Cheating and illegal drug-taking in Major League Baseball. That is the subject of this evening's "Talking Points Memo."
It's no secret many professional athletes take illegal drugs: some of them use cocaine and marijuana, others use steroids to enhance their performance.
Yesterday, New York Yankees star Jason Giambi (search) confirmed he was a steroid user, and now all hell's breaking loose.
There are many things in play here. First of all, taking steroids is cheating. Secondly, Major League Baseball (search) knew some of the players were juicing up, but only now are they expressing indignation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUD SELIG, MLB COMMISSIONER: We do have, as these fellows hear me say all the time, enormous social responsibility, and, so when it comes to the issue of steroids, there is no equivocation. We need a very tough policy. We do have drug testing but we need a tougher policy with tougher punishment and other situations. It's just — it's to me — beyond debate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Ah, Selig's a phony. Now that everything has been made public he's a tough guy. But baseball policy gives players five chances before stiff punishments kick in for steroid use. Come on! If Selig really cared, that dumb policy would have been thrown out a long time ago.
Now why should we care?
First of all, millions of American children idolize athletes, and, according to ethical studies, about 80 percent of American kids cheat in school. Most don't even feel bad about it. In fact, some kids think they're heroes if they get away with cheating.
So where do you think they got that attitude? How about from adults who cheat? How about from politicians and sports stars who don't obey the rules?
America's now a culture where pretty much anything goes, and many of us look the other way. For example, three years ago, I sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" at Wrigley Field (search) in Chicago.
Then, I was invited to do color commentary on the FOX broadcast of the Cubs-Cards game. Immediately, I caused trouble by saying St. Louis Cardinals star Mark McGwire (search), the home run king — remember him — ruined his body by taking whatever he was taking. The announcers looked at me in horror. Now I'm used to that, by the way. But they knew I was right.
My friendLyle Alzado (search), Long Island guy, former NFL star, died at age 43. He told me before the brain tumor killed him, that steroids caused it. Giambi's body fell apart last year, and millions of other athletes you've never heard of have been damaged for life.
The big picture here is that America is losing sight of boundaries and fair play. Our competitive society and greedy businesses, like big league sports, tolerate all kinds of bad conduct. We don't need steroids for the body. We need steroids to build character, metaphorically speaking, of course.
And that's "The Memo."
The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day
There's a Web site called "Patriotic Americans Boycotting Anti-American Hollywood," and it basically encourages Americans not to see the movies or buy the records of celebrities who mouth off in a certain way.
The latest is [actor] Will Smith (search) who apparently said some dopey things to a German newspaper comparing racist police with the 9/11 terrorists or some such. We haven't really been able to confirm any of that. But I think it's ridiculous to boycott any American for giving a political opinion. — That's freedom of speech.
Now you cannot like the celebrity, you cannot want to buy his or her product. That's freedom of expression, too. Perfectly legitimate. Some people won't watch this program because they don't like me. I know that's unbelievable, — I think there are three of them — but to try to organize a boycott based on public opinion, I don't think that's good.
One caveat: If what a person says hurts someone directly, like gangsta rap hurts unsupervised children, that's another matter. But really who cares what Will Smith says? He's free to have any opinion he wants and shouldn't be the subject of any boycott.