Thursday, September 13, 2007

here we go again...

Ugh, I guess it's time to make fun of Page 2's Jemele Hill again. Sure, criticizing Hill is like playing 1-on-1 hoops against a quadriplegic, but someone has to put those cocky cripples in their place. When Hill isn't writing pop culture laden puff pieces supported by no statistics or facts, she's writing about how black athletes get no respect. In Jemele's world, everyone is racist: the media, fans, sportswriters, owners, the IRS, and corporations. Now Jemele wants to know why everybody doesn't want to crucify Rick Ankiel after how Barry Bonds has been treated.

Race should be injected into a conversation judiciously and sometimes, slowly. So before I explain how the coverage and reaction to Rick Ankiel's alleged misdeeds represent racial bias at its worst, I need to first disclose a few things.

I don't support Barry Bonds. I believe he took steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. Nevertheless, he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and any talk of placing asterisks next to his accomplishments is just flat-out silly.

Although Bonds never tested positive for steroids, I don't just think he took steroids. I know he did, and so does Jemele. Or she should, at least. A grown man in his 30s does not rapidly grow several shoe and hat sizes unelss he

1.) Has acromegaly, a rare genetic condition that made Andre the Giant, well, a giant. It also prohibits atheletic conditioning, makes you taller, and takes your life at a very young age.

2.) Takes a shitload of steroids.

I'm gonna go with option #2 here. Call me crazy, but before you imply that Bonds has been treated differently despite the fact that we "only think" he took steroids, we need to realize that both men took growth supplements commonly used in sports doping.

But if there was any question about whether Bonds was treated differently because he is African-American, it was answered last week with Ankiel, a feel-good story that looks to be a tall tale.

Actually, nothing about race was answered here. At all. Ankiel's story is a week old. We have no idea how he will be treated down the road by fans or the media. Accusations about Bonds have been around for years.

A double standard the size of Bonds' head is being exercised with Ankiel, whose involvement with a human growth hormone scandal is being rationalized by some fans and members of the media.

And some fans and members of the media have rationalized Bonds' steroid use. What's your point?

I get that Bonds is far more talented and accomplished than Ankiel, and therefore creates far more media coverage. I also get that, to some degree, this is a popularity contest, since public perception is that Ankiel is considered more likable than Bonds. But what I don't get is the spin being put on Ankiel's alleged HGH use.

So Jemele understands the reasons that Bonds has been accused and slandered so harshly? She's right: he's unlikable, hated even. He also holds one of the most revered records in American sports, and is a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. What about Ankiel? The only record he owns is highest OPS by a former pitcher who got injured and wandered around the Minors only to come back and be a productive member of a big league team. Not quite as historic as most Home Runs ever. Plus Ankiel seems like a pretty cool guy. So when Jemele said that any questions about race involving Bonds were answered, she was lying.

I don't get how people, with a straight face, can make Ankiel's use of HGH seem heroic, but treat Bonds like a war criminal. I've been as tough on Bonds as anyone, but at least I'm consistent. I don't support Bonds and certainly not what seems to me to be a fraudulent comeback by Ankiel.

Who said that Ankiel was being heroic? I'm not denying her claim, I'm just genuinely curious where she is getting this from. According to Jemele, "some people" think Ankiel is "justified" in "heroically taking HGH." How about a quote? Or an article? Or anything at all besided hearsay? Is that too much to ask for?*

But if you are one of those people who swears that race has nothing to do with the Bonds backlash, the treatment of Ankiel is an enormous setback to your argument.

Hmmmmmm. But I though Ankiel was a likeable guy who isn't one of the greatest baseball players of all time? Surely that has to come into play here.

let's look at this like it's a scientific study. We have three variables: Likeability, Historical Importance, and Race. The results of said study are how the player is treated by fans and the media.

With Bonds, we have:

Likeability: Essentially None.
Historical Importance: One of the Greatest Players of All Time
Race: Black (although he listens to Celine Deion, so who knows really?)
Result of study: Almost universally loathed as an athlete due to steroids

Now Ankiel:

Likeability: Most people seem to think he's a pretty cool dude.
Historical Importance: Pretty darn good in 150 ABs this season. A failure as a pitcher
Race: White (although he hits the ball pretty darn hard, so who knows really?)
Result of study: People are sucking him off left and right even though he took HGH (let's give Jemele the benefit of the doubt here)


That would be just be bad Journalism.

Consider the evidence: Bonds was connected to BALCO. Ankiel is connected to Signature, a disreputable pharmacy under investigation for illegally distributing performance-enhancing drugs to a bevy of professional athletes.

We get it. They both took unnatural substances.

The New York Daily News reported Ankiel received eight shipments of HGH in 2004 -- a year before Major League Baseball put it on its banned substances list. This supposedly exonerates Ankiel from any wrongdoing. Bonds also took HGH and steroids before they were banned by MLB, but you can bet Ankiel won't be booed at ballparks or have syringes thrown at him.


If you can't believe Bonds didn't "knowingly" take performance-enhancing drugs, why would you ever believe Ankiel stopped taking a banned substance that MLB can't test for or that taking HGH had nothing to do with his miraculous major league comeback?

This sentence is terrible. Seriously, read it again. ---- Can't --- didn't ---- knowingly --- can't --- nothing -- miraculous comeback? That's like a septuple negative. I think that she's really asking "if you can't believe that Bonds didn't not take drugs on purpose, only to not not have broken the home run record, can't you not believe that Ankiel isn't amazing for not retreating back from late retirement thanks to HGH, only to have not become a not-that-great homerun hitter?" The answer is of course yes. Duh Jemele, you stupid bint.

Ankiel's explanation is as shaky as Idaho Senator Larry Craig's, and certainly no better than what Bonds offered.

Wow, Jemele, I'm proud of you. You didn't make an awkward, unfunny pop culture reference until almost halfway through your column. Baby steps, sure, but we're getting there.

Ankiel claimed he was prescribed HGH to recover faster from his reconstructive elbow surgery. Shockingly, I've heard sports talk radio hosts and others in the media sanction this excuse and they've even gone so far as to say Ankiel's use of HGH was necessary to maintain his health. Tell me we're not naive enough to believe athletes are taking HGH just for the health benefits. They're not going to risk their reputation, careers and freedom for a beefed-up version of Neosporin.

Neosporin heals infections. HGH promotes muscle and ligament growth. Get your medical references right.

They take HGH because while it assists with injuries, it also makes them stronger and more potent, and therefore better at their sport.

There is no proof that HGH, or even steroids, makes hitters better. Stronger, sure. Faster, maybe. But there is so much that goes into hitting. Making a logical jump like that is nothing short of foolish.

If Ankiel's possession of HGH was above board, why did he have it shipped to him at a separate facility, which coincidentally also is under investigation for illegally
supplying HGH and steroids?

Probably because he knew he would get in trouble for using HGH here. I'm not making excuses for Ankiel. But the whole point of your column was to show how Americans are racist, not if Ankiel was being honest here.

Commissioner Bud Selig had no problem insinuating Bonds' guilt through passive-aggressive behavior during the home run chase, but he hasn't said a word about Ankiel, Troy Glaus or Jay Gibbons -- the other players who have been implicated in this HGH scandal. The commissioner just wants to "talk" to Ankiel, Glaus and Gibbons at some point about HGH. I'm sure Jason Giambi will serve the coffee.

Ho ho ho ho. Good one. When did Selig say anything about Bonds' steroid use in connection with the home run record? Here's a clue: he didn't.

If you struggle to understand why busloads of black people show up outside a courthouse with "Free Vick" signs and T-shirts, the free pass Ankiel has received should explain it.

I personally think Vick may have been punished more than he should have been, but let's be honest here. Vick killed dogs, Ankiel took HGH.

It's not that African-Americans fail to recognize when someone black has done something wrong. It's that white athletes are usually given the benefit of the doubt when they're associated with trouble -- even when common sense and evidence dictate otherwise -- and African-Americans feel if they don't provide some semblance of fairness with their athletes, no one else will.

We get it Jemele. You're black. You're a woman. And you write for ESPN. And now all the sudden you speak for the entire black population of the united states, because you know that all black people everywhere live their lives wondering if they can get fair treatment in life, when one black athlete isn't treated exactly the same as a white athlete. Jemele is so out of touch that she still uses "african american," even though that terminology has been passe for years.

Yet many of them can't do the same when it comes to white athletes who look just as guilty as Bonds and Vick.

Roger Clemens' late-career spike and body changes are just as suspicious as Bonds, and Clemens' name surfaced in Jose Canseco's book. But any mention of that is considered sacrilege.

Says who?

Pete Rose committed the worst sin a professional athlete can and some fans still want him back in baseball, and the Hall of Fame. But Bonds' records should be wiped clean?

Some fans. Some fans. Some fans. Some sports fans also think the Patriots are Classy, Barry Bonds should be universally adored, and that the Red Sox are nothing like the Yankees in their free agent acquisitions.

Not a soul has called for Glaus, who the Daily News said received several shipments of testosterone and nandrolone, to return his World Series MVP. No one is saying the nine home runs and 29 RBIs Ankiel has hit since being called up from the minors last month shouldn't count. Some fans already have decided that deception and dishonesty shouldn't get in the way of their heart-warming story.

There you go. No racism in your point. It's a heartwarming story. Bonds' story is not heart warming.

But now that golden boy Ankiel has been caught, something tells me people will be much more eager to talk sensibly about performance-enhancing drugs. They certainly weren't willing to talk about it when Bonds' king-sized head was on the chopping block.

I have two words for Jemele Hill: Shawn Merriman. Her whole point is essentially disproved by looking at Merriman. He's more hated than Ankiel, thanks to that retarded "lights out" shit. He's a more prominent name than Ankiel. He's also a 2 time probowler who may be headed for the NFL Hall Of Fame. Oh, and he's a little blacker than Ankiel. And the media and most fans don't give a shit that he used steroids.

Go back to writing "Oh no, you didn't, GIRLFRIEND" columns to Danica Patrick and interviewing the Men's Curling team in the back of a '77 pinto. There's plenty of racism in American sports, but you couldn't make a decent, relevant point about it if your life depended on it.

*yes, yes it is too much to ask for.


Anonymous said...

This takes a back seat to all the other shittiness of this article, but I thought it was worth pointing out:

According to our beloved Jemele, Rose's gambling = The worst sin a professional athlete could commit

(Now I'll assume she means "sins" directly related to the athletes professional sport... so I will intentionally omit Vick and Leonard Little and a bunch of other dumb ass athletes from the following list)

but just so we all know, gambling beats out taking drugs that can kill you young, while possibily resulting in an unfair advantage and, to some, cheapening a "cherised" record and let's not forget Ty Cobb's long list of sins (including documented incidents of him sharpening his spikes to increase the "damage" he caused when he broke up double plays, and beating up handicapped fans... oh yeah, and his blatant racism)... but not to worry, that's all trumped by the inherent evil of... gambling.

Yumm, tastes like hyperbole.

P.S. Love the site

Anonymous said...

Nice article; Jemele Hill is a joke, and she should stop writing sensationalist bulls**t.

Now if only she would own up to it like the "Fire Torre" guy...

Anonymous said...

"There is no proof that HGH, or even steroids, makes hitters better. Stronger, sure. Faster, maybe. But there is so much that goes into hitting. Making a logical jump like that is nothing short of foolish."

Come on...this is a pretty foolish comment in itself. If there were no performance benefits associated with HGH or steroids then there wouldn't be a demand for athletes across all of sports to use it. To deny that HGH or steroids may not help hitters perform better by providing increased power, bat speed, or health is to make a leap in logic similar to what you regularly mock.

The real inanity of Hill's article is two-fold:
1) Ankiel is not Bonds -- as you note, a feel good story in a summer isn't the same as someone breaking the highest profile record in sports; and
2) There are plenty of examples of high profile white cheaters written off by fans. What's Floyd Landis up to these days? How about Mark McGwire? Heck, her timing in playing the race card couldn't be worse considering how many people are talking about how Bill Belichek (white) should be suspended for the year.

It's also worth noting that while it doesn't look good for Ankiel, there are circumstances when doctors do legitimately prescribe steroids or HGH. While I'm skeptical that is what's going on here, and I'm not sure it really matters when all is said and done, I'd imagine some fans are curious to see if the spirit of the use was to recover from the injury / surgery vs. to enhance performance.

pnoles said...


eriz said...

To Anonymous #3:

Baseball players do lots of things that don't make sense. Managers, for example, are obcessed with their lineups. It doesn't matter how much it makes a diference in wins or losses, or even if it hurts their chances. Take the Colorado Rockies' Clint Hurdle. He's obcessesed with an alternating Lefty/Righty lineup. Brad Hawpe has been hitting in the #6 hole all season behind Garret Atkins because Hawpe's a lefty. Hawpe is in the top 10 in OPS in the NL. He should be higher up so he can ge more at bats and improve the rockies' chances. This is a small example, but shit like this happens all the time in baseball.

Some baseball players also don't change socks all season because it "helps 'em win"

I'm not making a case for or against steroids. i'm just saying hitting isn't as black and white as people make it out to be. There are many factors that come into batting. Are the biggest guys always the biggest sluggers? Look at A-Rod. I don't know if he ever took roids, but he's certainly smaller than lots of other sluggers. Strength isn't everything.

HGH on the other hand, will heal muscle related injuries quicker. HGH also promotes general muscle growth. It can and is used for bulking as well. All I'm saying is that taking a doping substance not does not directly lead to better hitting. It could, but how much we don't know and never will.

eriz said...

Anonymous #1

And I agree with you about Rose. I'm really sick of hearing about him. Sure, he broke the rules. But from most accounts, Rose never bet against his own team, so he never really actually cheated. He was just a dumbass.

Anonymous said...

Yes, ball players do things that don't make sense. However, just because they obsess over line-ups or partake in silly supersitions doesn't mean everything they do is without reason. When a player takes HGH, he's risking his reputation, his career, and his livelihood on its benefits. One would think/expect that a ball player would weigh the pros and cons of that decision a bit more seriously than what wristband to wear.

Your second comment ("Look at A-Rod. I don't know if he ever took roids, but he's certainly smaller than lots of other sluggers. Strength isn't everything.") is also off the mark. Absolute comparisons, such as A-Rod to larger sluggers, means nothing in the context of the impact of HGH because no one is arguing that HGH is all you need. The appropriate comparison is a relative one -- who is a better hitter, a clean A-Rod or an HGH A-Rod? It's entirely reasonable to conclude that in a relative context, something that makes a player stronger, quicker, and healthier will contribute to them being a better hitter and player overall. Such a conclusion does not imply that simply taking HGH will cause someone to be a good hitter; clearly other skills are required as well. But to suggest that we'll never know if HGH makes an individual a better hitter than they were is a dubious claim. We readily accept that weight training, cardiovascular training, etc. benefit athletes; there's no reason to think that HGH would have no benefit to a user.

Anonymous said...

I think we all should bear in mind, in the midst of this controversy, that the pre-2007 Ankiel was expected to pitch and only hit as an above-average hitter. To think that he took HGH in 2004 expecting to become a great hitter/position player seems a little beyond belief to me. Not that this means he's free from all blame or that the issue should be discarded, but I think it lends credibility to the viewpoint that the HGH was prescribed for a speedy recovery.

eriz said...

See, that's my point here. Hill seems to be saying (although it's terribly difficult to decipher her atrocious prose) that Ankiel took HGH, an that's what made him have a speedy recovery AND OPS the crap out of the ball. I don't buy it. I'm not saying HGH can't help you hit the ball better, I'm just very doubtful of her line of reasoning.

Every single column she writes is poorly thought out trash, why wouldn't this one be any different?

Anonymous said...

Anon #3... you claimed that if there were no "performance enhancing benefits" to things like HGH and steroid, players wouldn't waste time taking them... there's a few problems with this, one (as this article posits: is that we, and players themselves, aren't positive HGH makes you better. It might help you recover from surgery or something like that, frankly I'm not inclined to research it enough, but for you to assume that players would know the actual, scientifically proven benefits of something and weigh the risk-reward potential of their decisions with sound scientific backup... then I think you're giving them just a tad too much credit (take the corked bat myth, which has been debunked more than once -- just because you're cheating, doesn't mean you're cheating right) -- but you do have a point with the "health" benefit you list... and/or your general points if you would have just left HGH out

Chris W said...

re: steroids making you a better hitter

we can say with a reasonable certainty that steroids made Bonds, Caminitti, Sosa, and Palmeiro a better hitter

We can say with a reasonable certainty that steroids did not make Alex Sanchez, Jay Gibbons and numerous minor leaguers who haven't even had a coffee a better hitter

therefore it's pretty hard to say conclusively that steroids or HGH make you a better hitter

Anonymous said...

"We can say with a reasonable certainty that steroids did not make Alex Sanchez, Jay Gibbons and numerous minor leaguers who haven't even had a coffee a better hitter"

Where are the "WRONG" and "terrible analysis" labels for this gem from Chris W?

You're basically saying if Player A took steroids, and Player A isn't a good major league hitter, Player A got no benefits from steroids.

Of course that's totally absurd logic, because Player A could have sucked even more without steroids. Again, it's a relative comparison, not an absolute comparison. If Jay Gibbons or some unknown minor leaguer isn't on steroids, maybe they're totally out of the league 5 years ago. While for Bonds, the difference is Hall of Famer vs. All time Greatest, for these guys, the difference is major league player vs. toll booth operator. Just because it's not as high profile doesn't mean you can rule out all benefits they achieved.

Guys, if you're going to have a clever site that rips on the illogical arguments of sports journalists, at least make sure your own arguments can hold up to the scrutiny. Wouldn't you mercilessly rip a column by Jay Mariotti if he concluded steroids in baseball is overblown because he's taken them for five years and hasn't made the majors yet?