Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Nice Guys Finish ... ?

(Wednesday update: As it turns out, McGwire may still not be telling the whole truth. Sad).

Objectivity and impartiality are two tenets of journalism that often get pushed aside when it comes to sports. Sports journalists have their favorite teams and players just as other fans do, and often the line between professionalism and boosterism can get very blurry.

We learned that lesson again Monday when former baseball slugger Mark McGwire admitted to using steroids during his record-breaking seasons in the 1990s. Now that McGwire has become hitting coach with the St. Louis Cardinals he felt it was time to come clean. In a prepared statement, McGwire acknowledged using steroids throughout the 1990s, including his record-breaking season of 1998, when the home run race between McGwire and Sammy Sosa captivated the sporting world and returned interest to a game many thought was ruined by the strike of 1994.

Much reaction to McGwire's statement from the sports media was congratulatory, fawning and obsequious. The pharse that kept popping up was "good guy;" McGwire was a "good guy" who did some bad things, but now that he has admitted what he did we can all move forward. McGwire's former manager in St. Louis, Tony Larussa, said he was encouraged by McGwire's announcement and added that no matter what McGwire had ever done at least he "didn't lie about anything."

So because McGwire is a "good guy" (which to sports reporters means he wasn't openly hostile to them) he gets a free pass on what is the biggest baseball scandal of this generation? I wonder how Barry Bonds feels about that? Bonds was never considered a "good guy" by the sports media, and for that he has taken a beating in the sports media, even though his steroid use (at least, purposeful use of steroids) is still alleged.

Since his retirement in 2001, McGwire has had every opportunity to fess up, including his awkward testimony before Congress in 2005. Yet for all those years Mark McGwire remained silent. Not admitting to steroid use and his weak excuses before Congress ("I'm not here to talk about the past") are not the same as lying, but it's pretty close. As McGwire's admission reeks of self-interest. As mentioned, he's starting a new job with the Cardinals. And what about the recent Hall of Fame vote? In his third year of eligibility, McGwire got just under 24% of the baseball writes vote; far short of the 75% needed for induction. Is it just coincidence that McGwire's change of heart took place less than a week after voters rejected him yet again? Surely, McGwire figured coming clean will help him in future voting.

Some might argue that all this is about race; that McGwire, the popular white hero, is forgiven while Barry Bonds, the surly black star, is not. Others might say it's about forgiveness; that America is a forgiving nation and that we should give McGwire a break. For our purposes, the real issue is about fairness, and especially fairness in the sports media. Sports reporters should not have a double standard--one set of rules for nice, polite, "good guys," and another set of rules for everyone else. If McGwire, Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens and Jason Giambi cheated, then treat them all the same--as cheaters. Thankfully, at least some in the sports media get that point.


Blogger Unknown said...

Objectivity and impartiality are two tenets of journalism.An honest journalist would follow these tenets.
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12:49 AM  

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