Steroids news makes money; drunk driving news doesn’t

Via the McCovey Chronicles, an excellent post by “Rev Halofan” on an Angel’s fansite regarding something perhaps familiar to readers of this blog:

The media stoked the steroid story after years of ignoring it. But with famous drunk drivers all around us, where is the moral outrage for those convicted of driving under the influence? Where is the media witch hunt not accepting jurisprudence slaps on the wrist and castigating entire careers because of bad decisions that are potentially fatal to the perpetrator as well as innocent members of the public?

My issue with the steroid sensation is that I’ve never believed that the steroids really did that much to change baseball (and they were so prevalent that you can’t really single out individuals even if they did), and that the connection between kids using (the only real risk in all of this) and superstars using is tenuous, at best. I think a handful (and only that) of deaths have been blamed on steroid abuse in the last few years, and no research has emerged saying that steroids actually (as opposed to anecdotally) lead to suicide, etc. I honestly don’t know of any deaths that have come as a result of overdosing on anabolic steroids themselves.

It's lucky Joba Chamberlain didn't kill someone before he was caught driving drunk. But not nearly as much ink has been spilt on this than if he had been busted for steroids.

It's lucky Joba Chamberlain didn't kill someone before he was caught driving drunk. But not nearly as much ink has been spilt on this than if he had been busted for steroids.

 

 

Yet drunk driving kills thousands of people every year, and wounds many more (emotionally and physically). It is an activity that is incredibly, ludicrously, and obviously dangerous. The poster at the Angels site wrote his piece in response to the tragic death of Nick Adenhart, a young Angels pitcher who was murdered by a drunk driver less than two weeks ago. Yet while we get all up in arms about players having used steroids (“Oakland’s Jason Giambi was booed heartily by a baseball public sick of steroid abuse and the coverage it got.”), all of the players (and other celebrities) who have been busted for drunk driving get some sort of pass, as if what they have done isn’t possibly as bad for anyone as shooting some fake testosterone into your backside. Rev Halofan again:

 

Jim Leyritz killed a woman in a drunk driving accident.This is worse than A-Rod testing positive.

Joba Chamberlain was recently shown in a stumbling state on a police-video of his DUI arrest. This is worse than Barry Bonds telling the feds that he did not know what his trainer was injecting him with.

Mo Vaughn was so drunk when he was arrested for drunk driving as a Red Stocking that he could not recite the alphabet. This is worse than anything Jason Giambi used to increase his muscle mass.

Tony LaRussa was asleep at the wheel of his car at an intersection, drunk, just a season after one of his players had been killed while driving under the influence. This is worse than anything Mark McGwire did to get shut out of the Hall of Fame voting.

 

And here’s the rub: I didn’t even know that Mo Vaughn, Joba Chamberlin, or Jim Leyritz had been caught drunk driving, and I’m a big baseball fan. What they did actually endangered human life in an immediate, palpable way, but it’s not nearly the scoop that A-Rod’s steroid use is. And if you want to bust out the old “think of the kids!!” canard, try thinking of them crossing the street with a green light at night or asleep in the back seat of their parents car while a wasted starting pitcher (current!) for the Yankees careens recklessly around the highway. 

Again, this goes to show that the media’s fixation on ridiculous steroid claptrap has much more to do with the target audience than the newsworthiness or importance of the issue itself. Reading about another drunk driving tragedy strikes pretty close to home for many Americans, who (in a large part due to our permissive attitude toward the whole thing) have driven drunk before, or think they can get away with it, etc. It’s either something they won’t read because they don’t believe it affects them (“I can drive after a few drinks just fine”), or it’s an out-of-sight, out-of-mind issue to others who drink and drive (or have before, or might, etc.). But the common baseball fan (or news-follower) has no idea what it’s like to take steroids, or what they do, or how they affect numerous different sports other than what has been presented to them in the media, e.g. that they are miraculous but terribly evil and horrible things that have “ruined baseball.” 

Obviously I’m not advocating for steroid use, but I do think that Americans have other, much more pressing problems to attend to, even if they are as decidedly un-exotic as drunk driving. Again: in 2006, over 13,000 people were killed in alcohol-impaired motor vehicle accidents. But when was the last time you read about a Congressional hearing on that in the national news?

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