Posted By: Z.Z. Rudin
May 10, 2009
Oh, I’m sorry, were you worried about the integrity of the game?
Were you frightened for the sanctity of the exalted Hall of Fame?
You couldn’t possibly be torn up about stars falling from grace, teaching our children to cheat to get ahead or that six out of the top 17 all-time home run leaders have been linked to steroid use, could you?
If you are, I’ve got a surprise, whiplash lesson for you: There are no morals in sports.
For most of us, there are fewer and fewer morals in life, or at the very least, the morals we abide by and run our lives according to have become more flexible as our grasp on them has become more tenuous.
You must excuse my tone, because if it sounds remorseful or tinted with a certain woebegone quality, then it is merely a disservice I have done through my writing.
I am alright with the state of affairs in the sporting world, and in that other world most of us choose to spend less and less time in as the years go by.
How many men cheat on their wives and girlfriends?
How many young professionals or top-level executives cheat on their taxes through ignorance or greed?
How many students cheat on exams and homework assignments, asking friends for answers not in the crude passing of notes, but in the banal and accepted queries we pose hurriedly before stepping out the door to head to frat row or the local bar?
People cheat. That’s normal. Some get caught, and some don’t. Even those who do see their intricate – or fumbling – plans blow up in their faces don’t always suffer the punishment for the rest of their lives.
Bill Clinton cheated on his wife. Sure he was shamed at the end of a relatively successful presidency with a censure – or a slight slap on the wrist as my middle school teacher translated at the time – but you know what his legacy is going to be?
It’s going to be pretty good. Just take a look at the contributions of the Clinton Foundation if you disagree with his politics or administration. People seem to like that.
The notion that some people are clean, honest and hardworking is a myth. Perhaps it’s pessimistic of me, but it seems more and more these days that there are not honest and dishonest people. Instead, there are those who get caught and those who don’t.
After the surfacing of Alex Rodriguez’s steroid use, the sports pundits claimed nothing would surprise them anymore. But guess what? Manny Ramirez’s suspension of 50 games for testing positive for a banned substance surprised them.
Maybe they used different words to mask this surprise, shock and pain, but the fact of the matter is no one saw it coming.
Since the outbreak of the steroid scandal, those of us who still hoped for purity in the game would hold up trophy players like Frank Thomas (his head was always preposterously sized) or Ken Griffey, Jr. (just look at that 10,000 watt smile!).
Now, it doesn’t matter to me if our "one-true-hopes" make it out of this scandal unscathed. To me, it’s not an issue of who juiced, but who was dumb enough to get caught. And who was even dumber to write a book about it because they were poorly invested (hey Jose!).
Are you worried about cheaters making their way into the hallowed halls of the HOF? Haven’t we heard the eternal quote that there was no bigger cheater than Ty Cobb? And what about spitballs, sandpaper and corked bats?
Many of the greats would delve from time to time into these less-than-honest means. And if andro or HGH were around when Ruth was swatting, Hank was hammerin’ or Willie Mays was saying hey, don’t you think some of these immortals would have indulged?
I like to think not.
But a part of me, deep down, senses that culture is the determining factor. If everybody is spitting on their fingers and over-tarring their bats, it’s just natural for even the greatest players to conform to such a style.
Perhaps the mantra that the steroids era is a loss of innocence is the most appropriate moniker. Not because baseball has been ruined and we have been stripped of our love of this pastime.
But more so because our eyes have been opened that there is no purity, there in no perfect player and there is no ultimate, untouchable pedestal, record or achievement that doesn’t come with a pinch on the back of our necks and suspicious twinges in the bottom of our stomachs.
All that’s left are chemicals. Chemicals that maybe help and maybe don’t. Prescriptions that raise red flags and others that won’t. Regardless, fear not for the soul of baseball, faithful readers – its soul is just the same as it always was, but now our eyes are opened. Some of our heroes get caught while others do not. Maybe these mortal gods have nothing to hide, or maybe they’re just a little better at hiding it than the clowns who’ve fallen from grace.