I am not a Mets fan, or a Phillies fan (Tomahawk Chop, anyone?), but I am trying to ease my way back into viewing a sport which I haven’t been excited about in 10 years. I figure heading into it with the same mindset I entered into watching the new “Terminator” movie would serve me well.
Because for me to watch professional baseball in the 2000s and not become sick with disappointment and distrust this is what it would take.
Anyone who reads the sports pages or watches ESPN knows of the drama of Major League Baseball and its battle with steroids.
How sad that a game which personified what American sport was has become more easily associated with professional wrestling than anything else.
“Vince McMahon meet Bud Selig.”
Baseball fans have been lied to so much over the past 15 years that I have a hard time believing that anyone who doesn’t just hide their head in the sand can go to a MLB game and NOT whisper to the person next to them, “Think that guys on ’roids?” about every player they see on the field.
Baseball is actually in a rebirth, attendance-wise, drawing bigger crowds than ever. But when history looks back on the “Steroids Era” it better hope it brought enough asterisks to go around.
It all started with the great summer of 1997 when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa captured the entire nation’s attention with a race to break Roger Maris’ record of 61 home runs in a season.
I have the game where McGwire tied the record on tape. It was a scene which conjured emotion rivaled by only the greatest dramatic writers in human history.
McGwire tied the record playing against the man who he was racing. On a weekend. In good weather. With his son as the bat boy. (Starting to see the WWE comparison?) It SHOULD have gone down as one of the greatest sports moments of our time.
But as we came to find out later, this was ALL theater. None of it was actually real. These people were cheaters and liars, lying to themselves and the entire United States of America and smiling while doing it.
If the memory of that doesn’t make your stomach turn, I don’t know what will.
After all the hype died down around 2001 here comes the behemoth Barry Bonds, flicking homeruns into McCovey Cove like thumping lady bugs off his pant legs.
After McGwire, Bonds didn’t seem so big. The feat of 73 homers didn’t seem so far fetched, but, as the story would go, everything came crashing down.
The Mitchell Report came soon after Bonds’ record season, removing the veil of lies which had, at one point, fooled most of the nation.
Recalling back to those days before the Mitchell Report hindsight comes into play. Everybody knew Bonds was on steroids, right? I mean, how else could a guy once known as just as dangerous a base runner as a hitter turn into the Incredible Hulk in a few short seasons (at what should have been the end of his career).
This idea is obviously true, but it shows much more about the complacency of the fans and the sheer terror held by baseball’s administration that the public at large would discover what is obviously a much deeper problem than anyone ever imagined.
Now the MLB has much more “rigorous” testing practices that include more substances and generally tries to put on a face like it cares what the players pump through their veins.
But really, how much has changed in recent years?
Alex Rodriguez, who might have been my generation’s greatest statistical player (barring massive injury), has had his name tarnished due to apparent steroid use.
Roger Clemens, who would have gone down as perhaps the greatest pitcher EVER, now is a laughing stock worse than Pete Rose.
All of this, because they wanted to get an “edge.”
I wonder, does it seem worth it to them now?
The only person who has taken anything “positive” away from the steroid discussion is the slithering snake that is Jose Canseco. Personally, I think Canseco should be left in the desert to fend for himself, but if there is a case study for what happened to baseball during the 1990s and early 2000s, Canseco is it.
He is a microcosm of why baseball will, in my mind, never be the same.
Canseco was a star in 1989. He was big and strong and handsome and played in California, a recipe for success. But his own personal greed, stupidity and brashness led him down a dark road. Now he makes his living by bashing reputations, not fastballs.
No one will ever truly believe a word that comes from Canseco’s mouth, but people listen because it’s entertaining (to some). Baseball will have a hard time living down the assumption by the media and the public that it is tainted by performance enhancing drugs no matter how many people come to see it.
Just like the WWE, the drama and the action itself come before the truth behind the dance.
It’s too bad, because baseball is a great game. Now you just have to treat it like a crappy action movie you pay way too much to see. But hey, at least the popcorn’s good.