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Punting On Steroids

It's time to punt on the issue of steroids in sports. Admit it. We've lost. Yes. WE. As if "we" had nothing to do with it. Which is why this should serve as an intervention. "Hi. I'm Dan. And I've enabled steroid use." (A chorus of readers yawn back: "Hiiiiii Dan," in your best Ben Stein voices.) It all started back in 1988 when Jose Canseco had 900 numbers for tee-ballers like me to call and learn hitting tips from the biggest player in baseball and the game's first 40-40 man. Little did we know baseball's three 40-40 guys were tipping back a little more than muscle milk. Hence, there are no 40-40 men in baseball. Or are there? It continued a decade later when I rooted for Mark McGwire to break Roger Maris' record, (sorry Dad). But it was history, so those of us who didn't see the M&M boys all joined the watch. Meanwhile, I watched football players morph into sizes that now make William "The Refrigerator" Perry look like an ice box. But unlike baseball, the NFL had a testing policy to hide behind. Then we learned the truth about McGwire. And Barry Bonds. And Jason Giambi. And Roger Clemens. But as a Yankee fan I still rooted for Giambi afterward, because there was now a policy in place and he couldn't cheat anymore. Right? Just like Clemens never failed any tests, either. Right? Now I've learned like the rest of you that Alex Rodriguez failed an "anonymous" steroid survey test back with the Texas Rangers in 2003. But none since, so, uh, he must be clean by now. Right? It's the same lame rationale football fans have enabled their favorite linebackers and running backs for years. "There's drug testing! It's all good!" Who's next in the room to share their story of steroid enabling? You get it. We don't need intervention. We just need to take Senator George Mitchell's advice, cut our losses and move on. Time to wave the proverbial white flag the same way we unfurled our support for McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Time to admit we're all hypocrites. That we can no longer separate wins and losses from sacred milestones when it best suits our teams' best interests. Time for fans to admit we hate performance enhancing drugs in baseball and pro wrestling, but ignore the epidemic in the NFL, or in baseball during a pennant race. Cash. Wins. Scholarships. Looks. Chicks. Who is anyone kidding? Some pass. Some fail. And may the Lord be with you if you're one of those needing only a splash of juice to achieve that dream. Nobody should be shocked about A-Rod. If you are, clearly you didn't learn from Big Mac, the Rocket, or Rafael Palmeiro, who presumably washed down his little blue pills with some Boost of his own. Yankee fans need to admit they rooted for Giambi after he admitted he used steroids. Red Sox fans need to admit they're lucky Kirk Radomski and Brian McNamee didn't work in Boston, even though Paxton Crawford spilled his tell-all to "ESPN The Magazine" the year before they broke "The Curse." Football fans need to admit they want their athletes built like warriors to cover the point spread, or bring home that elusive Lombardi Trophy. Pundits need to admit that steroids did little to help most of the names cited in the Mitchell Report, other than prolong their careers or give them a chance to play pro ball in the first place. Clemens, Barry Bonds and Gary Sheffield are the only players of the 89 listed that would have a chance of getting their own plaque in the first place. Three in eighty-nine. And that's only a small sample based in two cities. Everyone needs to admit that amphetamines, or "greenies" have always been as prevalent in baseball clubhouses as Folgers. And we all need to admit that come baseball season, or when NFL training camp picks back up, we'll all be back. Fans have to admit we've been playing by athletes rules and are now entering a new game. It's their autographs we want, their jerseys we buy, their games we watch and bet on, hence, their steroid use we endure. We've been warned. We do it anyway. It's not fair that athletes cheat. But it doesn't seem to bother us on a warm summer's seventh inning. Eventually, the Baseball Writers Association will have to make a decision on A-Rod, and eventually everyone else. Fifteen years from now, we may learn that a majority of today's major superstars-future Hall-of-Famers-cheated. In other words, steroid users will get into Cooperstown to prevent the Hall from getting relocated to the Smithsonian. A-Rod will likely pass Barry Bonds and become baseball's all-time home run king*. He'll have several years by then to re-invent his image. By then, other big names will be revealed for steroid use. Then baseball has to consider letting him, and those who failed before him, into Cooperstown. Because the game has passed us by, and we waved to it thinking we were watching a parade. Baseball will eventually have to welcome A-Rod to Cooperstown, followed by his fellow users. By then, we'll all be conditioned to it. But for now, like A-Rod, we have to come clean ourselves: we only care about records. Not steroids. Dan Borrello is an OBSERVER Sports columnist. Send comments to sports@observertoday.com.



 
02/10/2009 1:34PM
Punting On Steroids
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02/10/2009 2:05PM
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