Thursday, April 14, 2011

A lesson in Barry Bonds

As I mentioned in the Links, Barry Bonds is in a lot of trouble. He was found guilty of obstruction of justice in his perjury trial. I'm not here to express my opinions on Bonds or steroids, or whether or not he was given a raw deal or didn't get a severe enough punishment. What I want to address is a question I have heard from a few different people. Why is congress involved anyways?
If you are of the perspective that this is a silly game, baseball, and trying to ferret out cheaters seems like a waste of time, then absolutely, the congressional pursuit does seem errant. If you look at it as a billion dollar industry that has received a rare but influential federal antitrust exemption, which would likely entail some nominal congressional oversight at the very least, it is a different story.
This, of course, the stance that congress has to take, because that's exactly what Major League Baseball is. They are one of a few organizations that is allowed to operate as a monopoly (their allowances are even greater than those of the NFL or NHL), so their is no governance or self regulation caused by competing businesses. This means oversight eventually falls upon the federal government.
Congress has mostly stayed out of the affairs of the nation's sports leagues, however recently it has become quiet apparent that there is a culture of illicit drug use in this specially privileged billion dollar industry. Not only that, but many of the users and dealers are international players, from the Dominican Republic or Venezuela. This veers dangerously close to trafficking, perhaps close enough that our elected officials thought that it warranted further investigation.
So that is why congress is involved. IF the product that was produced was something other than entertainment, this would have been a non-story, but as it is because this is baseball. Congress and the judiciary has given special privileges to Major League Baseball, so they warrant the added oversight. It just so happens that there was something fishy going on, attributable in some part to Barry Bonds.

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