Memo to Columnists: Stop Blaming the Victims

A woman who walks into a bar in a short skirt is not somehow at fault if she is sexually harassed on the way home. Similarly, we are not “all to blame” for MLB’s steroid scandal—a line of argument that is becoming all too familiar with baseball columnists and bloggers. (Ray Ratto’s piece on is a good example).

We all should have known—we did know—about widespread steroid abuse, according to this line, yet we all continued to patronize MLB, and to now ask for Giambi’s (or Bonds’s) head on a platter is simply hypocritical after we sat there enjoying their exploits.

This is a deeply cynical way of thinking. Fans have always been in favor of a tough steroid policy. If the parties involved have not delivered that system, fans are not to blame. Fans should also not be attacked for adopting an innocent-until-proven-guilty stance toward the game and its players. That’s how our system should work. Enough.

7 comments… add one
  • I heartedly concur. However, and though the fans are not to blame in any way, I think the fans ought not act so indignant in reacting to the current scandal. Giambi on ‘roids? Shocker. Bonds too? Wow. No kidding. So the fans who all call for Giambi to be banished to the sixth plane of hell for his transgressions ought not act so duped. Most of us knew what was going on, and though we are not to blame for the misdeeds of others, we also shouldn’t act as if we were cheated either. Let’s at least be honest with ourselves and each other, something many of these players weren’t.

    SF December 6, 2004, 10:37 pm
  • No. One of the worst crimes of these offenders was putting fans in this awkward position of “having known all along” with zero power of protection. The fans’ surrogates, the media,asked the right questions, but the players lied and hid behind legal shields. It’s ENRON all over again. To say that anyone who rode the “bubble economy” deserved a fleecing is entirely wrong. Corporate criminals like Ken Lay and Andrew Fastow earned the public’s disdain with their fraud, and the public has a right to be heard.

    YF December 7, 2004, 11:05 am
  • Anyone (interested in baseball) who had no idea that the juicing was taking place was living in la la land and probably shouldn’t be consulted for an opinion.
    Anyone who pretty well knew about the juicing and didn’t care–like me–has no right to complain now.
    Anyone who pretty well knew about the juicking and profited from it nonetheless–such as MLB, the Yankees and Giants, and the reporters who are now selfrighteously condemning these athletes–has no right now to complain.
    And for those who KNEW about the juicing firsthand … I don’t know what we should do about them, if anything.
    Must be nice having a black and white picture of the world, like most of the reporters in our country (apparently) do. I wouldn’t know. But as an extension of that thought, I just keep wondering who’s the victim in this whole mess, and who the guilty party, and I can’t really find an answer that lets me rest easy.
    There’s enough guilt to go around. But as long as we steer clear of lynch mobs, witchhunts, and ex post facto punishments, I think we might manage to turn this “scandal” into something productive after all …

    Sam December 7, 2004, 7:03 pm
  • The “gray” zones here stem from the complicity between the players, owners, politicians, and sponsors (we can’t stop thinking about Giambi’s look-at-my-biceps deoderant commercial) who’ve profited off the steroid boom. But that doesn’t make the taking of steroids a “gray” offense, nor does it preclude the public from being rightfully upset and demanding some kind of remedy—no matter what it “knew” was happening.
    We’re not calling for a witch hunt. (Any fair reading of this site makes that much clear.) The intransigence of the MLBPA was, indeed, only re-enforced by the Ashcroft Justice Dept.’s overly aggressive and slipshod handling of the BALCO prosecution. So clearly, the focus now needs to be on the implementation of a plan that will insure the game’s integrity in the future. That said, players should be accountable for their actions. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask

    YF December 7, 2004, 8:05 pm
  • This is absurd. This is simply NOT Enron. Enron defrauded millions of people for billions of dollars, left the consumer holding the bag while f*cking with numerous states’ energy supplies, all the while there simply weren’t millions of people who knew they were being defrauded and making a stink about it in the mainstream press. The situation here is that fans and ownership and the media all wanted some accountability around the last labor dispute, the players wouldn’t go for it and the owners gave in, and then we ALL moved on, for the most part, when the labor deal was done. Having baseball intact was most important, and if you look at the outcry over the steroid policy at that time it was very vocal but also quite short-lived. So we aren’t to blame, YF is right, that’s on the players who shoot drugs or drink clear or rub balm, and we aren’t going to get suspended for such misdeeds, as players who did should be. But we sure as hell shouldn’t act so naive about what has gone down, and I think YF suffers from a tinge of denial.

    SF December 7, 2004, 9:31 pm
  • Denial of what? The Enron analogy is plain. We all knew the stock system was basically corrupted in the 1990s–talk about denial!–just as we all knew there was steroid use in MLB. The consumer, in both cases, was left unprotected. The statement “we ALL moved on” implies culpability for Joe Fan. But what was his recourse? Stand in front of the local ballpark and picket? Get real.

    YF December 7, 2004, 11:52 pm
  • This is a ridiculous argument. The fan is not to blame. How many times do I have to say this? We AGREE. But the fan DID “move on” after the most recent labor agreement (as did management, and the MLBPA, and the press, etc. etc.), and the tone of too many articles in the past week, of too many fans’ comments, was in the vein of “how could they do this to us, those rotten players!”, when most of us fans with any common sense knew what was going on. And no, we couldn’t picket the games, but the absence of any kind of protest movement about the lack of a reasonable drug testing policy in baseball, and the major absence of any public voice calling for such a policy (beyond George W. Bush’s grandstanding and total lack of follow-through during the SOTU last year) should tell you that our “moving on” is the truth. So the “shock” at this week’s revelation strikes me as a bit phony and a dose of grandstanding, basically.
    To repeat: THE FANS ARE NOT AT FAULT. I don’t blame myself like the girl in the miniskirt who was violated because Jason took the “clear”. (does this make YF happy?). But we shouldn’t act so shocked. We fans are a player in this drama, albeit not a central one, and we ought to acknowledge that. We aren’t a collective sex crime victim, and that, to me, is a bad metaphor, for a whole host of political, social, and emotional reasons, many of which I simply would prefer not to go into right now – I think it’s a crass analogy.
    So how about an improved analogy? In this case, the situation is like an abused spouse (the fan) who calls in a restraining order on an abusive husband (the players union and the players themselves). The courts and police deny it, do nothing. The husband comes round some time later and kills the wife. Are we shocked? No, of course not – the restraining order, though deserved, was never implemented by the authorities, the courts. So, the abused wife is surely not to blame, in any way shape or form, but in fact the system itself deserves scrutiny: how could it have failed us so badly? This week has shown too many people acting indignantly shocked at the murder of the abused wife, when we all should have known what was coming because the system had failed.

    SF December 8, 2004, 7:32 am

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