This is the kind of stuff that makes me feel like The Truman Show was a documentary. Hours after news breaks that Ryan Braun might be involved with the discreet geniuses at Biogenesis ("Interoffice memo: Ryan Braun's code name is now R. Braun. Please make note."), we get word that Todd Helton was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. It's perfect timing for a very specific type of Internet rage.
First, let's not jump to conclusions. There's a legal process that still needs to work, and Helton might not have really …
Okay, well, maybe he did. But we'll move on. Whenever there's a player or manager arrested for a DUI, there's a predictable chorus that follows. Whenever a player is busted for steroids or other banned performance-enhancing drugs, the same chorus is right around the corner. When a player is linked to PEDs and another one is busted for drunk driving on the same day, the chorus is unbearable. You've heard it before.
Why don't (reporters/Bud Selig/MLB) care about drunk driving like they care about steroids?
The Twitter timeline blows up with that exact sentiment, without fail. Sometimes it comes in the form of a joke, and sometimes comes in the form of a 140-character screed. But it comes. Over and over again, every time.
The common argument when it comes to baseball stepping in to levy suspensions and/or fines: both transgressions embarrass Baseball. Players getting busted for DUIs is embarrassing. Players getting busted for PEDs is embarrassing. Players getting busted for initialisms in general, I guess, is something MLB has a vested interest in stopping. They should probably get after Hunter Pence for getting involved in WOW.
The equivalency falls apart when you realize that one transgression changes what happens on the field, and the other happens when the player is off-duty. That's why even if MLB wanted to get tough on players drinking and driving, they would have to tussle with the Players' Association. There would need to be concessions in the labor negotiations, and concessions in labor negotiations are usually expensive.
The expense was worth it when it came to the steroid-related frenzy of the post-BALCO era, but suspensions and fines for off-field events will probably never happen in baseball. Until drinking and driving becomes the kind of hot-button issue that gets rich people in suits talking before Congress. Which it never will.
My personal feelings on drunk driving are different. I think it's equivalent to dicking around with a loaded revolver in public places. Waitin' in line at the grocery store, spinnin' a six-shooter around your finger for yuks. Gettin' a hot dog from a food truck, and shootin' a few rounds in the air to get a friend's attention. In any of those situations, police would swarm, the offender would be arrested, and friends and family would freak the hell out when they heard the news. What in the hell were you thinking, you broken human being? It would be a stigma that would follow the person around for life, kind of like the ****-one-goat joke. "There goes Tony La Russa, the man who was willing to kill young children because he didn't feel like calling a cab."
That's what should happen whenever someone gets arrested for drunk driving. Scarlet "D"s, blacklists, and disgrace.
That's not what happens whenever someone is arrested for drunk driving.
Not even close. There are fines and rehabilitation classes. If it happens too often, maybe jail time. And at the risk of sounding like a stereotype passing a bong around a dorm room, this is because of society, man. Like, society allows for this sort of thing, man. As a semi-professional drinker, it would be hypocritical of me to bemoan our alcohol-fueled culture, but it's a real thing. Here's just one example:
That's a picture of Todd Helton in front of a beer advertisement, and I found it after three seconds of searching. Let me see if I can … wait, I have another one. Todd Helton plays his freaking home games at a stadium named after beer. Yeah, that's a good example. If Ryan Braun played his home games at BALCO Park, we'd be living in an alternate reality in which people didn't care as much about steroids.
There's no point in complaining about the disparity of attention paid to steroids and drunk driving, then. It's a total non sequitur. It's like complaining about drone strikes or election fraud when a writer pens something hyperbolic about steroids. Drunk driving's relative acceptance is a topic too big, too sprawling to blame MLB or John Q Onelinegraph for paying too much attention to one without paying enough attention to the other. A national (and international) drinking culture is something that affects every part of our lives. Steroids affect sporting events, which is what Selig and the writers are paid to care about in the first place.
I lost about 600 times more respect for Todd Helton than I did for Ryan Braun over the last 24 hours, but I'm in the minority. Helton isn't going to lose a single Hall of Fame vote for this. Braun will have to wait until 2050 to get in because of the whispers surrounding him. That's just how it is, even if it's kind of messed up. It would take a 10-episode Ken Burns documentary on drinking in America to scratch the surface of why people care about steroids more than DUIs. So at the risk of sounding bossy, let's all take a vow to stop conflating the reactions for both.