Steroids, Sopranos & Hilly the Clint

17 Dec 2007

this just pisses me off.George Mitchell and his legal eagles are bad-ass. I’m glad to see that the ‘purity’ of the National Pastime is nekkid on the table and knickers in a twist. But it ain’t a big secret, I mean being incredulous about juicing in baseball is like Renault in Casablanca being “Shocked, Shocked to find that gambling is going on in here.”

Let’s be real: Cheating is part of the American Way. The USA was built violently from the ground up and then expanded west Deadwood style. Jay-Z is on the cover of Fortune Magazine – his beginnings as a businessman are rooted in the ‘illegal’ drug trade – and he is now on the legal side of things. So what message does the magazine cover send to corner boys? Keep your head down and work at McDonalds? Don’t think so.

Fortune Magazine and American capitalism teach us that if you are an outsider looking in, take any edge possible. Hustle Harder. And if you’re an insider, you prolly have a safety net of cash and connections, so…..well…..

This is not to condone cheating, but to craft a more honest discussion about it.
Something I do not fully understand (help me dear readers) is why steroid use is a major problem for baseball, but juicing in football is tacitly accepted. Is this because baseball can be played by mortals, but football requires superhuman strength and speed?

When Michael Mann’s above Nike :60 came out in September, both the advertising and sports industries were atwitter about the spot. While it looks great and tugs at the heartstrings, the ad features linebacker Shawne Merriman – a player suspended 4 games last year for steroid use. Surprisingly there was little blowback about this; save for the razorsharp Deadspin, no advert or sports publication even mentioned the issue. What message are our industries sending with this? And what message is Nike sending? The silent message is that Cheaters (can) Win.

But wait – it reaches even further. What does it mean when Hillary Clinton is remixing the text of the Sopranos to announce her campaign song?

On the surface, it’s a tasty morsel of populist politicking. But Clinton is placing herself in a narrative that celebrates a mind-boggling cheater – Tony Soprano. The popularity of the show is rooted in the fact that this gangster is also in therapy, a loving father, etc… Those cuddly quirks aside, Soprano is a cold blooded killer, a thief and an adulterer. Hell, he might even cheat on his income taxes.

The show celebrates cheating, and Hilly the Clint is celebrating the show. Wally & The Beav left the building with Willie Mays. What type of athlete do we expect in a world of Bush, Britney & Tony? The MLB steriod drama is but one act our national narrative of cheating.

Yes, Hilly, I hear you – The Sopranos is fiction. Roger Clemens the Person uses (illegal) steroids to acheive narrative excellence as Roger the Pitcher. James Gandolfini the Actor might not commit crimes to access Tony Soprano the Character. But if an actor has an (illegal) drug addiction, one that allows him to access new levels of creative capital, we let it slide or celebrate it.. Art is not sport. But sport is art.

Major League Sports are ultimately a show business construct, a dramatic narrative like The Sopranos. Athletes are Actors. The primary difference is that we often construct morality plays out of the jumping, sweating and spitting that happens on the field. While Yankee Stadium may indeed bring back misty memories of the sandlot, those throwing 100 mph are here to entertain us and to make the rich richer. After the 1994 MLB strike, when the all the fans left the building, is it any surpise that soon came the narrative arc of McGwire and Sosa. Serendipity? Santa Claus!

Let’s talk again in 2017, when MLB is steroid free and all athletes piss pure. Barry Bonds will be in the Hall of Fame. Marion Jones will be poor. The rich kids will still be ‘studying’ with Ritalin, juice boxes will be laced to assuage ADD, and Bill Clinton will be featured in a Viagra branded mobisode. I’ll be sipping absinthe on Mars with Stringer Bell. I hear it’s the new Brooklyn and loft space is cheap.


  1. 17 Dec 2007 JA

    Sorry to distract from the main topic first thing here, but doesn’t Hillary’s outfit look a lot like the robes of a Supreme Court Justice when she’s sitting down?