Can't see the forest for the trees...
New York Times
May 8, 2007
Baseball Ignores a Problem More Deadly Than Steroids
By MURRAY CHASS
Alcohol last week killed one more major league baseball player than steroids ever have.
I repeat: Alcohol last week killed one more baseball player than steroids ever have.
Yet Major League Baseball and George J. Mitchell and Congress and the steroids zealots are in a tizzy over the use of performance-enhancing substances in baseball. At least Mitchell is being paid to care about them, but he is in such a frenzy to get to the core of steroid use that he wants to run roughshod over federal and state laws barring an employer’s release of an employee’s medical records.
When baseball has addressed the issue of drugs of abuse and performance enhancement, it has always ignored alcohol. Alcohol, after all, is legal for most players of major league age.
Drinking, especially beer, has long been an adjunct of America’s pastime. Play hard, drink hard. Sit around the clubhouse after a game and have a few beers with your buddies before you have to go home to the wife and kids.
Players using steroids serve as poor role models for kids, the zealots claim.
But if players who use steroids serve as poor role models for children, so do players who drive drunk and kill themselves. So, in fact, do managers who drive drunk but are lucky enough to fall asleep at the wheel while stopped at a light on a local street and are not driving on a highway, where their car can run into the rear of a stopped truck.
Maybe that’s the difference between a 29-year-old player and a 62-year-old manager. No amount of drinking slows down the player; too much drinking puts the manager to sleep before he can kill himself.
Tony La Russa was a whole lot luckier than Josh Hancock.
La Russa, the Cardinals’ veteran manager, did not respond to a request for a telephone interview, but after Hancock’s death early on the morning of April 29, he acknowledged in a television interview that he was aware of Hancock’s drinking.
“I did have a very serious heart to heart with Josh that Thursday,” La Russa said, “and Saturday he was still drinking and crashed. Maybe I could do a better job in my conversation, but I pulled out all the stops.”
La Russa didn’t have to pull out his credentials. Hancock knew well that his manager had been arrested five weeks earlier in Florida for driving under the influence.
Do as I say, not as I do. Children always love to hear that from their parents. Don’t drink and drive, they admonish their kids, even though they themselves often drink and drive.
La Russa very likely told his two daughters when they were younger — had “heart to hearts” — about the dangers of drinking and drugging. What did he say to them after his arrest? Oops?
We know what La Russa said to his players about the news media coverage of Hancock’s death. “Be careful of the insincerity of some media people trying to befriend you,” he said he told them, “then try to slam you with something that they want to turn this into, some kind of story that’s not all sweet.”
Several days later, they found it wasn’t any kind of sweet story. Hancock’s blood betrayed him. An autopsy found his blood-alcohol level was nearly twice the Missouri legal limit.
Before that information emerged, La Russa, in speaking to reporters, also threatened to thump them with his fungo bat if they didn’t treat the story properly. La Russa has a history of protecting his players, however foolish his actions or words might make him look.
In March 2005, as Mark McGwire was about to appear at a Congressional hearing into steroid use in baseball, La Russa, who managed McGwire in Oakland and St. Louis, defended him. “I believe in Mark for a ton of reasons,” La Russa said.
The day after McGwire refused to “talk about the past” and made himself look guilty of steroid use, La Russa maintained his support, only lamenting that McGwire had not repeated his previous denial of having used them.
Major League Baseball has made television commercials warning against the dangers of steroids, and dangerous though they may be for possible future ill effects, no baseball player is known to have died from using them. Ken Caminiti admitted using steroids, but he died at the age of 41 from a drug overdose that included cocaine but not steroids.
Baseball, however, doesn’t issue alcohol warnings. Baseball and beer have long been a revenue team, especially in St. Louis, where the Busch family’s influence is still large.
Putting steroids in perspective, since the Balco investigation began four years ago, 1.6 million people have died from smoking-related causes (400,000 a year, the United States surgeon general says) and about 150,000 (nearly half in traffic accidents) have died from alcohol-related causes.
How comforting it is to know that some people care more about baseball’s career home run record than the lives of hundreds of thousands of human beings.
Can't see the forest for the trees...
Not to mention the fact that dissing alcohol would limit the MLB player's and coaches' ability to cash in on alcohol advertisements and commercials.
And here we are thinking that responsible journalism was an oxymoron- I am going to send this guy a really nice e-mail- this is actually one of the first responsible/unsensationalistic media representations (if the not the first) that I have seen on the topic
Money talks-b.s. walks- that is how sponsorship works in this country- this is why we see so few articles actually like this- companies that distribute alcohol and advertise with major media outlets always threaten to pull their $$$ out if there is even a hint of negative publicity- same way with pharmaceutical cos.- if you ever watch the National news on any major media outlet during prime time (NBC, ABC, CBS)- 75-90% of the ads are for pharmaceutical companies now- the pharm. cos. are now using the actual "news" as an advertising medium ;( Every time a study is published or a "cure" is potentially found- it is major news.......but a lot of these things never seem to pan out....
Dirk Tanis, BA, MSci
Chief Operating Officer, Applied Nutriceuticals
Yeah, the author-Murray Chass deserves some praise for keeping things in perspective.
Finally someone in journalism gets it This problem is not exclusive to one team or a clique of players. Even the Babe was known for being a smoker and a drinker but that somehow seems cool to a lot of people.
As a hopeful future pro with big dreams, I couldn't agree with you more. I'm a 21 year old baseball player who strives to stay clear of all the junk in the baseball culture. While I have discontinued any use of banned substances (I fooled around with some legal stuff while I wasn't playing when I was 18ish) I totally agree that baseball seems to be a giant, fat alcoholic pot calling a "juicy" kettle black.
The media likes to bust on Barry and Jason and Mark for their "alleged use," while their advertising is being paid for by the big beer guys and the "smoke" companies.
I'm no high and mighty anti-beer guy, but I believe drunkenness and any form of unnatural mind or body altering addiction to be extremely dangerous.
The fact that all this took place in St. Louis is a bit ironic. I just hope I can be successful as an athlete and an example if and when I get there.
Whether we like it or not, someone is always looking up to us. Kinda thought provoking.
I've never heard of an athlete running anyone over with his car /shooting anybody/ raping someone etc.-- because they had a little too much Deca that night.