We’ve been having an interesting discussion all day about steroids and the baseball hall of fame and about Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. These are very difficult issues and I sincerely appreciate your insights and input.

One argument bothers me — I don’t find it cogent — and I want to address it. Some of you wrote sports are entertainment and the players are entertainers like, say, singers, so we shouldn’t care what PEDs they use, or if they use them.


Some rock performers have used drugs. We know that. But their use of drugs does not give them a competitive advantage over another performer. In fact, playing music is not competitive in the way sports are. They don’t keep scores at concerts. They don’t announce a winner. There is no postseason.

It is different to use drugs in sports than it is in music, movies, etc.

Sure, athletes provide entertainment but they are not entertainers in the same way musicians are. They have different rules, mores and a different culture. To a certain extent, we need to believe athletes are on the level, don’t cheat. This issue is not as relevant in other forms of entertainment.

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  1. Amir Talai

    nailed it.

    June 19th, 2012 7:25 pm

  2. RednGold1

    “playing music is not competitive in the way sports are. They don’t keep scores at concerts. They don’t announce a winner.”

    MTV Music Awards, Grammy Awards, Country Music Awards, American Idol, …$$$

    In a larger scope: The Tony Awards, The Academy Awards, The Golden Globes, …$$$

    On a sad note; Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin :(

    And on MSNBC right now: http://todayentertainment.today.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/06/19/12302660-kristen-stewart-bumps-angelina-jolie-as-highest-paid-actress?lite

    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ … etc

    June 19th, 2012 7:41 pm

  3. Richard

    We had a 20 year era where it may have been the case that well over 50% of the players were steroid or PED users. Is it practical to deny thee payers of an entire era HOF eligibility? Not to me.

    Why not evaluate players on the basis of whether or not, in their time, they were recognized as among the very best of the era.?

    Bonds and Clemens?
    Yes, 7 MVPs and 7 Cy Youngs.

    June 19th, 2012 7:47 pm

  4. Lo Sbandato

    Ia Autotune cheating? Does using it less the value, and more important, the enjoyment of the resulting music? You’re old, sorry, you like history? Remember the payola scandals?

    Sports are merely entertainment, and the massive emotional investment you’ve made in the results of children’s games played by adults doesn’t make them any different from other forms of entertainment.
    Music, movies, TV, sports, these are all just different arenas for massive corporations to fight for the biggest market share they can get, often by very sketchy means. Your attachments may make your care more about one or another, but it hardly alters the basic premise (this also applies to college sports, with a even healthier helping of hypocrisy).

    June 20th, 2012 1:28 am

  5. Frank in Minnesota

    Good point Richard…and Lowell, you are so correct about the difference between entertainers and competive professional sports….

    June 20th, 2012 6:21 am

  6. MJ

    RednGold1….thats not the same type of competition. Thats a popularity contest. Its based on nothing measurable. You don’t win Grammys for being the highest selling artist, having the most profitable concert series, etc. If anything, doing drugs now in music is shunned, youre looked down upon, made fun of for your idiotic behavior in the tabloids. So no, no comparison between the two whatsoever.

    And I don’t understand why people are trying to excuse the actions of these individuals. It shouldn’t matter if EVERYONE else was doing it, or that they had a HOF career up until that point, they cheated the game, the fans, and themselves. You don’t get rewarded for such actions. Those people who say it’s entertainment and they just want to see home runs…why not go watch wrestling. It’s just entertainment and you’ll see plenty of exciting things, integrity be damned.

    June 20th, 2012 6:42 am

  7. Dennis

    Lowell, you are just plain wrong here. The definition of entertainment is “something that amuses, pleases, or diverts, especially a performance or show. Baseball and all sports are a form on entertainment and thus the participants are entertainers. I just don’t follow your logic. If sports is not entertainment, what is it?

    June 20th, 2012 7:43 am

  8. Tommy CostaRica

    One of the greatest sports adages of all time is, “It’s not weather you win or lose, it’s how you play the game!” For most of us that is more important than winning or losing. Take for example the NBA finals going on right now. I could care less who wins or loses because neither of them are one of my bay area teams. I only want good entertainment. Sometimes I root for the “King”, other times I get jacked for the cool new young guys from the “Okies”. It’s how you play the game. Look at all your comments from last weekends US Open, it’s all how you play the game. Nobody cared if Web Simpson wins it, we just wanted to see someone with a superhuman effort step up with bottled magic and grasp the trophy away from the rest of them. It’s entertainment, it’s probably the only reason most of us pay our cable bills; just entertain us! Cycling too! Can you imagine if everything was perfect in sports we wouldn’t have these columns to entertain us. The Hall is the same way, keep it real; keep it entertaining. Let people make their own choices when deciding what they think was fair play in baseball history, don’t deny them information based on your moral, religious and sociological outlooks.

    June 20th, 2012 7:43 am

  9. mbabco

    It’s interesting that everyone gets all in a dither about steroids and baseball players. How about football players? Do we really believe that all NFL players are clean? Do we really believe it’s less of a problem in the NFL? Shouldn’t we be extending this moral outrage and hunt for purity to football? By the standards many are applying to baseball, there are sure a lot of cheaters in the NFL. Any lineman who uses steroids – keep him out of the HOF?

    June 20th, 2012 9:13 am

  10. J Canseco

    Cheating is a known and accepted part of baseball. The only difference with PEDs is that it causes people to take some sort of moral high ground, which is baloney.

    June 20th, 2012 9:17 am

  11. Dave T

    Lowell, I can see and understand your point. It is a valid one. But the truth is we buy tickets to go see these players perform. Does not matter what the sport is, we pay money to go see them perform, play and compete. Just like we pay money to go see a musician, film, play etc. We are handing over money to see something. That is in fact entertainment at the very core of modern entertainment. Because scores and records are kept, or championships are won and lost does not change that fact whatsoever. It is simply a measurement of that form of entertainment. Actors have the Oscars and number of “hit” films. Musicians have gold and platinum records, #1 songs and Grammys. Those are forms of measurement in their respective fields. Heck, there is even a HOF for music.

    Lowell, until there are no more tickets sold, no more corporate sponsors, no memorabilia peddled and games are played for mere fun and exercise then we have in fact entertainent. I am an athlete, I love to play and watch sports and to compete. But I have also accepted that sport, even at the highest level, contested by highly skilled and trained athletes is still in fact, entertainment.

    June 20th, 2012 11:03 am

  12. Dave T

    In light of our debate, found this article amusing. It was Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon in a fit because his pitcher got caught with pine tar in his glove on the mound and was ejected. http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/mlb-big-league-stew/joel-peralta-caught-pine-tar-nationals-rays-crying-130611107–mlb.html

    He is upset why? Heck the article even says that cheating is widely known and accepted, but there is a gentlemans way to regulate it. What? So its ok to cheat, just a gentlemanly way to go about it?

    Oh, and lets not forget, things like the pine tar in the glove are in fact in the rules, where the PED’s you refer too were not against the rules at the time we are in fact debating the on field performance. And didn’t the famous spitballer admit to docotring the ball? Yet is in the HOF? We can’t pick and choose how to apply rules as we want. Otherwise our argument over them is simply moot, don’t you agree?

    June 20th, 2012 11:14 am

  13. lameduck

    I agree, it is a lame excuse. I do expect the game to be played by all with the same rules. My understanding is that there wasn’t a rule at the time. So they all played the game with the sqme rules, and some pushed it a bit too far causing a rule change.
    But, to use it’s entertainment as an excuse? No way. Now that the public is aware of the dangers I dont think they would be entertained by huge sluggers playing pinball. At this point we wqnt natural athletes. 10 years ago, it was different.

    June 20th, 2012 11:21 am

  14. CohnZohn

    Dave T, Steroids were a banned substance in baseball starting in 1991. Look it up.

    June 20th, 2012 11:28 am

  15. Mark M

    Level playing field. This concept is out the door once you start talking about PED and the basic assumption of two competitors on that level field. For me, it’s no longer interesting or entertaining when one has an obvious illegal advantage over the other. It’s similar to the Paquiao fight the other week. It’s obvious they weren’t on a level field and thus boxing fans are irate. It kills the spectacle knowing that you paid money to see something that wasn’t on the level.

    The other argument that kills me is goes like this….if the majority of players were using, then you’d be at a competitive disadvantage if you weren’t. Therefore, you had to do it just to stay competitive and level the field. Cheating is cheating. It has nothing to do with how many people are doing it. It remains black and white and this argument is completely grey. If your kid in school cheats on his test because everyone else is doing it, are you as a parent cool with that? No, it’s cheating and it’d be delinquent of you not to point that out and teach them something. It’s just amazing.

    June 20th, 2012 11:40 am

  16. KauaiRobert

    As if anyone cares…
    After much thought on the subject I’ve come to these conclusions:
    1. Cheating, in whatever form, is cheating.
    2. I can’t respect a player who knowingly cheats.
    3. I have no control whatsoever whether or not players get into the HOF.
    4. I’ll most likely never visit the HOF.
    5. I don’t care if they get in or if they don’t.
    From now on, integrity is out the window.
    Just entertain me!
    Hit 20 home runs and throw 105 mph fastballs!
    And yes Lowell…it is a form of entertainment.
    If it wasn’t enteraining, nobody would watch.

    June 20th, 2012 11:46 am

  17. Dave T

    Lowell, correct. I do recall that, and stand corrected. They were banned but not tested for. Which is absurd. Kind of like telling your kid they are not allowed to have ice cream, then stocking the fridge with it and not holding them accountable for eating it, even when you know they are.

    So it was against the rules but not enforced. Yeah…tough call.

    June 20th, 2012 12:10 pm

  18. Bray

    Lowell- There are a lot of reasons why your argument is skewed, but I don’t have time to expalin each point. Let me go with this for now.

    With your response to Dave T.

    “Dave T, Steroids were a banned substance in baseball starting in 1991. Look it up.”

    What did baseball do about it? Did Bonds or Clemons get suspended for the ‘usage’? Do they still count the achievements in the record books?

    You will find your answer. The moment you bring morality into the conversation, your off base. I don’t why or when it was decided that writers were to vote, but IMO that is the last group of people who should be voting, sans government.

    June 20th, 2012 12:40 pm

  19. CohnZohn

    Bray, That was quite an answer on your part. Why is it wrong (immoral?) to bring morality into the argument? Please explain. Why are sportswriters the last group that should be voting? Please explain. You can’t just write things. You need to have a defensible argument.

    June 20th, 2012 12:46 pm

  20. KauaiRobert

    Bray: I ask the same question as Lowell.
    I think sportwriters are more than qualified to vote–moreso even than coaches and players and definately more qualified than fans.
    I would say that for the most part, sportswriters are unbiased.
    Can we honestly say that about the rest of the aforementioned groups?
    Why do you think sportswriters shouldn’t vote?

    June 20th, 2012 1:28 pm

  21. Tiburon Dave

    Do any of you have any sense of how PEDS are trickling down?

    I’ve seen youth sports coaches give their 12 year old kids a can of Red Bull just before game time…

    I’ve seen high school coaches giving kids shopping lists for GNC supplements full of precursors.

    Have any of you guys been around High School locker rooms lately?

    Have you seen the over developed bodies and the back acne?

    To these kids entertainment has nothing to do with it…they want to win now…they want to play varsity…they want to get recruited…consequences be damned…

    Barry & Roger & Jason & Mark & Manny & that ‘Live Strong’ guy have shown them the way…

    Sometimes the adults in the room need to make a stand…

    We need to make these bums pay a very public price…

    June 20th, 2012 2:18 pm

  22. mendozaline

    Here is some info about Fay Vincent and his 1991 ban of steroids. Note that he was soon fired and that no club was ever fined for not reporting steroid use.

    In 1991, Vincent sent a groundbreaking memorandum to all MLB clubs regarding the use of steroids, although he really did not consider steroids to be a major problem at the time. Vincent merely wanted to lay the groundwork for an attempt to control the entire drug and potential steroid problem, i.e., he was being proactive with regard to steroids. In his memorandum, Vincent emphasized, “There is no place for illegal drugs in baseball. Their use by players and others in baseball can neither be condoned nor tolerated. Baseball players and personnel cannot be permitted to give even the slightest suggestion that illegal drug use is either acceptable or safe. It is the responsibility of all baseball players and personnel to see to it that the use of illegal drugs does not occur, and if it does, to put a stop to it.”

    Commissioner Vincent’s memorandum contained the following provisions:
    • The possession, sale, or use of any illegal drug or controlled substance by major league players and personnel is strictly prohibited. Those involved in the possession, sale, or use of any illegal drug or controlled substance are subject to discipline by the commissioner and risk permanent expulsion from the game.
    • In addition to any discipline this office may impose, a club may also take action under applicable provisions of and special covenants to the uniform player’s contract. This prohibition applies to all illegal drugs and controlled substances, including steroids or prescription drugs for which the individual in possession of the drug does not have a prescription.
    • MLB recognizes that illegal drug use has become a national problem, and that some players and baseball personnel may fall victim to drugs. Baseball will not hesitate to permanently remove from the game those players and personnel who, despite our efforts to treat and rehabilitate, refuse to accept responsibility for the problem and continue to use illegal drugs. If any club covers up or otherwise fails to disclose to this office any information concerning drug use by a player, that club will be fined $250,000, the highest allowable amount under the Major League Agreement.
    • MLB believes that its testing program is the most effective means available to deter and detect drug use. For admitted or detected drug users, testing will be a component of that individual’s after-care program for the balance of his or her professional baseball career.
    • This office will continue to search for positive and constructive methods of dealing with drug use. While baseball will attempt to treat and rehabilitate any player or personnel who falls victim to a drug problem, we will not hesitate to impose discipline, especially in those cases involving repeated offenses or refusals to participate in a recommended and appropriate course of treatment.
    • If any club has a question about any aspect of the drug use program, please contact Louis Melendez, Associate Counsel, Major League Baseball Player Relations Committee.

    Francis T. Vincent Jr.
    Commissioner, Major League Baseball
    CC: League Presidents
    Player Relations Committee
    Major League Baseball Players Association
    (Source: Don Weiskopt, 2006, What if Fay Vincent Remained Baseball Commissioner? Baseball Play America)

    Fay Vincent later admitted that there had been talk of steroid use in MLB as far back as 1991 (when his office heard rumors of player Jose Canseco’s use of steroids). Most people close to baseball, however, still thought that the use of steroids was essentially a football problem. Nevertheless, Vincent still wanted to incorporate steroid testing into an overall MLB drug policy. At the time, however, Vincent couldn’t approach the MLBPA because the owners and union were in the middle of a contract. That fact, coupled with union leader Donald Fehr’s mistrust of the owners, meant that Vincent’s proposal would have to wait until the next collective bargaining agreement was under negotiation.

    In June 1992, the MLB owners met for their quarterly business meetings. During the meetings there was a bitter internal battle between Vincent and the triad of Richard Ravitch, the owners’ chief labor negotiator; White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf; and Brewers owner Bud Selig. The latter failed in their efforts at convincing Vincent to eliminate a major portion of his power by abandoning his labor roles. This dispute was strictly an American League effort. Many National League owners were either furious about this closed door conference with Vincent (or didn’t even know it was taking place). After the botched attempt to strip Vincent of some of his powers, Selig approached the National League owners to present an explanation for this unusual activity. As he began presenting his case, Selig was interrupted and told that his attempt to strip the commissioner’s best-interests clause, which empowers the commissioner to act in the best interest of MLB, was not appreciated and that they (the National League owners) would not participate in such a meeting. Vincent had used the best-interest clause to intervene and halt the 1990 baseball lockout, thus saving the season. Some of the owners, specifically Selig and Reinsdorf, strongly resented Vincent’s actions.

    Upon hearing about the dispute, union head Donald Fehr said, “What I want to know is, what do they think Vincent is going to do that they’re afraid of? The suggestion would be that they were clearly afraid that the commissioner would take some position they didn’t want him to take.” (Source: Claire Smith, New York Times, June 11, 1992)

    On September 5, 1992, the owners casted a “no confidence” vote against Fay Vincent. Two days later, on September 7, 1992, feeling that his departure would be “in the best interests of baseball,” Fay Vincent resigned.

    Baseball lost an individual who was honestly seeking to preserve and improve the game. He had a definite plan to move forward with drug testing that included steroids and amphetamines. Every owner was aware of this drug policy, but no one would embrace it for the better part of a decade. Vincent’s departure constituted the last true and honest effort to maintain integrity in the game of baseball.

    June 20th, 2012 3:18 pm

  23. mike

    Athletic events and games are spectator sports; however, that does not constitute them to be entertainment. I do not look at sports as entertainment but as competition with a winner(s) and a loser(s). Ask the athletes if they are out there to entertain the spectators, and, most likely, your answer will be a resounding NO! If the athletes do not consider what they do to be entertainment, how can the spectator view it as entertainment?

    June 20th, 2012 4:59 pm

  24. russell

    OK – until or unless the HOF can establish a baseline for “greatness” and define how one must be cheating in order to cross it, or unless someone comes up with required numbers by position to gain entry, I don’t believe it matters how one acheived their numbers. Eyeball test? A lot of these guys are obviously hall of famers. One can nitpick every era, from race, to worldwide scouting, amount of travel, blah blah blah.

    Is it the Hall of Numbers Achieved by Only the Most Morally Upstanding and Even-Keeled Men in Baseball, on the Most Level Playing Field at All TImes?

    I didn’t think so.

    June 20th, 2012 6:17 pm

  25. mike

    By the way, I do not consider the US Open, held at The Olympic Club last week, to be entertainment. Frankly, it was pure torture to watch those professional golfers play a rigged course. I sincerely doubt they thought it was entertainment, too.

    June 20th, 2012 7:58 pm

  26. Jimmy

    Sports are only entertaining insofar as we believe they mean something, something more than the passing thrill. Deep down inside, you hope that you’re witnessing a true human achievement.

    Once that semblance of meaning goes away, much like when I realized that the WWF/WWE was fake as a child, you leave it behind for the rest of the children.

    June 20th, 2012 8:31 pm

  27. Brian in Oakland

    I’m not sure that that it’s the drugs that bother me the most. It’s the lying and cheating at the heart of this issue that I find really appalling. I find it sad that people don’t hold telling the truth and playing by the rules sacrosanct. I’m sick of the excuses we make for athletes around cheating. Moral relativism in any arena in life is dangerous.

    Besides the moral side of the argument, the cheating degrades the entertainment value for me. It’s not as fun to watch PED baseball, cycling, track and field, etc. My memories of watching the Bash Brothers as a child have certainly been tarnished in light of the fact that my heroes were, in part, frauds.

    June 20th, 2012 11:45 pm

  28. Dave T

    Mike, if you asked most musicians and actors/actresses if they thought chosen profession was a job or entertainment I would imagine most would still say it is a job, with countless hours of rehearsals, practice, travel and public appearances. The fact that athletes compete for championships and trophies (by and large) does not replace that they are very very highly paid to do what, perform, on their chosen field of play, in front of throngs of people who have paid to see them. I can almost see them standing there looking like Russell Crowe in “The Gladiator” saying “Are you not entertained?”

    Look, don’t get me wrong. I love sports, athletics, competition. I still play on a mens soccer team to get my adrenaline going. I just keep in mind that when I watch sports, that while I am in fact hoping for a amazing performance and athletic feat, it is still entertainment. And that one Charles Barkley said it best, “I am not a role model”. He could have added, “I am an athlete and entertainer.” to that and we would have had no quibble.

    For the record, I think both Bonds and Clemens should be in the HOF. They were the best of their era and I for one can’t prove who amongst their peers may have used and have not. Until then, can only use the litmus test we have available, comparing them to their peers. And in that light, they were far and away better than anyone else.

    June 21st, 2012 9:33 am

  29. Bray

    I guess I just can’t get all I want to say in the time limit and I can’t waste any more time at work today. I am really looking forward to spelling it out for you Lowell. Meanwhile since I asked a couple of questions to you first, would you be so kind as to answer them? Ill post my retort tonight.




    1.The action of providing or being provided with amusement or enjoyment.
    2.An event, performance, or activity designed to entertain others.

    June 21st, 2012 10:26 am

  30. Vincent

    I will never understand the sports writers. Baseball is a game of numbers and wins and loses. Not a popularity contest. The entire game was tainted during the era of Bonds and Clemons. Fastballs were faster and harder to hit and homers were more plentiful and a lot longer. I guess no player in the era should be allowed in the hall. That’s the way Mr. Cohn and the sports writers of America seem to want it.

    June 22nd, 2012 4:58 pm

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