Thoughts on the steroid controversy in baseball

19 Apr

There was a time when I remember a simpler game. I grew up a Yankees fan in the seventies. Not a bad time to be introduced to baseball. My first live game was Catfish Hunter -vs- Eckersley in Ruths house. Reggie homered, I was hooked. I was a tremendous fan of the late Thurman Munson and became a catcher to emulate him. I watched how he played the game taped from head to to with that wonderfully grumpy nature.

Over the next few years I had the privilege of meeting many players of bygone eras and even playing for a couple former pros down in Florida a few summers at a camp. I was taught to play hard, play smart, and above all play by the rules. I never watched Ripken, Randolph, Winfield, Henderson, or Mattingly and wondered how they did what they did year after year. I always assumed they were doing their job, one of the greatest jobs on the planet no less and doing it without steroids.
I never look back at guys like Jim Rice or Killebrew and wonder what supplement they used. Now when I watch a game, literally a couple of hundred a year, I have my doubts about far too many ballplayers. It’s not fair as most are steroid free probably, but the fact is the seed has been planted. Once it takes root the damage is done.

Some people argue that steroids weren’t illegal several years ago so the players didn’t really cheat. Well that sounds nice to some I suppose, but steroids were illegal. They still are. The simple fact that the purchase, transportation and use were against the law should have been enough to dissuade anyone from taking such a risk yet it didn’t. Technically the players that did that are criminals, but hey why bother? They are above the law right? Wrong! They aren’t above the law or the scrutiny of the fans that pay their salaries and fuel their lifestyles. Ask Palmeiro or Sosa if there aren’t repercussions. The game has been tainted and sadly who knows how long until we can watch a game again and think about what’s happening on the field rather than behind closed doors.

It was painful to watch athletes from a titan like Mark McGwire straight through to Roger Clemens fumble through hearings in front of congress. With each new day a new revelation of performance enhancing substances surfaced. Baseball forums and chat rooms are bogged down with more talk of the steroids than the game itself. Speculation is rampant, in a very quick survey of the Yahoo Answers forum on baseball seventeen of the first fifty questions I perused dealt with steroids. Far more had answers alluding to steroid use. The game is in a negative light and to believe otherwise is now seemingly foolish.

Records have fallen and we question their validity. We don’t celebrate them in the manner we may have fifteen years ago, or even as we did just several years ago. We simply await the news that steroids were involved. It seems every record breaker these days is using or is alleged to be. How did it happen?

The easy answer is money. As the game expanded salaries did as well and steroids were believed to be a risk worth taking for many ballplayers. Some hoped it would give them the edge to make the big team, others hoped to extend their career or get that one big contract. In a few cases however ego seems to be the motivator. Being considered a great or future Hall of Famer wasn’t enough. For a select few nothing short of being a legend would suffice and steroids were the vehicle to get there.

Yes the players used the steroids. True enough the MLB allowed a very weak policy concerning them to remain in place because quite frankly revenues were up and nobody seemed to deem an adjustment necessary when the big dollars were rolling in. We as fans also shoulder some of this shame. We were the ones that overlooked the obvious and continued positively reinforcing the steroid use by supplying the almighty consumer dollar that fueled much of the frenzy. The days I recall of the game being simpler and purer are gone thanks to steroids.

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