ESPN’s Howard Bryant, taking a page out of Joe McCarthy’s playbook, on baseball’s response to recent steroid stories (i.e. David Ortiz) and the hiring of Mark McGwire:
Baseball responded curiously, if not brazenly. The league and the union both enthusiastically defended Ortiz without providing any evidence that could lead to his exoneration; and now, as the World Series is beginning, McGwire has resurfaced, with Selig’s exuberant blessing.
McGwire is not prohibited from working in baseball, and the Cardinals have broken no rules in hiring him. But he is today what he was in 2005 — a coward, accepting a job he knows he does not deserve.
Guilty until proven innocent; free to work but blackballed. That’s exactly how it went during the Red Scare. Is this really the level of discourse that will lead baseball out of the old era and into a new one? Thank goodness Bryant doesn’t have the kind of power McCarthy had.
Communism was a legitimate threat in the 1940s and 50s, but McCarthy and his ilk decided to (a) overstate the threat so as to induce an irrational panic; and (b) fight the threat on the most irrelevant and ineffective of playing fields. Steroids may or may not be a serious threat to the integrity of professional sports today, but Howard Bryant and his ilk are doing exactly the same thing.
As was the case with McCarthy, we’ll one day look back disapprovingly on this kind of rhetoric as well.