A version of this post originally ran on The Bottom of the Barrel. Thanks to Ben for publicizing it.
I know the dynamic of denouncing those who denounce power hitters as PED users with no evidence is getting a little played out in the blogosphere, but it’s a battle worth fighting. (Not like, world hunger or anything, but still.)
Rick Reilly, frequently (rightfully) lambasted on Bottom of the Barrel as the colossal asshat that he is, recently wrote a column about Chris Davis. Reilly, on the basis of things done by other people when Chris Davis was a child, outright accuses Davis of cheating and using PEDs, and concedes that no evidence will ever convince him otherwise. There’s no need for me to dissect this column in detail – Mike Bates at SBNation does an excellent job, including the question why none of these writers showed their moral indignation while the steroid era was in progress – but I do want to take this opportunity to call attention to Reilly’s attitude. It’s an attitude he shares with many sportswriters who, unfortunately, have a built-in audience of millions and propagate this crap whenever they can, making the lives of informed sports fans just a little worse than they need to be. (Basically, Reilly feels good about himself when he writes this crap. He shouldn’t.)
Reilly’s column was prompted by the following Twitter exchange between Davis and a young fan:
Reilly, to whom it never occurred to ask this question himself, follows up with Davis:
RR: You said you weren’t on steroids, but have you ever done any performance-enhancing drug, period?
CD: I have not ever taken any PEDs. I’m not sure fans realize, we have the strictest drug testing in all of sports, even more than the Olympics. If anybody was going to try to cheat in our game, they couldn’t. It’s impossible to try to beat the system. Anyway, I’ve never taken PEDs, no. I wouldn’t. Half the stuff on the list I can’t even pronounce.
RR: Which is a great answer. And carries less power with me than a mosquito’s burp. … That’s not fair to Chris Davis — who can prove a negative? — but it’s what baseball deserves.
That’s the maddening attitude sportswriters like Reilly bring to the table: “I was an idiot for two decades and now I feel stupid for not noticing steroids, so I’m going to take it out on defenseless innocents who do the same things that those who fooled me did.” I wonder if Reilly would mind if the tables were turned…
If you recall, Philadelphia sportswriter Bill Conlin, also by all accounts a colossal asshat, was accused of child molestation and resigned in disgrace. This prompted me to ask Rick Reilly:
Unlike Davis, Reilly hasn’t even bothered to reply. By his own logic, this means that Reilly is more likely to be a pedophile than Davis is to be a PED user – he can’t even be bothered to deny the accusation! Of course, even if he denies it, it means nothing. We won’t be convinced otherwise unless he can prove he’s not a pedophile. That’s not fair to Rick Reilly – who can prove a negative? – but it’s what bad sportswriting deserves.
Hey, Kim Kardashian, is that really your baby?
Hey, Rick Reilly, is it true that you killed Trayvon Martin?