But it’s better for us not to know the kinds of sacrifices the professional-grade athlete has made to get so very good at one particular thing. Oh, we’ll invoke lush clichés about the lonely heroism of Olympic athletes, the pain and analgesia of football, the early rising and hours of practice and restricted diets, the preflight celibacy, et cetera. But the actual facts of the sacrifices repel us when we see them: basketball geniuses who cannot read, sprinters who dope themselves, defensive tackles who shoot up with bovine hormones until they collapse or explode. We prefer not to consider closely the shockingly vapid and primitive comments uttered by athletes in postcontest interviews or to consider what impoverishments in one’s mental life would allow people actually to think the way great athletes seem to think. Note the way “up close and personal” profiles of professional athletes strain so hard to find evidence of a rounded human life — outside interests and activities, values beyond the sport. We ignore what’s obvious, that most of this straining is farce. It’s farce because the realities of top-level athletics today require an early and total commitment to one area of excellence. An ascetic focus. A subsumption of almost all other features of human life to one chosen talent and pursuit. A consent to live in a world that, like a child’s world, is very small. – David Foster Wallace, The String Theory
One thing that lawyers are good at, as a rule, is separating process from results. We have to because in the law if you screw up the process you will more often than not end with the wrong result.
We also (usually) understand why processes exist. Sometimes that reason is evil (to protect a business or a cartel from competition because they lobbied hard for it), but sometimes, and probably not often enough, that process is there to protect the little guy. This is why I’d caution all of the players out there celebrating this suspension. I understand wanting clean game. I understand wanting to escape the pressure of using potentially dangerous drugs to compete. The fact remains, the way that MLB went about this was amazingly shady, and that the players have sacrificed a good chunk of their power by not backing up their cheating brethren with regard to the process.
Braun is guilty. I think at this point everyone knows it. You should have known it earlier. I knew it for sure (basically) when reports surfaced that he tested positive for synthetic testosterone. It’s easy to see poor storage causing a false positive. It’s much more difficult to see poor storage causing a foreign substance to appear. But frankly, none of that should matter to the players because whatever benefits they’ve gained from this minor victory in “cleaning up the game” is going to end up costing them.
Major League Baseball is not the government. The government is limited by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It can’t try you twice for the same crime. It is subject to a series of rules governing how it collects and presents evidence. Think about what baseball did in this case.
- They lost using their own “due process”, but no problem, they just decided to punish Braun again.
- They did so by buying evidence and bribing bankrupt criminals.
- They fired their impartial “judge.”
- MLB broke the JDA by leaking Braun’s failed test.
- They continue to lie about this.
I would actually very much like to know if any major leaguer has beaten a positive test before. Remember, we were not supposed to know about Braun. Tests like this are absolutely not perfect and given the number of tests administered by MLB, if no one has ever won an appeal, than too many players have been suspended. If no one ever wins except you, you’re not really playing fair, and you’re definitely rigging something.
If you’re a player today, the game may be marginally cleaner than it was yesterday. You are also in more peril from your boss. If you fail a test, whether it’s a true positive or not, MLB can slander you with impunity. They can suspend you, and suspend you again. The can rig their process the whole way through with nothing but Hosannas from the media. And it won’t even take a failed test, by the way. A piece of paper is sufficient. How many people will end up thinking Gio Gonzales is dirty after this for precisely that reason.
You think it can’t happen to you? You think that MLB wouldn’t want to gain sway over the players active in the union? You think they’d never do anything so dirty? Yeah, OK, keep telling yourself that.
Yesterday the MLB players union granted their bargaining opponents the ability to turn any player they choose into a pariah, and to make the union turn on them at any time and for any reason they choose. The process matters.
In the US criminal justice system we set up the default as innocent, until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We put safeguards into place to keep this presumption intact. They don’t always work, they’ve been attacked, and they’ve been muted thanks to a more vocal “law and order” voting block, but they’re still there. MLB was only kept in check by the union. At this point they are, for all intents and purposes, a dictatorship.
Players are not heroes. They are not inherently good people. Everyone who writes on this blog knows that, but way too many people seem to forget repeatedly even though we’ve been through Favre. Even though Michael Jordan is a complete douche nozzle. This message just never sinks in for some people.
I absolutely don’t care about Braun’s personal life. I don’t know him and never will. He’s always struck me a guy who is probably a jerk. He has an edge to him. I don’t know him and could be wrong. Maybe he’s the nicest guy in the world. But I don’t care because he makes my baseball team more likely to win a championship. That’s really all I care about. I do not understand seriously caring about anything else. Packer Fans who continued to cheer for Favre after he left make my brain hurt. People still love their kings, apparently.
Finally, regarding all of Braun’s lying, lying is bad, m’kay. But if you happen to be in a protracted legal battle, a lot of what you say or do not say publicly is out of your hands. I hope none of you ever finds yourself in such a situation. Everything Braun said wrong may very well be completely on him, however it is absolutely impossible for any of us to tell what he could and could not say, and what he was ordered to say by his people.