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The Witch Hunts Have Returned

It’s finally happened. I knew we were headed in this direction, but what can a fan do about it? Make it worse, apparently.

For the last year or two, I’ve tried to keep quiet about the Barry Bonds issue. We all knew he took steroids. We all knew he cheated the game, the fans, and himself. We all wanted to see him punished and be able to finally believe in the integrity of the game again…but I knew no good could come of this. Ever since Congress got involved, this situation was set on a path that could only end in perverse tragedy. And now, it seems I was right.

Every major league player who hits more than 25 homeruns is now suspect. Rick Ankiel has been maligned by the press for legally receiving HGH to help him heal from major surgery. And now…Wade Phillips has been publicly embarrassed for trying to use HGH to treat his ED. As if the embarrassment wasn’t enough, the NFL fined him $100,000 and suspended him 5 games. When will it end? When will the professional sports organizations like the NFL and MLB realize all this blood-lust will only serve to destroy the integrity of the games they seek to protect?

When Mike & Mike in the Morning on ESPN Radio suggested the Mitchell investigations would only make things worse, I refused to believe them. I wanted the truth. I wanted to know who did what, when they did it, and how I could punish them for doing it. But I was wrong. In this case, finding out the truth can, indeed, hurt more than it heals. The past is the past, and better that it remain there.

Unfortunately, MLB and the NFL won’t allow that to happen. They, apparently, think the only way to restore the integrity of the game and save their own reputation is to dig deep and dig hard into the underground world of performance enhancers. What they don’t realize is that this approach will only do the opposite – tragically torture the already much-maligned game we love. Testing is being developed, policies have been enacted, and punishments are being applied. It’s time to move on. Continuing in this way will only lead to witch-hunt like activity we’ve just witnessed with Wade Phillips’ situation. A man who stood to gain nothing from taking a performance enhancer (he’s a coach for cryin‘ out loud) took HGH because he stood to regain a quality of life he had lost. How did the NFL react to this bit of news? Well…they crucified him.

Goodell said he had to do it. He said employees must be held to a higher standard. Bull. Goodell only wants to appear tough and hard-nosed. His “no one gets a pass on my watch” approach is designed to make him appear powerful and in control. It does not. It makes him appear weak and manipulated. In the kingdom, the King makes the rules. He is given that power because he is expected to be just and good. No, the King is not above the law – he is expected to uphold the spirit of the law, not be bound like a puppet by the letter of it. In this case, the spirit of the law is intended to protect the integrity of the game. Unlike the belief of many, integrity is not governed by simple “if then” statements. It’s not that black and white.

The only way to truly restore integrity to the game(s) we love is to open our eyes, apply a little common sense, and simply do the right thing – regardless of the situation. That does not only mean “regardless of the person.” It also means regardless of the media, regardless of the outcome, and regardless of the impact it will have on the person in charge.

Take MLB for example…Rick Ankiel did nothing wrong. He did not take HGH while it was banned. He did not illegally obtain it – despite many inaccurate reports in multiple papers. He did not take it to enhance his performance but instead restore his natural ability. He took it to heal. He fought a hard battle back – emotionally, physically, and against all odds – to become an incredible comeback story at a time when MLB desperately needed just that. And then Selig and his goons pulled the rug out from under his feet. They “requested a meeting” with him, and by so doing, publicly disgraced him.

Let me tell you what they should have done. They should have read the report, addressed the media, and said this:

“Rick Ankiel, as near as we can tell, did nothing wrong. His HGH was purchased and taken legally, with a medical prescription from his doctor, for the purpose of healing after surgery. He took it prior to MLB’s ban on HGH, and he ceased taking it before the ban went into effect. We have no plans to discipline Rick. Furthermore, we refuse to wrongfully harass players for past behavior we now deem to be undesirable. It would be unfair and unethical. We applaud Rick and his inspirational accomplishments, and we have no desire to distract him from his goal of winning a pennant in 2007.

On a side note, let me also address the media. This type of witch-hunt reporting is strongly discouraged. It is unprofessional and is akin to yelling fire in a crowded theater. It is dangerous and shameful and should be punished by those in charge. The so-called “Steroid Era” was disgusting and embarrassing for all of us, but it is over. I hope that we can now move on together and restore the integrity the game of baseball once enjoyed.

Thank you.”

Integrity is about doing the right thing all the time, Mr. Selig and Mr. Goodell. That includes standing up for players and employees who should not be punished for the sake of publicity. Please…put an end to the witch hunts now before further harm is done.

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