The new big leagues

added 2/11/2008 by Scott Barzilla

This has to be a brutal time for the sports columnist. Usually, columnist specialize in a sport or two and when you consider the hometown slant, they really don't have to be all that creative. All this is changing. Now, thousands of columnists across the country compete to come up with a unique perspective on the same three or four stories.

For the professional athlete this really has to be mind-blowing. The good ol' days were simpler times. An athlete got ahead by putting up the best numbers and winning the most games for his or her team. In the 1970s and 80s, that devolved into a tug of war over salaries. The highest salary meant you were the best player. Stats be damned. That is of course unless you can use them to get more money. The world shifted from the stories about Babe Ruth to bank statements for Michael Jordan. The traditional tale shifted from one of earnest Roy Hobbs to the jaded views of Jerry Maguire and Arliss.

Now, it's not even money. It is the news cycle. How long can you stay on top of the news cycle? If ESPNews dedicates a whole category to you on the bottom of the ticker then you have made it. MLB, NFL, NCAA, NBA, and NHL have made way for "Santana", "Clemens", "Mitchell", and "Vick". What a great country we live in when you can be on top of the sports news docket for something you did off the field.

Naturally, I am a bit disillusioned with the news media. I sometimes feel like Joe DiMaggio did when he saw NBC announce his death. They seem so eager to report something that they often report nothing at all. It is proof positive that Americans will buy anything if the packaging is fancy enough. Get a box of your dog's stool and wrap it up in some gold paper. Tie a bow on it and sell it at Nordstrom's for $39.95.

If that seems like a bit of hyperbole then you've been immune to the stuff that the media has been shoveling in the Clemens/McNamee "As the syringe turns". McNamee's attorneys show a picture of dirty gauze, syringes, and blood next to a can of Miller Lite. As an ex-cop, McNamee is used to preserving evidence. The can of suds is right out of the Houston crime lab playbook. (Note to self: Go to Sears and look for a -80 degree freezer.)

Clemens comes back and asserts that he was not at a party where Canseco discussed steroids. McNamee asserted he was, so if he is wrong there then he obviously must be wrong about the roids. May I be dismissed from breaking down the logical fallacy of that story? I guess the godfather of steroids in baseball must approve of all use. No one can operate independently.

What you have are two people creating some much smoke that the television audience is about to sue Phillip Morris. Clemens and McNamee can duke this out all they want, but do we really need to know? Do what they did in the good ol' days and just tell us what happened when it was all over. Save the taped phone conversations, dirty needles, and party RSVPs for another day. It's enough to get me to turn off the leading sports misinformation source altogether.

I can always turn on VH1 where overage rappers and big hair band lead singers try to find love. The programming has the same air of reality as the geniune news spewing out of Bristol. Throw all of these guys in one house in Malibu and call it something like "The Roadhouse." They can roid up, breed chickens, and watch the whole thing go down in flames. Clemens and McNamee can throw syringes at a dart board with the winner getting a free pass to Cooperstown.