By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) Others who are far better-read historians than I am can point to various stops on the American timeline and make valid arguments about the turning point, but somewhere this country started prizing ignorance. Critical thinking isn’t bliss, and approaching the truth is almost always uncomfortable.
The conversational soil is rich with confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance today, as it’s been for years, and it has produced a neologism so powerful that people throw it around without a slightest hint of irony: fake news. Language always evolves, but few terms like “fake news” have mutated so quickly to hold a different definition than the original. Now it means any information one finds distasteful, the merit of the info be damned because thinking is hard and modifying opinion is to painfully uproot from that soil of stupid comfort.
Sports isn’t immune to this — it actually may be as guilty as the political world that has far worse implications. New ways of thinking are always met with loud accusations of heresy and nerd-shaming. Mentioning that football, hockey and soccer should reckon with their players’ brain injuries is “the wussification of the world” finding its way into entertainment that I go to to get away from real-world problems. Can’t I just watch people slowly die for my entertainment without any moral consciousness? Jeez. Basketball was better years ago when there were more players who were (insert choice of coded language). This is to ignore that putting a game from 1986 side by side with a game today would be hilarious and expose a bad argument, but Larry Bird and short shorts and better defense that wasn’t actually better and whatnot.
And baseball is too nerdy. The sabermagicians have stripped it of joy and the ability of average people to use the eye test to declare that guys who strike out are bad because it’s all so simple. OPS+ and RAR and not bunting are fake news because they’re different and new and difficult or the brittle brain that just wants RBIs to measure worth. Also, pitchers with little professional training in hitting pitches thrown by the best throwers on earth should still bat.
Advanced stats have made baseball too cold. A byproduct of that is valuing steroids users despite them tampering with baseball’s sanctity of burying heads in the sand when it comes to systematic segregation to amphetamine use to the scattered violent and abusive men across the game’s landscape.
Joe Morgan — who spent his broadcasting career being so insufferable that he birthed a website that influenced 21st-century sports bloggers (hi!) ever since — has picked up the annual shaming of the alleged (key word there) steroid users. He sent a letter to Hall of Fame voters asking that they continue to shut out those suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs … except for the PEDs players used when Morgan played because like any good politician, do as I say, not as I do.
“Over the years, I have been approached by many Hall of Fame members telling me we needed to do something to speak out about the possibility of steroid users entering the Hall of Fame. This issue has been bubbling below the surface for quite a while.”
Ryne Sandberg did this in his Hall of Fame speech, but you’ve been known to find Sandberg unworthy of the Hall, so…
“The Hall of Fame is special. There is a sanctity to being elected to the Hall. It is revered. It is the hardest Hall of Fame to enter, of any sport in America.”
Morgan actually uses “sanctity.” This is how you know he’s appealing to emotion over any sort of logic, but logic is bad.
“We hope the day never comes when known steroid users are voted into the Hall of Fame. They cheated. Steroid users don’t belong here.
“Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in. Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”
No sport has had cheating as part of its fabric like baseball. Baseballs have been doctored by pitchers in the Hall of Fame. The game has used ethically debatable strategies forever. More players who gambled on baseball haven’t been caught than have. Your criteria are highly subjective and worse, hypocritical.
“Now, I recognize there are players identified as users on the Mitchell Report who deny they were users. That’s why this is a tricky issue. Not everything is black and white – there are shades of gray here. It’s why your job as a voter is and has always been a difficult and important job. I have faith in your judgment and know that ultimately, this is your call.”
Now, I understand this thing I’m basing my bad opinion on his flawed, but I’d still prefer that it be used as a line of demarcation to determine what a museum recognizes as history. This is often what gets forgotten about the Baseball Hall of Fame — it’s ultimately a museum. And in typical post-truth, fake news fashion, there are people who would prefer a museum function as a propaganda house.
“It’s gotten to the point where Hall of Famers are saying that if steroid users get in, they’ll no longer come to Cooperstown for induction ceremonies or other events.”
Oh no. To think that an eight-year-old who doesn’t know who Joe Morgan is won’t get to have Joe Morgan ignore him in person. Also, pouting when intelligence prevails is a hallmark of the fake news culture.
“I care about how good a player was or what kind of numbers he put up; but if a player did steroids, his integrity is suspect; he lacks sportsmanship; his character is flawed; and, whatever contribution he made to his team is now dwarfed by his selfishness.”
The Hall of Fame literally has members of the Ku Klux Klan in it. The integrity storyline is a flimsy canard and always has been. But stats and egos are more important than actual people in baseball. Long have been. The politics of sports have become team sports like politics themselves, and so many refuse to remove the team jersey no matter how wrong they are.
“Steroid use put baseball through a tainted era where records were shattered. ‘It was a steroidal farce,’ wrote Michael Powell in the New York Times. It is no accident that those records held up for decades until the steroid era began, and they haven’t been broken since the steroid era ended. Sadly, steroids worked.”
And it was all condoned by a commissioner whom you presented with a humanitarian award and made no stink about inducting last year. The steroid era was also really damn fun and saved the game from itself and happened to have some of the greatest players ever. And it’s part of the game’s history.
Morgan wants to “yeah, but” all that, though, like pedophilia in a gubernatorial race.
By the way, the Hall of Fame gave an award to an actual pedophile this decade.
“The Hall of Fame has always had its share of colorful characters, some of whom broke or bent society’s rules in their era. By today’s standards, some might not have gotten in. Times change and society improves. What once was accepted no longer is.”
Yeah, this is exactly the same line of thinking used to absolve pedophilia in a gubernatorial race.
“I and other Hall of Famers played hard all our lives to achieve what we did. I love this game and am proud of it. I hope the Hall of Fame’s standards won’t be lowered with the passage of time.
For more than 80 years, the Hall of Fame has been a place to look up to, where the hallowed halls honor those who played the game hard and right. I hope it will always remain that way.”
Morgan uses another misdirection tactic by insinuating the alleged steroid users didn’t work hard, as though taking a drug is like something out of comic book that just turned them into freaks on its own. But being rational doesn’t matter for Morgan and those who nod their heads with him in the fake news era of thinking. PED use bothers people, though they can’t justify their discomfort in any way that isn’t hypocritical or just dumb.
But how something feels is more important than thinking about it. And if erasing information and making pathos-driven excuses for the erasure is more comfortable than confronting the truth, then you get a museum of fake news.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.