Brent Musburger: with proper supervision steroids "could be used at the professional level"

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Usually, when a venerable member of our nation’s sporting media says something in public about steroids, the message is pretty clear: steroids are awful, only evil cheaters use them and unless we test people to within a hair’s breadth of their life, they will be a scourge upon the land.

Or words to that effect.

ESPN/ABC’s Brent Musburger spoke to students at the University of Montana recently, and he didn’t take that route:

“Here’s the truth about steroids: They work . . .I’ve had somebody say that, you know, steroids should be banned
because they’re not healthy for you. Let’s go find out. What do the doctors actually think about anabolic
steroids and the use by athletes? Don’t have a preconceived notion that
this is right or this is wrong.”

He went on to say that while anabolic steroids have no place in high school athletics, “I think
under the proper care and doctor’s advice, they could be used at the
professional level,”

This will likely have a lot of you fuming, but after reading the whole story I think he makes a lot of sense.  It is undisputed that steroids do, in certain situations, bring with them medical benefits. The biggest problem with steroids — aside from the fact that using them violates the rules — is that they can be dangerous if abused or overused.

But what if we had good evidence that, if taken in X dosage by someone in good health, they weren’t harmful at all?  What if, under proper medical supervision, they proved to be no different than cortisone shots and vitamin regimens and things like that? Or, if you want to get right down to it, what if they posed risks, but risks that were reasonable enough to where weighing them against the potential to make millions playing sports made taking them worth it?

We don’t have good enough information on this because there haven’t — at least as far as I know — been comprehensive studies in which the effects were tested on healthy, athletic adults. A lot of the reason there hasn’t been such tests, I bet, is because there’s such a stigma and hysteria attached to them.

I tend to think that the stigma is irrational, but I’d really like to know how irrational it is, if at all. And if it’s not irrational — i.e. if there was a safe dosage or use pattern of PEDs that athletes and trainers and/or doctors could adhere to and which could be monitored — what then is the problem?

So no matter how much controversy Musburger has caused — and I sense that he’s caused a fair bit — I think he’s simply making sense here. 

Even more sense are his comments about being wary of journalists who seem so darn certain about steroids, one way or the other. How there can be such certainty that the stuff is the devil’s doing without there being much evidence about it never ceases to amaze me. 

Anyway, just more food for thought on a topic that I find rather nourishing on an intellectual and ethical level.

Mike Matheny tried to have his own son picked off at first base

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 26: Manager Mike Matheny #26 of the St Louis Cardinals looks on from the dugout during the first inning of a MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 26, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Diamondbacks 3-1. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
Ralph Freso/Getty Images
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Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has a son, Tate, who was selected by the Red Sox in the fourth round of the 2015 draft out of Missouri State University. Tate, an outfielder, spent the 2015 season with Low-A Lowell and last year played at Single-A Greenville.

Now in spring camp with the Red Sox, Tate is trying to continue his ascent through the minor league system. On Monday afternoon in a game against his father’s Cardinals, Tate pinch-ran after Xander Bogaerts singled to center field to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning. Mike wasn’t about to let his son catch any breaks. Via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

That’s right: Mike tried to have his own son picked off at first base. That’s just cold, man.

Tate was erased shortly thereafter when Mookie Betts grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. Tate got his first at-bat in the seventh and struck out.

Do we really need metal detectors at spring training facilities?

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Craig Calcaterra
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MESA, AZ — Over the past couple of seasons we’ve, more or less, gotten used to the sight of metal detectors at major league ballparks. And the sight of long lines outside of them, requiring us to get to the park a bit earlier or else risk missing some of the early inning action.

Like so much else over the past fifteen and a half years, we’re given assurances by people in charge that it’s for “security,” and we alter our lives and habits accordingly. This despite the fact that security experts have argued that it’s a mostly useless and empty exercise in security theater. More broadly, they’ve correctly noted that it’s a cynical and defeatist solution in search of a problem. But hey, welcome to 21st Century America.

And welcome metal detectors to spring training:

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Beginning this year, Major League Baseball is mandating that all spring training facilities use some form of metal detection, be it walkthrough detectors like the ones shown here at the Giants’ park in Scottsdale or wands like the one being used on the nice old lady above at the Cubs facility in Mesa.

I asked Major League Baseball why they are requiring them in Florida and Arizona. They said that the program was not implemented in response to any specific incident or threat at a baseball game, but are “precautionary measures.” They say that metal detection “has not posed significant inconvenience or taken away from the ballpark experience” since being required at big league parks in 2015 and believe it will work the same way at the spring training parks.They caution fans, however, that, as the program gets underway, they should allow for more time for entry.

And that certainly makes sense:

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I took this photo a few minutes after the home plate gate opened at Sloan Park yesterday afternoon. As I noted this morning, the Cubs sell out every game in their 15,000-seat park. That’s a lot of wanding and, as a result, it could lead to a lot of waiting.

But the crowds here all seemed to get through the line pretty quickly. Perhaps because the wanding is not exactly a time-consuming affair:

Not every security guard was as, well, efficient as this guy. But hardly anyone walking through the gate was given a particularly thorough go-over. I saw several hundred people go through the procedure soon after the gates opened and most of them weren’t scanned bellow the level of their hip pockets. I went back a little closer to game time when most people were already in the park and the lines were shorter. The procedure was a bit more deliberate then, though not dramatically so. This is all new for the security people too — spring training just started — and it’s fair to say that they are trying hard to balance the needs of their new precautionary measures against the need to keep the lines moving and the fans happy.

On this day at least it seemed that fan happiness was winning. I spoke with several fans after they got through the gates and none of them offered much in the way of complaint about being wanded. The clear consensus: it’s just what we do now. We have metal detectors and cameras at schools and places of work and security procedures have been ratcheted up dramatically across the board. That we now have them at ballparks is not surprising to anyone, really. It’s just not a thing anyone thinks to question.

And so they don’t.