News From Capitol Hill …

Normally, when there is activity in the US Congress regarding sports, my view is that the Congressthings are grandstanding and that the activity there is misguided at best.  Today, I believe that is not the case.  Two US Senators – Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) – have introduced legislation that would make significant changes in the oversight of the US Olympic Committee and the individual sports federations that come under that USOC umbrella.  This legislation is part of the aftermath of the Larry Nassar revelations and a variety of investigations that demonstrated that Nassar’s heinous actions were enabled by various folks in the hierarchy and by the hierarchy itself.  Let me be clear on 3 points here:

  1. Dr. Larry Nassar is a monstrous human being.
  2. His actions were – and are – an affront to humanity.
  3. Dr. Nassar is serving the moral equivalent of a life sentence in prison for his actions – – but those who did not act to curtail those actions are not similarly in prison.  They should face that possibility and defend themselves to remain free.

The proposed legislation contains a variety of procedural changes that should make it more difficult for a predator such as Dr. Nassar to act out in the future.  One such change would require the USOC to establish and maintain a public list of all “banned coaches” making it far less likely that the “banned coaches” would simply be hired somewhere else in the sport’s hierarchy.  The legislation would also increase the representation of athletes on the USOC’s board of directors and on the boards of the various sports that feed into the USOC actions.  [Aside:  I fear that this “inclusive” requirement sounds better than it will turn out to be.  Athletes will be positive forces in the “board room” when matters of abuse and enabling of abuse are the topic of discussion.  For the myriad of other sorts of issues involving economic matters, I am not nearly so sure.]

Another aspect of the legislation would require the USOC to fund and support something known as the Center for Safe Sport which was established as a non-profit to advocate for Olympic athletes and Olympic hopefuls.  Most importantly, the legislation requires USOC funding support but would ban anyone from the USOC or any of the individual sports governing organizations from serving in the Center for Safe sport.  That’s called preventing the fox from guarding the hen house…

There is a lot to praise Senator Moran and Senator Blumenthal for in their legislation; it seeks to close a gaping hole in the regulatory processes involving the USOC.  Believe it or not, one of the provisions of the bill is that the Congress would be empowered to dissolve the USOC entirely in the future if it “acts negligently”.  The USOC is funded by taxpayer money as enacted by the Congress and only with the passage of this new legislation would Congress have that authority.

Moreover, the new legislation would require the USOC to submit yearly audited reports of its finances to Congressional oversight committees.  Once again, the USOC is funded by taxpayer money and was not required to do so in the past.  It is the existence of these sorts of loopholes that makes me skeptical when Congress seeks to act to regulate or “protect” sports; the two loopholes described here demand facepalms.

All the vibe around this proposed legislation is positive – – and at the same time this means that the US Congress is about to insert itself into the arena of organizing and effecting Olympic sports.  Let me simply leave it here with this thought:

  • Congress has oversight authorities and responsibilities in areas far more germane to the nation than Olympic sports.  The history of positive Congressional impact in those areas has been “spotty”.  Why suddenly should I feel confident that they will do a stellar job in this new, less important area in which few if any of the members have any prior knowledge?

From my understanding of this legislation, I would hope that it would pass both houses of the Congress and be signed into law.  At the same time, I would also hope that this is not a “one-off” activity by the Congress thinking that this law solves the whole problem.  There is oversight to be done and legislative tweaking to be done down the road.

The MLB trade deadline came and went.  I am not going to break down every transaction here – but I think there are some teams that made significant moves:

  • Astros:  Adding Zack Greinke to a rotation that already had Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole can only be a huge plus.
  • Braves:  Their bullpen needed help and they got help with the acquisition of Shane Green and Mark Melancon.
  • Dodgers:  They too need bullpen help – – and they got a couple of guys whose career arc says they work out of the bullpen.  These actions seem to me to be a Great Leap Sideways.
  • Mets:  Adding Marcus Stroman would be a great idea if the Mets were in the midst of a push for the playoffs – – but they are not.
  • Nats:  They need bullpen help more than just about anyone and they added 3 relief pitchers to their roster.  Let me just say that none of them evoke images of Mariano Rivera…

The Indians, Reds and Padres made a trade that sort of stands out as a huge question mark.  The Indians acquired Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes and shipped out Trevor Bauer in a 3-team trade.

  • Bauer has been described as “enigmatic” and “arrogant” and “curious”.  Notwithstanding any of that – be it true or false – the fact is that Bauer is only 28 years old and has been a successful starting pitcher for the last 4 seasons.  The Indians are only 3 games out of first place in the AL Central and are in the thick of the wildcard race.  So, why are they trading Bauer away?
  • Puig is also 28 years old.  He is a power-hitting corner outfielder who plays with passion – if not always with focused control.  And now, he has been traded twice in the last 8 months.  Is there a message there?

Finally, here is a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Bus:  A response to your city planner’s challenge of combining a hospital for the criminally insane with a trash receptacle and a slum and putting the whole experience on wheels for your convenience.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………