Monday, July 24, 2006

Another Turd From Gene Wojciechowski

Like with most things, ESPN the Plucky Upstart was way more appealing than ESPN, Corporate Juggernaut. People forget this now but the network used to be something of a maverick; for those of us old enough to have been weaned on four minutes of sports coverage at the end of the 11 PM local news, "SportsCenter" was a revelation: irreverent, spontaneous, fun. Now, the network consists of little more than irritating "talent", lame sentimentality, and "original entertainment."

For the most part, ESPN.com is an outpost for the network's lame corporate mentality: better to traffic in safe, bland, and predictable opinions than to shake up the status quo. Outside of the Sports Guy, few of ESPN.com's columnists challenge conventional wisdom or rock the boat in any way.

Besides the execrable (wretched? insufferable? I struggled to settle on just the right adjective) Skip Bayless, perhaps no ESPN.com writer better personifies this depressing trend than Gene Wojciechowski. If there's a prevailing wisdom on an issue, you can bet ol' Gene has his hands wrapped tightly around the bandwagon reins. Anyway, his latest ode to ennui can be found here. I'm not feeling charitable:

Next year's ESPYS should include a new category: Best Performance By An Outraged Lawyer On Courthouse Steps. I nominate Jeff Borris, a lawyer for Barry Bonds who simply can't understand why federal prosecutors keep picking on his poor little client.

While we're creating new ESPY categories (and nice ESPYs plug, you sly devil), how about Most Nauseating and Unwarranted Moralizing by a Sportswriter. Lots of nominees as usual but I'm pulling for ya, Gene.

"We should be paying tax dollars trying to locate bin Laden," said Borris to the minicams last week. "Isn't he Public Enemy No. 1?" (Memo to Bonds: I don't know what you're paying this guy, but if it's more than a dab of Atomic Balm, a wad of chaw and a handful of sunflower seeds, it's too much).

I could make the same observation about what ESPN is paying you, Gene, but that would be...cheap. And it would seem Borris has a point, since you made no effort to refute the man.

Borris, Bonds and the rest of his legal team are nuts if they think the feds are going away. The Feds are Belushi in "Animal House": "Over? Did you say, 'over?' Nothing is over until WE decide it is!"

Oh my G-d, the feds are so not Belushi in "Animal House." When was the last time you heard a member of the federal government (besides Clinton) say, "My advice to you...is to start drinking heavily"?

Borris can yammer on until his habeas needs a new corpus.

Um...what?

Michael Rains, another Bonds attorney with a penchant for courthouse-step sound bites, can accuse the government all he wants of conducting an investigation that has morphed, he says, into "a persecution." The feds don't care. They're used to hearing indignant defense lawyers talk tough, although the thing about finding bin Laden was probably good for a few laughs.

They found it fucking hilarious, no doubt.

Until Greg Anderson, Bonds' boyhood friend and former personal trainer, agrees to testify before a grand jury, the feds will keep reaching into their legal toolbox for more screws. Martha Stewart, who served time for, among other things, lying to federal investigators, can explain how that works.

I'm not sure which is worse here, Gene: your shaky interpretation of the Martha Stewart case or your contemptible cheerleading for the feds. Dick.

Meanwhile, defense attorneys defend, prosecutors forge ahead, legal experts opine. That's fine. But if you take sandpaper to all the verbal posturing and lawyerese in this case, you're left with a simple question: Why won't Anderson talk?

And unless you're Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds, or one of their attorneys, you're left with a simple answer: we have no fucking idea. We're not privy to the facts. You can speculate that he's covering up for Bonds. I'll speculate that he's been friends with Bonds for most of his life and that his loyalty eclipses whatever threats the feds are making. Maybe he objects to the bullying and demands for answers to questions that the feds have no right asking.

Think about it. Bonds and his attorneys say the San Francisco Giants outfielder has done nothing wrong. Didn't lie to the grand jury. Didn't lie on his taxes. Didn't take performance-enhancing drugs -- at least, not "knowingly."

OK, let's pretend they're telling the truth. Let's pretend Bonds is the victim of a government and media conspiracy, that his head size and home run numbers grew exponentially because he drank gallons of milk and ate lots of Wheaties. Let's pretend he reported all of that memorabilia show cash. Gee, Barry is a swell guy.

Let's pretend you can think critically, Gene. As a sportswriter with a national audience, you could seize the opportunity to open a dialogue about the proper role of government. Ask some probing questions. Be a skeptic of power for once in your life. Here are some sample questions: Shouldn't the concept of self-ownership prevent the state from regulating what people put in their bodies? Baseball can choose to ban PEDs as a condition of employment but why should the use of PEDs/HGH be criminal? And shouldn't Americans be angry about how much we're taxed? Is there no area of commerce, including "show cash," that is beyond the greedy hands of the taxman? You know, stuff like that.

So tell me, then, why won't Anderson talk? If Bonds has done no wrong, what is there for Anderson to protect?

Ah, resorting to the Bush Administration's favored "You have nothing to fear if you've done nothing wrong!" argument for illegal wiretapping. Well played, sir. [claps wearily]

Instead, Anderson, who was convicted in 2005 of laundering money and distributing steroids, won't say a peep. He already has done one two-week stint in prison for refusing to appear in front of a grand jury. And it appears he'll do more time -- much more time -- if he does a Sammy Sosa and forgets how to speak English when a new grand jury convenes.

"They can subpoena him every day for the rest of the year and it doesn't matter," Mark Geragos, Anderson's lawyer, told reporters. "He's not going to talk."

Defiance doesn't go over real big with the U.S. Attorney's office, especially when the feds are convinced Anderson knows who took what performance-enhancing drugs and when they took them. In short, they think the man whose personal training business was named, "Get Big Productions," can explain exactly how Bonds, and others, got so huge.

He probably can but, once again, you fail to ask the critical question here: why is steroid use among ballplayers any of the feds' fucking business? Let's say that the use of Ecstasy among sportswriters was suspected to be rampant -- and given the quality and integrity demonstrated by the profession these days, that's a crazy fucking idea, I know -- but how would you feel about your best friend being subpoenaed and imprisoned for refusing to testify about your suspected use?

There are only so many reasons Anderson keeps pressing the mute button: (A) His grand jury testimony would implicate Bonds and, damn it, he's no snitch; (B) his testimony would be leaked to the media and, damn it, he doesn't want anybody to know he's a snitch; (C) he doesn't want to burn his boyhood friend; or (D) he's holding out for a deal.

I pick D, for Deal.

I pick E, for Refusing to Dignify This Publicity Whoring By Giving These Arrogant Pricks in the Federal Government What They Want.

All deals are the product of leverage. The feds have jail. Anderson has silence. My guess is that at some point the U.S. Attorney's office will offer something in exchange for Anderson's testimony. My other guess is that Anderson will take it. Otherwise, he will spend months … a year … perhaps more than a year, in prison. And for what? To protect Bonds, whose attorney Rains began to distance his client ever so slightly from Anderson a few days ago?

Interesting, since with most state endeavors, jail is all the feds have. The state produces nothing, provides nothing, invents nothing. But it does give us wars, prohibition, taxation, and jail. Good times.

Bonds initially said he thought substances given to him by Anderson in 2003 were flaxseed oil and anti-arthritic balm. But now Rains said Bonds was "suspicious" about whether they were performance enhancers. Expect more revisionist history in the coming months.

The feds can be ruthless, and I don't mean that in a good way, necessarily.

Whew, thank goodness you qualified that with "necessarily." For a second there I was afraid you might take a principled stand.

They don't care whether Anderson does more prison time. They don't care that Bonds has 722 career home runs and is beloved in the Bay Area. This isn't about manners. This is about separating fact from fiction.

This is about reminding people who's boss.

Bonds faces a federal trifecta: perjury, the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs and tax evasion. If convicted, that means fines, jail time or both. So catching Hank Aaron or reaching the Hall of Fame is the least of his worries. Or should be. Even for the smug Bonds, it would be galactically stupid to underestimate the ferocity of the feds.

"Galactically stupid," good one. And you thought you could sneak that reference from "A Few Good Men" by us, you cheeky monkey.

What's next? For now, we hear the blustery sounds of indignant defense lawyers on courthouse steps. What we don't hear is Anderson. That silence, more than anything, speaks loudest.

Ugh. We also read the blustery prose of indignant sportswriters who lack both intellectual curiosity and a reporter's good old-fashioned nose for bullshit. Bravo, Gene. Bra-vo.

5 comments:

MSH said...

I think a robot writes all the espn.com columns now. They plugged in the same five jokes and the same five issues into an algorithm, and there you had it. All they had to do then was invent some names. And I'm not buying "Gene Wojciechowski" as a real person's name for one minute. Come out from behind that curtain, Robot!

There are still some real-human columns on ESPN, but you have to join Insider. Have your credit card ready!

Pabs said...

"his habeas needs a new corpus", wow, here comes the Gene! At least Simon and Garfunkel will get a 20 cents check in the mail this week, yippie!
Jay, just be glad we haven't been blessed with the thoughts hiding behind Stu Scott's lazy eye.

/golf clap for another great read.
//dying to read what's inside Stu's mind.
///if you think i don't have another 5-6 jokes about Stu's Pirates-of-the-Caribean-glass-eye-looking thing, well, you know, you're wrong!
////Sometimes I seriously question the existence of a Supreme Being, since, Stephen A. and Skip both appear on TV daily
/////slashy slash slash

J Ballot said...

m.s.harris,

That would be just like Disney/ESPN, wouldn't it? Marshaling its considerable robot/animatronic technology in the service of destroying critical thinking and reasoned discourse? You might not want to publicize that theory too loudly or their satellites will be trained on you much like MLB's were in that "Simpsons" episode with Mark McGwire.

And I will NEVER join Insider. Never, I tell you! I share the sports frog's attitude about Insider:

"I loved [ESPN] for a long time. I was devoted and caring. And now even your MLB gametracker is Inside. Well I don’t want to go Inside, frankly it scares me."

Hey, thanks for checking in. Your blog is excellent!

--------

pabs:

Frankly, I'm terrified by the idea of a Stu Yeah column/blog. It would be undeniably hilarious for all the wrong reasons, true. But the viewing public and the English language have suffered enough already thanks to that powder blue-wearing, Tarheel-loving popinjay, right?

J

Pabs said...

Right you are! I doubt there is a single unbiased comment made or a smirkless question posed by Mr. Scott in his "career".

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