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Newz Forum: BASEBALL: The Needle And The Damage Done

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posted on Apr, 3 2005 @ 05:53 PM
Watching Major League Baseball deal with the steroid issue reminds me of many nights when my parents went bowling.

They'd given up their Saturday league when my brother and I were born, but by the mid-1980s we'd earned enough trust to be left alone the two nights a month it met. I remember those nights fondly - just Joe and I, no limits except for our imaginations, we could do whatever we wanted to.

Usually, we broke something.

The basement, which contained all our plastic sporting equipment, was our typical lair. We had marked off a rudimentary baseball field, one in which the pitcher's mound doubled as second base and it was possible to hit a home run AND a three-pointer at the same time, thanks to a strategically-placed Nerf hoop. Here we indulged in the fantasies of youth, the kind that have sustained the game of baseball throughout the last century.

The 1984 Cubs were our usual team, not only because we were living in suburban Chicago, but also because the team's starting lineup fielded seven potential right-handed hitters. On a field where the average left-handed swing hit a recliner and several trophies in addition to the ball, this was an invaluable asset. Right-handers had their own peril, however - the Hanging Candles.

These were nothing more than standard candleholders attached to the wall, with glass cases to keep the wax off the carpet. They were about six feet off the floor, and just the right height for a Nerf foul ball - or, if our hands were sweaty enough, foul bat. Over the years, we each had about two dozen heart attacks from watching various pieces of cheap athletic equipment slam into the Hanging Candles - always, it seemed, just as our parents were getting home.

This is what I've been thinking about while watching Congress look into the steroid problem in baseball.

The word that baseball likes to use to describe itself is "fraternity." It was the Fraternity of Baseball that mourned Darryl Kile in '02, that went on strike in '95, and that admits a steroid problem now exists but has no idea who might be part of it. Apparently this fraternity, this band of brothers, which spends more time together each year than with their families, doesn't talk very much.

And now, after years at the Head-In-The-Sand Bowling Alley, Congress has come home to find a pile of syringes where the Hanging Candles used to be, the game's offensive records shattered on the floor, and a fraternity of sheepish ballplayers who are Not Here To Talk About The Past. I spent the week of the hearings hoping that - just once, just for a minute - a congressman would drop the officious routine and call out McGwire or one of the others like a fan, and dare them to respond to it:

"Look, McGwire, you're already busted for Andro, you're admitting steroid use by not denying it, you and your records are a fraud, and the blood of every kid who's dead from emulating you is on your hands. You don't want to talk about the past? Fine. Tell me, Mark, what's it going to be like waking up with that on your mind for the rest of your life?"

Can you imagine the stammerfest that would've followed something like that?

Of course, that didn't happen, and it won't. As I've been typing this, the news has broken that Alex Sanchez, the world-beating outfielder with four career home runs, has been suspended by Major League Baseball for testing positive for steroid use. I believe it was ESPN's Peter Gammons that predicted this over a month ago - that the Fraternity of Baseball would throw somebody under the bus to make their sham of a drug policy seem legitimate. They covered all their bases, too - they even made sure it wasn't a white guy, so that the presumption of guilt was already in place.

I used to blame the family dog when I broke stuff, too.

Of course, the real damage has already been done. Barry Bonds, a sphincter of a man, has set offensive records that will never be approached. He and the other children have shredded, for me, the essential myth of Major League Baseball - that the games were natural, unscripted, pure. For the first time in my life, I am completely unexcited about the beginning of the baseball season, and I have never been a casual fan. I haven't met anyone who's spent more time immersed in baseball than I have been, and I'll be surprised if I watch more than a dozen games this year.

I might find myself in that old basement, though...Joe and I have been talking about having one final Nerf death-match down there while we still can. Even though 20 years have passed, and the current Cubs have achieved a level of success unseen in our lifetimes, I guarantee you it'll be that same 1984 squad that takes the "field." They might have broken our hearts then, but they did it legitimately. I'll take that over a drug-stained pennant every day of the week.

[Edited on 3/4/05 by TRD]

posted on Apr, 3 2005 @ 06:44 PM
great article and i agree with 99% of it, the part i disagree with is not looking forward to the beginning of a new season, baseball has survived in spite of itself, i am looking forward to the start of the new season....warts and all


posted on Apr, 3 2005 @ 07:09 PM
I can see how watching baseball is not worth watching right now, but at the same time it is. I feel like routing for the yankees is different this year, cause boston had won the world series, so what are we cheering for?

As the season progress through, we will find that more and more people will watch it, and maybe the steriod scandal will die down, or it will grow who knows. Maybe we will be in for a perminate change after this season. Who knows, only time can tell, but till then Play ball.


posted on Apr, 4 2005 @ 03:51 PM
Things will most certainly change, it can't go on as it is. I guess more players will get found out, but maybe they have been given time to get off the stuff before they get real tough on it.

I'm still looking forward to the season starting, even if the A's still do bad. They must have the players who ain't doing the stuff lol!

posted on Apr, 7 2005 @ 01:31 AM
Great piece, man.

There may be a few (dozen?) records worth marking with an asterisk, but somehow I find myself looking forward to the new season. Maybe it's because while eras may be unlevel due to steroids, within a single season players generally live under the same rules as each other so there is some comfort, however delusional, in this "parity." By the time the first pitch is thrown on Opening Day, each team's had equal time to prep themselves using all legal and illegal means at their disposal. 21st century baseball may have all the similarities to 20th century baseball that Las Vegas has to my church bingo parlor, but the Cubs-Cards rivalry is still as intense as ever, and it feeds my soul... or at least, gives me another reason to leave the office early.

Hopefully the cheaters are caught and their stories made known -- I look forward to Alex Sanchez's book and those of other superhuman speedsters who have disgraced the game with their rampant use of leg-steroids. I'm tired of seeing gaggles of children running around my neighborhood with their bulging quads and sinewy calves, their helpless parents gasping for air in weepy, futile pursuit. Current major leaguers must reverse the epidemic they've begun before a master race of uncatchable base stealers emerges, leading to gargantuan-sized diamonds and ragged-armed catchers reeling from 200 foot throws and being replaced more often than pitchers. This burden of responsibility should be borne literally. For each offense, the player should be required to wear for the rest of the year a ten pound weight on a body part to be chosen by the opposing team (pregnant women across America have suggested this type of punishment to be imposed upon men for centuries). Imagine the glee of hitters facing a pitcher crippled with a 25 mile an hour heater? Or an entire, cooing infield drawn within bunting range against a once-mighty slugger who now has to spin his whole body just to make contact? Or the smug fan watching a showdown between these two and thinking "this is a life lesson that was worth $100 of tickets and taking my kid out of school to see."

Call me old-fashioned in my thinking, but this nation was founded upon the precept (could be Christian, or maybe Mafian) of "an eye for an eye." It's time for the guilty to be brought to their knees and for the game's natural stars to return to glory!

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