Thursday, March 5, 2009

Wait a year....start again...

Well, this is a greatly overdue update to the Zero Tolerance for Baseball blog. Honestly, I wouldn't even have thought about adding a post accept for the fact that I was contacted by CBC Radio this week and asked to provide an interview for an upcoming radio show:

This will air on a show called "Inside Track" on March 15 at 1:30pm EST. The link to the show is here and can be heard live online.

As well, the show provides podcasts, so you can hear it at a later time if you miss it. The link to the podcasts is

Please feel free to come back here and post a comment after listening. I'm curious myself to hear how it turns out.

I've updated the dates on the petition itself. I'm going to wait and see if the petition gets any more response or signatures from the radio broadcast before deciding whether to pursue growing the petition. Your comments and thoughts on this would be welcome as to whether you feel it is worth the time, money and energy.

Lastly, I was interviewed this time a year ago (March 1, 2008) for a newspaper article in the Orlando Sentinel concerning the online petition. Here is the original article:

Forgiving the game
Fans continue to flock to baseball games despite steroids and HGH controversies

By Josh Robbins
Orlando Sentinel Staff Writer
Published in the Orlando Sentinel on March 1, 2008

KISSIMMEE -- Six baseball fans stood patiently outside the entrance to the Houston Astros' minor-league complex at Osceola Heritage Park one recent morning, hoping for a glimpse of Roger Clemens. They shivered and walked in place as temperatures hovered in the mid-40s and 14-mph winds blew.

They came partly to spite the Mitchell Report, which contained accusations that Clemens used performance-enhancing drugs and also implicated 84 other current or former major-leaguers.

"This stuff doesn't bother me," said Guy Sepielli, a 28-year-old security guard from Seattle. "My faith in the game only got hurt during the strike."

Major League Baseball officials hope the rest of their customers are as forgiving as Sepielli and his friends. It certainly wouldn't be the first time that fans have supported the game as controversy swirled over the use of steroids and human growth hormone.

Suspicion has surrounded superstars such as Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds for years now, but contrary to conventional wisdom, the game's business model seems immune from the aftereffects. Major League Baseball has set all-time attendance records for four consecutive seasons and new revenue highs for five straight years.

"I think that anything that takes attention away from the game on the field has the possibility of damaging the game," said MLB President and Chief Operating Officer Bob DuPuy. "This [steroids controversy] has gone on for a while, but our fans have turned out in record numbers. Ticket sales for virtually every club are up year to year. For this year, we'll set another attendance record."

In 2007 alone, 79.5 million people went to regular-season major-league games, up 4.6 percent from the previous year, according to MLB figures. The league also generated revenues of $6.1 billion, up 9 percent from the year before.

It is astounding growth for a sport that has suffered significant damage to its image in recent years. The steroids scandal has dominated headlines ever since Jose Canseco published a tell-all book in early 2005. The controversy has only intensified since.

The game's business metrics have continued to rise, but why? And will baseball set another attendance record despite December's Mitchell Report and the ongoing controversy regarding Clemens?

The answer, perhaps, can be found at various spring-training sites in Florida and in Arizona, where fans still flock to games and hound players for autographs.

Chuck Sabo, a 70-year-old man who lives in St. Cloud, stood near the practice pitchers mounds at Osceola Heritage Park the other day. He believes the Mitchell Report was a waste of time.

"I think it's a witch hunt," Sabo said. "It's something that happened years ago. It should be left alone."
Kevin Crosier, a 34-year-old salesman who lives in Atlanta, was among those who waited for Clemens. He still goes to games even though he thinks baseball officials ignored the growing steroids problem during the 1990s.

"I see it affect older people a lot more than it does the younger people," Crosier said. "The historians, the people that grew up watching Hank Aaron set the home-run record, are the people that don't want to see one of these guys enhance their bodies if it was not the right way."

Robert Fine is an exception, a relatively young man who is fed up with baseball officials' handling of the steroids issue. He is a 36-year-old engineer who lives in Washington, D.C., and buys Washington Nationals season tickets each year.

In late December, Fine created a Web site called The goal: to launch a petition drive to lobby Commissioner Bud Selig for tougher penalties for steroid use. He even posted on all major-league teams' message boards to advertise his petition.

He hoped for one million signatures by March 15. As of midday Friday, he had 58.
"It hasn't solicited a huge response," Fine said. "I'm surprised more fans aren't necessarily upset over the whole issue."

Baseball fans' forgiving nature doesn't surprise academics such as University of Idaho professor Sharon K. Stoll, who runs the school's Center for Ethical Theory and Honor in Competitive Sports.

She teaches a year-long class about sports ethics, and Bonds has been a recurring discussion point. She believes Bonds and many more players used performance-enhancing drugs, but she still attends games because the entire experience is so much fun.

"A day at the ballpark is more than watching a ballgame, isn't it?" she said. "You don't want to believe those guys have done it because it's such a great experience. It's hot dogs, popcorn and peanuts."

"I know they're dirty," she added, referring to the players, "but I still love going. I don't want to give it up. I think a majority of Americans who played catch in the backyard with Dad and went to their first game with Dad don't want to give that up."

It remains to be seen, of course, whether baseball can withstand the fallout from the Mitchell Report and of Clemens' February testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

DuPuy said fans will continue to go to games because they see that baseball has adopted what he called the "toughest testing program in all of sports."

The Mitchell Report, however, recommended a fully independent testing administrator, more transparency to the program and adequate year-round unannounced testing.

Fans may not have gotten to that section of the report, which began on Page 302.
Jeffrey James, a professor of sports marketing at Florida State and an executive for the Sport Marketing Association, said the testing program gives Major League Baseball some cover, as if to say that league officials are doing all they can to prevent steroid use in the present and the future.

"What we're dealing with now in the steroids controversy is the past," James said. "What can we do now about the past? Well, nothing. We can't change it."

The Mitchell Report may have done more to damage individuals' reputations than to the game itself, he added.
And, now, fans may be ready to move on.
"In my opinion," said Astros first baseman Lance Berkman, "I think it's just been so covered and so saturated that it's turned from a news story into something that people are just sick of hearing about.

"From the people that I've talked to, they're just like, 'Enough is enough, for Pete's sake.' "



Saturday, December 29, 2007

Who Am I?


My name is Robert Fine. It's very late on a rainy Friday night here in Washington, DC. I'm a huge baseball fan. Always have been since I can remember. I'll be 37 years old in April and have lived in DC for the last 13 years. I grew up 5 minutes from downtown Philadelphia with the Philadelphia Phillies of the late 70s and early 80s. I watched them win the 1980 World Series...Mike Schmidt...Bob Boone...Tug McGraw...Steve Carlton...and yes...Pete Rose.

After living in DC for 10 years, I was certainly missing baseball, and never could really adopt the Baltimore Orioles. And after watching the drama of where the Expos might move for a couple of years, I was thrilled that they were coming to Washington. I've been a season ticket holder since Day 1, and have my seats for the first season at the new stadium. I can't wait. Really!

I've been following the steroids stories on and off for the last couple of years, and my ears pricked up after the Mitchell report, but it wasn't until I read Mike Wise's article in the Washington Post last weekend that I truly felt moved on the issue and wanted to do something besides sit by and see nothing continue to be done.

So, I urge you to help me by signing the following petition if you haven't already and forwarding it to your friends:

I'll keep this blog going to provide a place to provide updates and an avenue to have a discussion about the issue. I'll put a post up in the next couple of days explaining why i'm tired of the lack of no strong policy by MLB.

Please feel free to leave comments or email me at .

- Bob