The history of baseball is a condensed history of America, its greats living dubious personal lives while making legendary careers as batters, pitchers, generals and presidents. The parallels are obvious: league-wide strikes for higher wages, administrations bent on making money. Both beginning honest and earnest but over time corrupting, their greatness inarguable but tarnished.
Analogies between witch-hunts, McCarthyism and the recent steroid scandals have already been made.
But it’s steroids that made people hyper-suspicious.
Weren’t the Red Sox a little hairy last season? And that throbbing vein in Sammy Sosa’s forearm must have been airbrushed from his 1989 rookie card. But in most cases, the suspicions aren’t needed because the true users can’t hide from their relatively scrawny pasts.
Instead of feeling insulted that players think we’re oblivious when their wristband size triples, we could take advantage of the possibilities. When trading time comes around, the players should be offered contracts to new franchises in Kentucky, Rhode Island, Idaho and Iowa. As they sign their name on the dotted line, barely able to move their fat, steroid-filled fingers, a new league will be assembled. Surely they wouldn’t mind having the sport they play reduced to pure entertainment, since pumping steroids is doing just that.
Let’s be fair and say steroid use has its upside. It’s given us Mr. T, Macho Man Randy Savage, Mark McGuire and Jason Giambi. Reading those names in a list removes them from their contexts, but two are from entertainment and two from baseball.
Most would argue that sports are more than entertainment, but when the players artificially enhance their bodies they simultaneously remove the credibility that makes baseball a true athletic competition.
Authenticity disappears as names of steroid users are added to the record books. The difference between Sammy Sosa and Babe Ruth is the same between the special effects of the new Star Wars and the old: models and makeup versus CGI and green screen. In some cases it is hard to remain authentic. But for baseball’s sake, eat Wheaties.