our interests as a nation would be better served by having our politicians focused on, oh, the quagmire in Iraq or the current foreclosure crisis / financial downturn we're seeing at home. But you know. Baseball players are doing 'roids, so.
The two biggest names featured in the Mitchell Report are Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens, who "even if he refutes it all" now finds himself in the same disgraced category as Barry Bonds, who also has never tested positive or been formally convicted of using performance-enhancing drugs, but it's an all but foregone conclusion among the public (myself included) that he did. The scenario presented for Roger is that his juicing began with his departure from Boston, ensuing comeback in Toronto, and whaddya know, later career with the Yankees. "I think we owe Dan Duquette an apology," remarked one WEEI commenter, according to my dad.
Pettitte hasn't been as divisive a figure as Clemens; nor has he enjoyed similar celebrity. However, he, too, has been a key cog in the Yankees' pitching staff, particularly during better years around the turn of the millenium. Add on top of that other past Yankees notables such as Chuck Knoblauch, and yesterday was not a very good day to be a New York fan. "At least Derek Jeter's not on the list," said a Yankees fan friend of mine.
This is our pattern as fans in digesting the steroid era. In future it will be difficult to understand the mental adjustment that has to occur for fans now; in future Clemens' name may become as synonymous with 'steroids' as Bonds, but right now there is still the matter of his legend to reframe, rationalize, and preserve in whatever form for posterity. The pattern I've seen emerging in that difficult process, particularly for people whose idols have been touched by this Angel of Death passing over baseball, is to find a single player, a single role model, to cling to in the midst of a world of mistrust and potential betrayal. A single player one is willing to place a bet on, of unlikelihood that he is a cheater, of probability that he is what he says he is. For my Yankees-fan friend, it's Jeter. For me, it's...well, this is where it gets tricky. I have my One Player, but I'm afraid to even mention his name in these conversations. That's how devastating it would be for me if my One Player's number gets called. But I think it's pretty easy to guess who it is--the guy's hard to miss. And I'm fairly certain I share this One Player with many, many of my fellow Red Sox fans.
In the meantime, while I support and encourage the revelation, and hopefully, correction, of the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball, there is always the dark whiff of witch-hunt to these things. Take, for example, the leaked list of ballplayers' names that preceded the release of the actual report by about an hour. The more conspiracy-minded side of me thnks it reads like a reporters' wish list of names that would be on the report if they'd have their druthers, names that would truly have made it the biggest story in baseball since the 1918 Chicago White Sox, names like Albert Pujols's. Names like Jason Varitek's.
Names, it turned out, that appeared nowhere but this bogus prior report.
Word spread quickly that the leaked list was misinformation, but unfortunately not quite as quickly as the list itself. Personally, I have to question the decision by several otherwise reputable news organizations to put out that list when they knew they'd be receiving the actual, confirmed report in about an hour. Maybe if for some reason Congress was dragging its feet with the official list, or if the leaked list had come out two weeks before the actual report was scheduled to appear, but to open up players like Pujols and Varitek to speculation solely to get an hour's jump on the story? Shame.
Once a player's name is mentioned in the same sentence as steroids, it doesn't go away, at least not for quite a while. Jason Varitek will probably be asked questions about it now. I support the attempt to put an end to steroids in general, but that thought also makes me furious. The slavering lust for pedestal-crushing going on in many corners of the press right now just isn't my cup of tea.