Steroids, The Pacers, and other regretable topics…

Chuck Klosterman wrote an article on ESPN.com (http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=klosterman/070319&sportCat=nfl&CMP=OTC-DT9705204233)
this morning that revealed a fundamental gap in American society.

In this article, Chuck lists the startling numbers about Shawne Merriman’s drug induced speed to weight ratio. He also argues that we have a selective attention span when it comes to drugs in our country. He states that when a writer or musician generates art on drugs that we don’t view it as a lesser accomplishment, but when an athlete does the same thing, we are appalled.

There are several flaws in Klosterman’s logic, but I believe he is correct in saying that a great number of NFL players are using roids, and we act like it isn’t happening. The positive tests in baseball have shown us that ANYONE even slightly built short relievers can be juiced. You don’t have to have Bonds head, McGwire’s biceps, and Sosa’s back achne to be juiced. He seems to imply that he doesn’t know exactly why steroids offend us so deeply, when other drugs don’t.

I can’t answer for anyone but me, but drugs in general do offend me. I think it is debatable as to whether pot, LSD, and whatever other horse tranquilizers the Fab Four ingested helped or hurt their career. Maybe they were so brilliant, that we were all cheated out of amazing albums that they could have produced clear headed. The problem with using music and art as an example is that who is to judge? How can we know whether drugs actually made a given writer or singer better or just compromised what was the true greatness they already possessed? Rubber Soul may or may not be better than a mythical record the Beatles didn’t make (though would they have let Ringo sing if they weren’t high?), but 73 HR is better than 38. And we all know it.

Steroids make fools out of us. We ALL KNOW it’s possible to hit a baseball 600 feet if you juice yourself up enough. What we want to see is someone do it who ISN’T drugged up. I saw McGwire twice in 1998. Once was early in the season where he clanged a ball off the face of the upper deck in Busch Stadium. The second time was in Cincinnati 2 days after he passed Maris. We went to BP, and he proceeded to hit 10 of 13 balls he swung at into the upper deck. It was stunning. It was unforgettable. It was mostly likely completely fake.

I love movies. I love Star Wars. I don’t ever think that when I watch a Sci-Fi film that men can fly at light speed and wield lightsabers and use the force. I KNOW it’s fake. I watch sports because I want something real and raw. I saw Bonds hit 2 homeruns (one in CO and one in Philly) the year he hit 73. He cheated me. And no, I don’t care if he was hitting off a juiced pitcher. That doesn’t make it ‘ok’. The extra force with which that pitcher threw just added to the distance of the home run. If all I cared about in sports was the spectacle of the thing, I’d go to an FX show or a movie. The honesty of the competition, the reality of knowning that the accomplishment I just witnessed was the result of hard work, preparation, dumb luck, the will of God, whatever real thing you want to pick matters to me. It matters if Jordan could jump further and hang higher because he was a freak of nature and work ethic or if he just injected some hackneyed ‘jump juice’.

Maybe I should care more about amphetamine use for 40 years in baseball like Klosterman suggests. It bothers me that guys that I listed as heroes early on this blog managed to produce because they got an extra jolt. At the time, and in the context they say they didn’t know, they didn’t realize what the piles of pills were really doing to them. There seems to be a difference between something that let guys party hard all night and still play the next day, and a drug that makes the physiologically impossible a reality. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. But today, and for the last 20 years, we ALL knew what steroids did. Since Lyle Alzado and the late 80s we all knew. Some people cheated anyway.

And by the way, IT WAS CHEATING, even in Baseball. Fay Vincent published a memo in 1992 stating that it was against the rules to take illegal performance enhancing drugs. No, there was no testing. Yes, the owners were complicit in the fraud. But there was a rule, and it WAS cheating. By the way, anything that is ILLEGAL by the laws of the USA doesn’t require a rule by baseball to be cheating. There is no rule against kidnapping Pedro Martinez so he can’t start against your team. There is no rule about stabbing the other team’s short stop. YOU CAN’T BREAK THE LAW TO WIN AND SAY, “Oh, it’s ok, there’s no rule against FREAKING MURDER”. Same thing with drugs. You can’t say, “It wasn’t cheating because there was no rule!” There were LAWS. Andro didn’t bother me at the time in 1998 because 1. it was a LEGAL OTC substance and 2. Baseball had no rule about it. But if McGwire was on ILLEGAL steroids, then I have a HUGE problem with it.

This went on too long, so I won’t deal with the Blue and Gold ’till tomorrow.

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