- The Washington Times - Friday, July 7, 2006

The Jose Canseco-inspired tempest in baseball is the perfect follow-up to the Jay Mariotti-inspired controversy last week.

The two men could be journalistic twins, one as faux shocking as the other, each manipulating a media marketplace that requires more and more practitioners to shout louder than the competitor in order to be heard above the din.

The one who shouts the loudest, of course, is the one who is usually compensated the best, which, of course, is the purpose.

The reasoned argument has become so last century, as Canseco and Mariotti know only too well.

Canseco is an ex-Bash Brother of the Oakland A’s, while Mariotti is a columnist with the Chicago Sun-Times.

Canseco is in the business of selling books and himself, while Mariotti is in the business of selling newspapers and himself.

Each man has done a fairly apt job in this regard.

The dung being dumped on the two is misguided, and some of it has the trace of professional jealousy in the case of Mariotti.

Mariotti has made a name for himself by calling for the firing of nearly every prominent sports figure in Chicago, with Michael Jordan being the exception.

Mariotti is provocative, highly opinionated and the ideal personality type in the 500-channel, iPod, Internet, Danny Bonaduce reality show world.

He has a shtick, and the fault is yours if you critically analyze his positions and take exception.

Being an understated analyst is not his role. If it were, then you would not know his name.

His role is to exercise his lung power, not unlike a barker standing in front of a topless joint, which is why he is trotted out on one of ESPN’s shout-fest shows.

Mariotti approximates the boor sitting at the bar with an over-the-top observation on every athlete who appears before the television screen. Being right is not as important as being heard.

Mariotti has been taken to the journalistic woodshed for not showing up to take his medicine from White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, which is kind of amusing, considering all the wimps in the profession.

Guillen and Mariotti have more in common than they realize. They say whatever pops into their unfiltered minds, and the rest of us have been conditioned to be outraged.

We do not live in a fascist state, although we seem to want to the moment someone dispenses a pejorative.

It is kind of silly, the overreaction is, this routine calling for suspensions and sensitivity training. Why not bring caning into it as well?

Canseco made a one-game appearance with a minor-league team in San Diego this week and hinted of a steroid-fueled conspiracy in Major League Baseball.

Americans love conspiracies, almost as much as they love the television and radio shouters, which should help move Canseco’s new book.

His last book on steroids happened to be on the mark, despite the initial criticism of the seamheads who dismissed it as profiteering, as if the seamheads crunch their obscure numbers for free.

Canseco could pen a book detailing how baseball has been good to him, and it would not rate a mention.

That is the marketplace, and we — all of us — have created it.

Mariotti and Canseco have been resourceful enough to mine the marketplace with their apocalyptic commentary, as have so many others, whether Al Franken or Ann Coulter on the political front.

All of them may believe some of what they write and say, but one would be hard-pressed to think they believe all of it.

They all serve a function, though largely as entertainment, and they are all eating well, or could in the case of the ultra-thin Coulter.

The joke really is on you, the public, if you don’t see the wink that accompanies their material.

They are competing in a marketplace that is forever pushing the boundaries.

Coming soon to a cable channel near you: topless babes delivering your sports news fix.

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