Thursday, March 17, 2005

This is what happens when athletes try to talk about a substantive topic

Describing today's Congressional hearings on steroid use in baseball, Randy Wolf, a pitcher for the Phillies said: "It's chemical McCarthyism."

No, Randy, McCarthyism involved persecution of individuals for legal, but politically unpopular opinions and affiliations. Today's hearing are an inquiry into players breaking the law to gain a competitive advantage and their union abetting them by forestalling a drug-testing policy that would prevent steroid abuse. There's just a wee bit of a difference there.

Actually, I shouldn't come down too hard on Wolf, since he's simply doing something that many in the political sphere do all the time: mishandling a historical analogy. Remember how attacking Baghdad was going to be a moder-day Stalingrad? Well, if anyone advancing that analogy would have bothered picking up a book about Stalingrad, they would have realized that their analogy was atrocious on a number of levels, starting with the facts that 1) the Iraqis didn't have the forces to break the American supply lines and encircle the Americans in Baghdad and 2) the Americans, unlike the Germans in 1942, had complete superiority on the ground.

This is the history snob in me coming out. If people are going to make historical analogies, then they ought to at least make an effort to get them right. Otherwise, they end up sounding like they don't know what they're talking about. Like Randy Wolf.

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