By Jeff Moss
August 6, 2013
I didn’t want to write a full column on the Jhonny Peralta suspension. I really didn’t. Mainly because my thoughts are all over the place on this issue and I felt it would be sort of hypocritical to post a 2,500 word article on a topic that I supposedly don’t care about.
But when I woke up Tuesday morning to the latest in Mitch Albom’s continuing morality saga in the pages of the Detroit Free Press, I could no longer help myself.
I guess SOMEONE could have written an article lecturing Tigers fans that there are more important things in life than the home team winning the World Series while criticizing Peralta, but Frodo clearly isn’t one of them.
I guess we should consider ourselves lucky that Albom came down from high atop his perch on Mount Integrity to pen this finger-wagging piece since we all know he is very busy saving the Haitian citizens (when not exploiting St. Peter for his latest novella sure to be gobbled up by a bunch of menopausal women).
(Condescending Baggins’ upcoming November release is entitled “The First Phone Call from Heaven.” No. Seriously. Even Coldplay thinks all of this munchkin’s hits sound the same.)
Today’s article wasn’t much different from the tons I have perused in the last few days regarding the latest MLB PED scandal. Drugs are bad, mmkay. You really need to be outraged over this. Bud Selig is trying to clean up the game after turning a blind eye to this stuff in the nineties. Peralta lied. The Tigers will do what is best for them. Blargh, blargh, blargh …..
While I despise this black-and-white, cookie-cutter approach to this complex issue, the real reason I am responding to Albom’s plea for your soul is that there isn’t a worse person employed in the Detroit media to criticize anyone for a lapse in judgment.
We all know about Albom’s history when it comes to ethics.
I don’t want to rehash the entire Mateen Cleaves/Jason Richardson drama again because there have been more words written on the Internet regarding Frodo’s journalistic malpractice in that situation than Mitch has typed about mortality and celestial beings.
(Yeah, I am pretty sure I am going to end up regurgitating it again as well before this article is over. And ….. I did.)
Anyway, I want to raise two specific points regarding the AFTERMATH of Albom writing that infamous fictional column which should have disqualified him from ever writing THIS in today’s paper:
Then again, this is the same guy who said in a February statement: “I have never used performance-enhancing drugs. Period. Anybody who says otherwise is lying.“
Apparently, he was the one lying. And so we must also question anything he says about his substance use.
Peralta was lying, so we should question everything he says from this day forward? Well, if that is the case, shouldn’t we question EVERYTHING Albom has written since the Cleaves/Richardson abomination?
Actually, Peralta has given the public more reason to trust him since he made a sincere apology yesterday and didn’t make an excuse for his behavior. For fun, let’s compare Jhonny’s mea culpa to Albom’s.
Heeeeeeeere’s Jhonnnnny’s …..
“In spring of 2012, I made a terrible mistake that I deeply regret. I apologize to everyone that I have hurt as a result of my mistake, including my teammates, the Tigers’ organization, the great fans in Detroit, Major League Baseball, and my family. I take full responsibility for my actions, have no excuses for my lapse in judgment and I accept my suspension.
I love the fans, my teammates and this organization and my greatest punishment is knowing that I have let so many good people down. I promise to do everything possible to try and earn back the respect that I have lost.”
And now here is Condescending Baggins’ apology …
To our readers: I made an assumption in a column this past weekend. It was a bad move. In a column written Friday for our Sunday newspaper, I assumed that what I had been told by Mateen Cleaves and Jason Richardson had indeed happened, that they had indeed flown to the Final Four, sat in the stands together rooting on Michigan State in Saturday’s game. That was their plan. Both told me so in separate interviews. Because the column had to be filed on Friday afternoon, but appeared on Sunday, I wrote it in the past tense, as if it already had happened.
While it was hardly the thrust of the column – which was about nostalgia and college athletes – it was wrong just the same. You can’t write that something happened that didn’t, even if it’s just who sat in the stands. Perhaps, it seems a small detail to you – the players still love their teams, they are still nostalgic, they simply decided not to go after the column had been filed – but details are the backbone of journalism, and planning to be somewhere is not the same as being there.
So I owe you and the Free Press an apology, and you have it right here. It wasn’t thorough journalism. While our deadlines would have required some weird writing – something like, “By the time you read this, if Mateen and Jason stuck to their plans, they would have sat in the stands for Saturday’s game”- it should have been done. We have high standards at this newspaper, and I have high standards for myself. We – the editors and I – got caught in an assumption that shouldn’t have happened. It won’t again. Thanks
While Peralta took full responsibility for HIS actions and made no excuses, Albom did the exact opposite. First, Frodo minimized the severity of what he did.
Then he blamed it on the deadline dictated by his editor. And worst of all, he put words in his readers’ mouths by writing that perhaps it was just a small detail to them.
This wasn’t an apology, it was a pass-the-blame-to-everyone-
The biggest canard in Albom’s own defense was that in his Spartan basketball column he had just made a simple assumption which turned out to be false. That Cleaves and Richardson’s attendance was “hardly the thrust of the column.”
Back when Albom first issued this “apology,” I actually took the time to re-write Frodo’s entire column just to illustrate how dumb the article would have sounded if he just would have stuck to Cleaves and Richardson’s intentions and not written the fictional part.
The following is that re-write with my changes in caps:
In the audience Saturday at the Final Four, among the 46,000 hoop junkies, sales executives, movie producers, parents, contest winners, beer guzzlers, hip-hop stars and lucky locals who knew somebody who knew somebody, there were two former stars for Michigan State, Mateen Cleaves and Jason Richardson WHO PLANNED TO BE THERE.
They PLANNED TO SIT in the stands, in their MSU clothing, and root on their alma mater. They were teammates in the magical 2000 season, when the Spartans won it all. Both now play in the NBA, Richardson for Golden State, Cleaves for Seattle.
And both PLANNED TO MAKE it a point to fly in from wherever they were in their professional schedule just to sit together Saturday. Richardson, who earns millions, PLANNED TO FLY by private plane. Cleaves, who’s on his fourth team in five years, bought a ticket and PLANNED TO FLY commercial.
It was PLANNED TO BE loyalty, sure. And it was PLANNED TO BE exciting, no doubt. But in talking to both players, it was more than that. It was PLANNED TO BE A chance to do something almost all of us would love to do: PLAN TO recapture, for a few hours, the best time of their lives.
“In the pros, you don’t hang out with your teammates; everybody has their own life, their wife or their kids or their girlfriends,” Richardson said. “And anyhow, you’re together on the plane, at the arena, on the bus, 82 games a season. When you have time, you’re just looking to get away.”
“You gotta miss those college days,” Cleaves said. “We were a family at Michigan State. In the NBA, you’re just not as close.”
THE TIMES OF A LIFETIME
When athletes talk about leaving college early, I always wish they would forget for a moment the financial gains or their draft lottery position. I wish they would think about the fun.
I’m not talking about the fun of seeing yourself on “SportsCenter.” You can do that in the pros, too. I’m talking about the fun you take for granted as a 19-year-old because you’ve never known anything else. I’m talking about plopping on the dorm couch and laughing about nothing, or squeezing in an old car and making dumb jokes about how your buddies smell, or sharing a sub sandwich at 3 in the morning, or putting your speakers out the window of your room, or hanging in the cafeteria for hours on end as the table changes characters, some coming, some going, all friends.
“In the pros, it’s funny, you got all these nice houses and nice cars,” Cleaves said, “as opposed to when you were kids riding bikes, staying over each others’ places, going half on a pizza. Remember when you had to borrow $2 from the next-door neighbor just to have enough to get it, you know?”
He laughed, and the laughter alone is exactly what I’m talking about.
LEAVING SCHOOL TOO SOON
Richardson admitted that when he watches his old school play, and he hears the school band and the cheerleaders screaming, “You want to put your old jersey on and get some of your eligibility back.”
The irony, of course, is that so many players give it away. Richardson did. He left after his sophomore season. And, like most high draft picks, he went to a lousy team. Nobody is happy when you lose. The game became a job. Sure, it paid well. But Richardson never seemed as wealthy as when he called his old schoolmates and told them the things he now was able to buy.
There’s a lesson there. If it isn’t rich unless you share it, maybe it’s the sharing that’s rich.
You can do that in college, every day, share life in a way that becomes impossible once you graduate to separate homes and private lives. How many of us wouldn’t trade a year’s worth of professional accomplishment for one more year of sharing dorm pizzas?
I remember, as a kid, some older relatives offering this advice: “Don’t be in such a hurry to grow up. It’s not as great as you think.”
You PLANNED TO LOOK around the stands Saturday, and YOU PLANNED TO REALIZE the truth: that you never know how right they are until you’re the one saying it.
Yep, hardly the thrust of the column. There were only 11 (ELEVEN)!!!!! instances in which Albom suggested they were in attendance including one in which the pair longingly looked around the stadium pining for their youth.
AND THAT WAS HIS APOLOGY, FOLKS!!!!!
While Peralta fell on the sword and took his medicine, Mitch Albom basically came up with the “My wife was the one getting injected” or “I took the PEDs for a tummy ache” or “I thought it was a B-12 vitamin shot” or “I believed it was flaxseed oil” excuse.
After every honorable journalist in the free world called Albom and the Freep out for Frodo’s column and his subsequent lame-ass apology, the paper decided to do an internal investigation into all of Albom’s work at the paper.
Four Free Press reporters combed through 600 Albom columns to see if there was a pattern of this sort of fiction in his work. Which was basically the equivalent of Eric Holder doing an investigation into President Obama, but whatever.
This is what those four reporters came up with according to Dave Kindred, a member of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame.
The investigation reported “no pattern of deception.” It did show Albom guilty of lifting quotes from other sources without attribution. One reporter told Editor & Publisher magazine that Albom not only lifted quotes, he changed them to livelier versions of their former selves.
So, the Freep– on their own– verified that Albom was a plagiarist with a flair for the dramatic.
And while it is too soon to determine if Peralta will ever use PEDs again, there is evidence that Albom hasn’t stopped “lifting” material from “other sources.”
Just a few months ago, I received a tip from a well-respected journalist in the area that Albom had plagiarized from a reporter who was working for NHL.com. Here is a link to my article regarding the accusation that Albom ripped off Brian Hedger.
When the sports editor of the Free Press (Gene Myers) was made aware of this issue by the aforementioned scribe (not Hedger, the local writer) he or she was told that Albom is bulletproof at that paper and there was no point in even running this up the executive totem pole.
And THIS is the gentleman lecturing his readers on ethics and what kind of fans they should be?!?!??
Look, Albom, or just about anyone else in the media, could have written a thoughtful article about this most recent PED scandal and touched on a variety of subjects.
Here are just a few I pondered before deciding to forego that sort of article for this one:
1) Why is Major League Baseball the only sports organization that seems to care at all about PEDs and HGH? In fact, according to the whistleblower on all of this Biogenesis crap (Porter Fischer), the other leagues wouldn’t even answer his call about “the list.”
The following is a quote from an ESPN “Outside the Lines” report regarding this topic:
Fischer said he and associates have identified athletes from the NBA, NCAA, professional boxing, tennis and MMA, in addition to other professional baseball players who have not yet been identified. He said the only sports entity he has heard from was Major League Baseball.
While the other organizations wouldn’t even pick up the phone, Bud Selig and his investigators offered Fischer $125,000 for his cooperation in this witch-hunt. An offer he refused.
Maybe that’s because the members of Congress didn’t once tongue lash Gary Bettman, Roger Goodell and David Stern about this issue on C-Span. Or maybe it is due to the fact that Selig is attempting everything in his power to modify the first paragraph of his obituary before he drops dead.
2) What will the Bud Seligs of the world do when all of the performance enhancing techniques are legal, which might be just around the corner? In a brilliant column written by Jeff Passan of CBSSports.com, the national baseball writer asked this salient question:
Selig’s black-and-white view of PEDs ignores the nuance of modern science that has difficulty differentiating between a substance and a treatment. If one player is taking synthetic testosterone to heal faster and another player is getting his blood spun and reinjected into him to heal faster, why is the former banned and the latter welcomed? Because the government says so? The government also says marijuana is illegal, and baseball players on the 40-man roster can take bong rips galore without penalty.
So what happens when players start getting rejuvenated by other procedures like, say, maybe stem-cell treatments? If physicians soon invent a totally legal way for athletes to build body mass and recover from injuries and workouts and start hitting 70 home runs again, will we find out that MLB didn’t really give a shit about anything other than protecting their precious records?
And will the next commissioner of MLB seriously look into these issues instead of doing his best Nancy Grace imitation in an attempt to clear his “good name?”
3) If cheating is so abhorrent and must be exorcised from the game of baseball, why can I go lay down $19.50 for a ticket to enter Cooperstown and view Gaylord Perry’s plaque, but not Barry Bonds’ or Roger Clemens’?
Or for that matter, how about Willie Mays or Hank Aaron? If I had a dollar for every glowing tribute given to “Say Hey” and “Hammering Hank” from people like Bob Costas and George Will, I could afford to buy the Tampa Bay Rays myself.
It is just an inconvenient truth that above-referenced Hall of Famers were actually cheaters in their day as well, according to Grantland.com’s Jonah Keri and many others:
Just as we lamented the end of the line for known performance-enhancing amphetamine users Hank Aaron (see page 268) and Willie Mays, I’ll be doing the same for A-Rod. Whether chemically enhanced like Aaron, Mays, and 19th-century pitcher Pud Galvin or clean, Rodriguez was a breathtaking player to watch, one of the greatest of all time.
Those are just a few of the topics that someone could have addressed if they wanted to write a thoughtful column about drugs in sports. Instead, Condescending Baggins took the easy and lazy route and said this:
But we do know this. You need to care. Unless you see no difference between baseball and professional wrestling, you need to care. You need to be concerned that fairness is preserved.
Otherwise, there is no game. There’s just the needle and the damage done.
No, Mitch. There will ALWAYS be a game. And there will always be fans in attendance because cheating in baseball goes back about as far as Chevy and apple pie.
Baseball popularity is at an all-time high even with these type of scandals force-fed to us by Selig’s willing media accomplices. The Tigers are still the highest-rated program nightly on Fox Sports Detroit even though their starting shortstop has been accused of cheating since January 31st.
I do find it highly ironic that Albom is worried about the future of sports if cheating is ignored, when, during the past week, the Boston Globe was sold for $70 million when it was once purchased for 1.1 BILLION DOLLARS back in 1993.
And the same DAY that Albom wrote this piece of garbage, the Washington Post sold for $250 million when it was valued at TWO BILLION DOLLARS ten years ago.
Yep, sports are in trouble. Not the newspapers that continue to employ part-time employees who only write about sports when it is convenient for them, ridicule advanced metrics and belittle Starbucks baristas as bloodsport.
Unfortunately, I am not as good a writer as Frodo so I can’t end this column with a shoehorned lyric from “Cinnamon Girl” or “After the Goldrush.”
What I can end it with is this.
Did Myth Albom™ (Jason Whitlock) really attempt to denigrate baseball by comparing it to WWE?
The difference between Vince McMahon and Mitch Albom is Mr. McMahon lets us know when he is producing fiction.