Bob Costas (looking very youthful above) chatted with ESPN Radio’s Mike Greenberg and the Detroit News’ Rob Parker yesterday morning about the matter of Barry Bonds, with the diminutive NBC/HBO mouthpiece calling the Sultan Of Surly, “something of a tragic figure…one of the half dozen best all-around players in baseball history on his own natural merits,” adding, “and then he went the route that he went.”
Things turned a little contentious between Costas and Parker shortly afterwards, a exchange We Suck At Sports’ Hermano described as Parker being “verbally raped.” The Big Lead concurred, opining that Costas “clowned that imbecile Rob Parker”. The Starting Five’s jweiler, however, has an entirely different take on the debate.
Costas phoned in later in the morning, and expressed his feeling that the record had now been diminished, Parker again argued that the fact that baseball has enjoyed record attendance the past few years indicates that the fans don’t ultimately care about steroids. The implication – those who are down on Bonds (and the era in which he played) are making way too much out of PEDs and should, as he said earlier in the morning œget over it.
Costas strongly challenged the premise of Parker’s claim with the following history lesson:
“After World War II, baseball had a tremendous surge in attendance. Baseball was essentially segregated then. A few teams had a few Black players but no one in their right mind would say, ˜well, baseball remained popular so we don’t have to move with greater speed toward justice when it comes to integration of the game.™ I loved baseball in the fifties and sixties growing up; that doesn’t mean that Curt Flood and Marvin Miller weren’t on the side of justice and didn™t have principle on their side because something in the game needed to be corrected and I was able to separate those two things. Baseball was flawed and it was unjust and it needed to be reformed in terms of players rights, but at the same time I loved the game.”
Is Costas really saying that steroid use is the equivalent of the world historic injustice of racism, segregation, and Jim Crow enforced by violence and terror, and manifest in baseball’s color line and its too-slow dismantling? Steroid use and Jim Crow?! In the same breath?! Look, I know Costas would react with horror to such a proposition. But, that his sense of moral outrage about steroid use could so overwhelm his judgment that it did not occur to him – just once during his rant – to acknowledge the fundamental incongruity between use of steroids and baseball’s color line is, in my view, an indictment of the lack of moral compass of much the mainstream of sports journalism and its extraordinary self-absorption.
Compare Costas’ comments to Peter Gammons, who came on a short time later and when asked about Bonds had this to say:
“I don’t get terribly wrapped up in all the morals of this because I think it’s the era of whatever it takes, whether it’s a slandering a politician after he wins a couple of primaries¦or a retail chain wiping out every family business in the country. It’s part of sports, it’s part of life. Barry Bonds is the greatest homerun hitter of his era as Ruth was of his and as Aaron was of his.”
See, now that’s perspective. Costas should dial back some of his self-righteous outrage until he gets a little more of it.