It is not often that a sports rant opens by citing the poet T. S. Eliot as this one shall. In Sweeney Agonistes, Eliot records these lines:
“I gotta use words when I talk to you
But if you understand or if you don’t
That’s nothing to me and nothing to you.”
That sets the stage for today…
Last week, former MLB outfielder turned sportsradio yakker, Jack Clark, dropped a bombshell. He said on the air that he “knows for a fact” that Albert Pujols had been using PEDs for about the last decade. The basis that Clark gave for that revelation was a conversation with a trainer more than 10 years ago when the trainer told Clark that he had been shooting Pujols up. That is pretty flimsy evidence on which to base a statement one claims to “know for a fact”.
The trainer denies ever saying that. Pujols denies ever taking PEDs. Pujols has said he will file a defamation suit against Clark. The radio station in St. Louis where Clark made the comments has fired Jack Clark.
Obviously, I do not know if Albert Pujols has ever taken PEDs. However, this story has more dimensions to it than that underlying fact or fiction. Consider:
Given the events of the last 20 years or so in baseball, MLB players no longer get any benefit of the doubt/presumption of innocence in the court of public opinion when it comes to allegations of this kind.
If this conversation between Clark and the trainer happened more than 10 years ago, why has Clark “sat on” the information until now? What changed last week that made it OK – even imperative – to get that information out in the open as opposed to some random time in 2009?
Is Jack Clark an updated version of José Canseco – in the sense that he has shone a light into a dark corner of the baseballs version of an opium den?
Alternatively, was Jack Clark trying to make a name for himself in the sportsradio business – sort of like a “shock jock”?
As I have noted in these rants many times, I am not an attorney. However, I have had discussions with real attorneys about defamation suits in situations like this where the plaintiff would be a star athlete. From my understanding of those chats, I think that Pujols may have difficulty winning a lawsuit here even if he never took any PED stronger than caffeine. Since it would be pretty easy for Clark to show that Pujols is a public figure – millions of people recognize his name and his image even though they have never met him in person – that changes what Pujols would have to demonstrate in court. The falsehood of the claim – if indeed it is false – is insufficient.
For a public figure, the standard is that the claim is false and that the speaker of that falsehood had real malice in mind when making the statement. In this case, “malice” means that in addition to knowing the statement was false, Clark showed “reckless disregard” in making the statement public. That is a high hurdle indeed. Nevertheless, Pujols may choose to sue Clark anyway because by suing him Pujols would adopt a posture that he is not a PED abuser and is willing to have all the evidence on that matter made public – even if he would lose in the end on the basis that he cannot show that Clark had real malice in his heart when Clark said what he did last week. There is probably more to come on this one…
Greg Cote of the Miami Herald put last week’s baseball/PED activities into perspective in sixteen simple words:
“Baseball suspended 13 players, including A-Rod, in one day last week. Call it a Fakers’ Dozen.”
Gregg Drinnan had an interesting item in the Kamloops Daily News last weekend regarding the PGA Tournament:
“An interesting tweet from the legendary Dan Jenkins during the first round of the PGA Championship: ‘Reminder: Tiger Woods has 33 of his 79 wins on five courses – Bay Hill, Firestone, Torrey, Muirfield Village and Augusta.’ … Bad news for Tiger fans: The PGA Championship is being played at Oak Hill.”
In other golf news, the USGA has signed a TV deal with FOX to televise the US Open starting in 2015. FOX will pay the USGA $100M for the TV rights here. Normally, I would just yawn at that kind of news and move on thinking that FOX bid more than any other network for the rights. However, a USGA spokesman, Joe Goode, tried to make me believe this decision was not about the money. [Aside: It is ALWAYS about the money.]
Said Messr. Goode:
“Rather the decision is consistent with our strategy for delivering golf in new and innovative ways, which can be achieved with a partner that has a completely fresh perspective on the game.”
I am not cherry-picking quotes here out of context. Here is what USGA President, Glen Nager had to say in the press release that announced this new deal:
“This is an exciting and remarkable day for the USGA, as our partnership with the FOX Sports is a game-changer for our organization and for the game of golf. The game is evolving and requires bold and unique approaches on many levels, and FOX shares our vision to seek fresh thinking and innovative ideas to deliver championship golf. This partnership will help us to better lead and serve the game in new and exciting ways.”
Getting $100M for the rights to televise this one event is indeed a game-changer for the USGA; I will not dispute that. However, the idea that FOX will deliver golf in bold or new or innovative ways is rhetorical fluff. What might the FOX innovations be?
Terry Bradshaw doing commentary at the opening tee as the players begin each round and yukking it up with Howie Long.
Wiring the caddies for sound – or even better – for video.
Sacrificing any goof who shouts “get in the hole” on an altar to the Goddess of Banality.
No, I think that the USGA has just used words to talk to us and it does not matter that we do not understand – or believe – any of them.
Finally, here is quick Q&A from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
“Q: What do you call it when an NFL player is late getting to practice?
“A: Arraign delay.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………