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Steroids and Syria

This Week in the Narrative – 32

Nigel Clarke

I would like to start with something different this week. Though, upon extrapolation it may become something familiar.

I have written before about politics being like pro-wrestling. This week … baseball?

I enjoy watching baseball. If I am being honest, I enjoy listening to baseball on the radio. I have noticed in my fandom that some unusual things appear to be happening this year.

Home runs are being hit at a record-setting pace not approached since the late-1990s/early-2000s, and never approached in the 100 or so years of the sport before that.

When I do take in a game with my eyes rather than my ears, it looks as if every third player has put on 30 pounds of muscle since last season. Admittedly, it is somewhat impressive to look at these individuals who seem to have muscles in places other people don’t have places.

During a recent game, one player’s neck was so thick and rippling that the top button of his jersey popped off, unable to withstand the girth it was being asked to contain.

“He’s so hot his shirt is unbuttoned,” the announcer said at the time.

I can recall watching baseball back at the turn of the millennium, when every record in the game was being surpassed. I remember the larger than life supermen – Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Canseco – who were so muscular it was hard to imagine they would be able to open the door to their car after the game.

This period in baseball history is now referred to as the “Steroid Era.”

This is where a discussion unusual for This Week in the Narrative becomes something more usual.

See, the curious thing about the “Steroid Era” is not so much that players would seek to provide themselves with every advantage available. It seems part of the job description, particularly now. From nutrition – imagine how good Babe Ruth would have been had he not been literally drunk during the games, smoking cigarettes and eating hot dogs on the field of play – to surgeries for injuries which would have ended careers 30, 50, 100 years ago, to, yes, steroids.

But much more curious was the response during the “Steroid Era” by the administrative structure of baseball – the owners, the general managers, the coaches – and the mainstream sports media.

Certainly, many, if not most, of these people would have been aware what was going on; aside from the broken records and overt muscle gains, because, by many accounts, they were direct witnesses to steroid use in the clubhouse.

But owners, managers, coaches, they never brought it up publicly.

More importantly, the media acted as though the word ‘steroids’ did not exist. In fact, even worse, they actively engaged in a disinformation campaign directed towards the public.

They said the bats were better, or that the new ballparks were smaller.

Most infamously, they pushed the narrative that records were being broken because of the ball. So-called journalists, who had likely stood beside men as they plunged needles full of steroids into their asses, wrote stories and gave interviews insisting that there was some defect with the ball causing it to fly further.

They called this the “juiced ball” theory.

Personal note: I find it perversely enjoyable when the perpetrators of a deception really rub it in the faces of the people they are deceiving – like Hillary’s campaign logo with the big red arrow pointing to the right. “Juiced” of course, is slang for “on steroids.”

Yeah, the ball is juiced.

Of course, eventually rampant steroid use was revealed and the “Steroid Era” came to an end.

Once the media were finished condemning the players for their supposed misconduct (a period of a few years), they allowed themselves a moment of self-reflection.

Many pieces were written and interviews given in pseudo-apology, for having failed in their reporting during the “Steroid Era.” Most of these apologies sounded a bit like self-mollifying back pats, but they at least seemed to imply a promise to do better in the future.

Then, in the last half-decade, the “Steroid Era” became something of a faded historical comedy; remembered as an almost cute display of naïveté by generations past.

Except, now, men so large they can’t button their jerseys are hitting baseballs farther than ever before, more often.

And what is the media doing?

“The Juiced Ball is Back”

“The shocking ‘juiced’ ball evidence behind all these homers”

“Are Juiced Balls The New Steroids?”

The point this week is not about the game of baseball.

Rather it is about the sports media’s interaction with the steroid era.

Most crucially, it is about how this interaction so closely mirrors the interaction of mainstream media and the Iraq War, right up to the current day examples.

During the build-up and onset of the Iraq War, mainstream media acted as unapologetic cheerleaders and deliberate misinformers. They pushed false narratives like the WMDs story – Colin Powell with his little glass vial at the United Nations reminds me of the big production which was made of some baseball teams putting balls in a humidified room, presumably to de-juice them.

Once it later became clear the war was a disaster, there was a period in which the mainstream media blamed and demonized the politicians involved.

Later, like the sports media, the mainstream media were able to have a moment of self-reflection, with many journalists admitting somewhat to their failures, though in what often sounded more like weepy-eyed justification than apology.

Eventually, enough time passed that the Iraq War began to fade into historical comedy – Remember the time those naïve people from the past let an illiterate cowboy and his Batman villain sidekick dupe them into illegal and imperialist war?

And yet, here we are now with a President who is both an illiterate cowboy and a comic book villain; a man who he seems determined to antagonize as many countries as possible.

So what is the mainstream media doing?

They are beating the war drums, every day, for one conflict or another.

The Russians because of their alleged, but yet unclarified and unproven, espionage.

China for disregarding international laws.

Syria for their chemical weapons (like the ‘juiced ball,’ they didn’t even bother coming up with a new one here).

It is interesting that now, with a chance to begin reparations for their Iraq War shame, the mainstream media have chosen, once again, cheerleading, manipulation, and obfuscation.

Interesting … though not at all surprising.

The baseball industry is no more about the integrity of the game than mainstream media is about journalistic integrity.

War and home runs; steroids and Syria – Profit, profit, profit.

Quote of the Week:

Read More This Week in the Narrative:

Week 31: Comey’s Broken System

Week 30: Pittsburgh, Paris, and Pyongyang

Week 29: The Emperor’s Imperialist Pilgrimage

Week 28: Impeaching Democracy

Week 27: Trump’s Tricky Dick

Week 26: Behind Trumpcare’s Facade


Written by Nigel Clarke

Writer and notorious vagabond. From the frozen north. Follow Nigel on Twitter @Nig_Clarke.

Nigel Clarke is a Writer for Progressive Army.

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Steroids and Syria