Baseball in D.C.

 'First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.'

Baseball has long had a troubled history with our nation's capital. Once home to the notorious perennial losers, the Washington Senators, abandoned by major league baseball altogether in the Seventies, and most recently involved in a disputed and potentially disastrous attempt to build a new stadium to lure the Major Leagues back, Washington DC and baseball have a relationship best described as entertainingly dysfunctional.

Now we learn that a number of active and former baseball players have been subpoenaed to appear before a congressional committee. The purpose? To investigate the possible abuse of steroids in Major League Baseball. Legislators, it seems, are greatly interested in hearing first—hand accounts of possible infractions of baseball's drug policy. Baseball has a highly publicized problem so, of course, our publicity—seeking politicians need to fix it. It is a fantastic illustration of government nanny—ism gone wild. For what (in heaven's name!) gives this federal branch of government the right to involve itself in the issue ——other than the desire to do so?

The genesis of this congressional interest is a scandal unto itself, for it stems from the release of leaked grand jury testimony. Jason Giambi, a New York Yankee, Barry Bonds, the great San Francisco slugger, and others were questioned by the feds two years ago about the dealings of a certain Balco Industries and their possible illegal activities regarding steroids and other proscribed substances. Secret sworn testimony by Giambi was released to the press — testimony which contradicted his public utterances, and a firestorm of indignation followed. Not, unfortunately, at the utter outrage of leaked testimony but rather over the contents of the testimony itself.

Now despite the fact that baseball is and has been unquestionably tainted by the steroid issue, and although the participants involved in the allegations are unsavory, to say the least, the introduction of Congress to their troubles has added a delicious fringe benefit to the proceedings, allowing a sordid sports episode to serve as a bright spotlight on the stupidity and puerility of our national representatives. It gives the proceedings a special importance unforeseen by the dim—witted politicos.

Often the outrageous (and unconstitutional) overreach of Congress is hidden behind the serious nature of the subject matter or general importance of a given issue. The claim that 'a crisis is at hand so let us not get bogged down with legalities' is used, as if it would justify Congress involving itself in all manner of life clearly outside its Constitutional purview.

The beauty of the present controversy is that the absurd and inappropriate involvement of lawmakers is obvious to even the most rabid or simple—minded of sports enthusiasts. Heard on sports radio call—in programs, discussed on ESPN, and asked by sagacious sports columnists in newspapers country—wide is the same question —'Why is Congress involved?'

Major League Baseball surprisingly, and to its credit, has reacted by protesting the unwelcome and unwarranted intrusion into its internal affairs and has pursued legal options to prevent the committee interrogations. Of course, self—interest is mixed with respect for the principles of limited government in this particular instance, since MLB has never been reluctant to see local governments expand their activities to the financing of ballparks.

Hints of the political hubris now exhibited by Congress began back in the Fall, as the first reports of Mr. Giambi's testimony began to hit the press. Sen. John McCain, who has morphed into a sort of first—class political ambulance chaser, ominously warned that if baseball did not get its act together by January (?), Congress would be forced (?) to intervene (?).

Since this absurd sentiment came from the mouth of the media—beloved Senator 'Straight—Talk,' it was widely ignored by most observers. But, apparently, its theme was embraced by the House Committee, who naively expected to be hailed as a team of tough 'lets—get—to—the—bottom—of—this—crisis' reformers, instead of rightly regarded as the headline—seeking, bullying, busybodies they truly are, by the suddenly awakened 'great unwashed'
sports fan. Perhaps our lawmakers should reacquaint themselves with the Roman concept of 'Bread and Circuses' as they go about the usual routine of quietly undermining the Constitutional underpinnings of the Republic

So let us thank baseball for this unexpected blessing. It is rare indeed when Congress can be so openly revealed as the group of absurd blowhards they really are — and over such a relatively insignificant issue.

Thus baseball adds a delightful and enlightening chapter to its storied relationship with the District of Columbia.

Andrew Sumereau is a writer residing in East Stroudsburg, PA