Never Had an Eden

Years ago, when I was a young reporter, an equally young colleague wrote a column endorsing a candidate in a Congressional race. That was against the rules; only the newspaper’s editorial board made endorsements and would not do so for some weeks. My colleague wasn’t fired, just banned from covering the rest of the race. His candidate won, the young reporter left to become the Congressman’s press secretary.

The rest of us in the newsroom were piqued – not because he left to a high-paying, high-powered job in DC, but because his actions sullied those of us who took (or mistook) journalism as a public trust. There are the many, who play by the ostensible rules of society and the few, who play by the real rules, sheltering behind the façade erected by the many.

All this was brought to mind as I finished John Thorn’s “Baseball in the Garden of Eden.” The title’s reference to Genesis is not casual; the book describes the game’s fall from grace and the deliberate myth making that occurred a century ago to conceal baseball’s true roots. Mr. Thorn argues that while there was a true Edenic period in baseball, the game would not have survived, much less thrived, if not for the brawling, boozing, gambling, cursing, cheating, grab-the-cash-with-both-hands greed of the early players, the most astute of whom became the early owners and stuck it to their fellows who took – or mistook – the game as somehow associated with fair play.

So, yeah, John Edwards may be prosecuted for diverting campaign funds to hide his affair and illegitimate child. Albert Goodwill Spalding – player, owner and founder of the sporting-goods empire – fathered an illegitimate child which he had declared an orphan, had his sister adopt, then later married the mistress, “adopted” the child himself and renamed him Albert G. Spalding, Jr. You got a problem with that?

An editorial in today’s New York Times inveighs against a Republican attempt to bring unlimited cash back to elections via the formation of a SuperPAC. A story in yesterday’s Times recounted millionaire William Andrews Clark buying a seat in the US Senate with a windfall of thousand-dollar bills in the Montana legislature in the 1890s. As the old song says, “I’m a pillar of society since I got mine.”

I watched – somewhat belatedly – the documentary “Inside Job” last weekend. It features several Harvard and Columbia economists who recommended deregulation of banks or wrote glowing reports they later couldn’t explain – all for fees and perks far beyond what their academic salaries could provide. Were these conflicts of interest, seeing as how the global economy tanked, as how the reports were nothing but pretty lies, the filmmakers asked. Universal response: “What? Who? Me? Heavens, no!”

The big political news this week is that New York’s solidly Republican 26th Congressional district (comprising parts of my hometown) went to a Democrat Tuesday because people are angry about the GOP plan to kill Medicare. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) made the GOP vote on the issue Wednesday, his fellows gloating on every cable channel that this is the cudgel for Dems’ in 2012.

Then there was this video of Bill Clinton schmoozing – and seeming to agree – with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) the author of the “Kill Medicare” plan. Huh? What? You gotta understand – there’s that high-minded crap we feed the rubes and then there’s the way we really get thing done.

I checked on my old colleague the other day. He revolved out of the door of government service and traded it – as he did on his reporter’s job – for what appears to be a lucrative series of vice presidencies at DC-beltway firms.

Truth is, we never had an Eden, but we really love the myth.

© Mark Floegel, 2011

One Comment

  1. John Deans
    Posted 6/1/2011 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Did you notice that the article you linked to is now part of a legal complaint?

    “This article is the subject of a legal complaint from the All Pakistan Muslim League. Since this story was published the All Pakistan Muslim League have issued a legal notice denying that there is any truth in the allegation that an agreement had been struck between then military leader of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf and President George Bush to let American forces conduct operations against bin Laden inside Pakistan. The full legal notice is available here.”

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