Just when you thought I was done blogging about what other sports writers have to say, here I go posting yet another entry about what another sports writer has to say. This time I was privileged enough to listen to the experienced words of Murray Chass, retired New York Times journalist and member of Ahavat Achim in Fair Lawn, as he spoke during the synagogue’s 10th annual “Bagels and Baseball” event.
Before I continue, I would first like to inform you of the heated war between journalists like me, and journalists like him. Since Chass retired, he has put together quite an impressive baseball Website. At first glance, the site would appear to be a baseball blog. However, at the top of the page, reads in clear, noticeable letters, “Before reading these columns, please read about this site.” And instantly, I knew what was coming.
The link inscribed in the word “about” leads the reader to a page that introduces several paragraphs describing the site. Without missing a beat, the first paragraph announces:
“This is a site for baseball columns, not for baseball blogs. The proprietor of the site is not a fan of blogs. He made that abundantly clear on a radio show with Charley Steiner when Steiner asked him what he thought of blogs and he replied, “I hate blogs.” He later heartily applauded Buzz Bissinger when the best-selling author denounced bloggers on a Bob Costas HBO show.”
I watched that episode. It wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was quite demoralizing. It was a debate between renowned journalist Buzz Bissinger and my favorite blogger, Will Leitch. It was not one of Leitch’s finer moments.
Thus, it should be no surprise that not only do Chass and I disagree regarding particular writing styles, our opinions on almost everything else discussed at breakfast were also quite contradictory. However, I will do my best to avoid displaying my personal beliefs in my writing, because this article is about what Chass had to say.
Chass opened the forum by stating that the only certainty in baseball is steroids. No one can promise that a certain team will win the World Series or even make the playoffs, but everyone can guarantee that there will be steroids. Gee, I love optimism.
Similar to the last writer I blogged about, Bob Klapisch, Chass also made the issue of steroids one of – if not his most major – topics. However, as supposed to denouncing steroids in baseball as Klapisch did, Chass took a very different ideological route (ironically identical to sports’ most famous blogger, Will Leitch).
“I understand the concern about steroids,” Chass began. “But we in this country get our priorities a little bit messed up. Smoking kills 400,000 [people], while steroids haven’t been proven to kill people or cause deaths. I personally wish that the politicians would go after tobacco as zealously as steroids.”
Chass acknowledged that this point of view foresees many potential difficulties. One such dilemma lies within the young baseball fans. Many children look up to major league ballplayers as role models; they don’t however, look up to smokers as role models. Thus, congress would seem to have a certain responsibility to make sure the sports we watch are clean. This, Chass explained, is a significant ideological problem with our society regarding sports. “Athletes should not be role models and should not be viewed by kids as role models,” he said.
Chass elaborated with a story that happened not too long ago. Several years ago, a high school football player, Tayler Hooton, was told by his team’s coach that he needed to be “bigger” to compete in his senior year. Like many other players in the league, Taylor decided to use steroids to achieve his objective. Unfortunately, Taylor was unaware of the depression that was the side effect of using anabolic steroids to get “bigger.” On July 15, 2003, Taylor committed suicide.
The Taylor Hooton Foundation was formed by Taylor’s parents in his memory. His parents blamed Major League Sports for allowing their athletes, Taylor’s role models, to use steroids and allow for high school athletes to think steroids are healthy and risk-free. Chass explained how although we love to think of our favorite athletes as role models, they are just people – as dumb or smart as the rest of us. In reality, parents are the ones that need to watch over their children, especially the ones quickly and mysteriously gaining 20-30 pounds of muscle to bulk up for competitive sports.
Chass didn’t stop there. He went on to say that fans don’t really have such a big issue with steroids, and that if Barry Bonds hadn’t broken records while juicing, no one would care. “Fans are concerned with records,” Chass said.