Strangely enough, the attitude of many before the news broke that 14 Major League Baseball players, including sluggers Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez, had received long, season-ending, suspensions in the wake of the Biogenesis steroid scandal is probably best described in an episode of “The Simpsons.”
In the 1999 episode, Mark McGwire, a notorious former steroid user himself, visits Springfield after Bart Simpson proves that MLB has been using a satellite to spy on the town. McGwire offers the shocked crowd a choice, “Do you want to know the terrifying truth, or do you want to see me sock a few dingers?”
The Springfieldians reply with a chant of “Dingers! Dingers!” and McGwire socks a few out of the park as he hides the evidence of the satellite under his cap.
While the episode wasn’t in itself about illegal doping in professional sports, it offered a caricature of the overall mindset that many fans, players and their unions have held for decades — anything goes so long as it remains hidden and, seemingly, gets results.
And to be sure, the 1998 steroid-fueled home run record chase was a marketing bonanza, setting records for attendance, television ratings and merchandise sales, and not much was said otherwise until that record, too, was broken by the much-disliked Barry Bonds in 2006.
But, to be fair, baseball’s image, even before steroids, has never been squeaky clean when it comes to cheating. In fact, it has been very common, from corking bats to scuffing balls, remaining an under-the-surface reality of the game.
“Everybody cheats,” then-White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was quoted as saying in the Chicago Tribune in 2005 after some of his players accused Cubs pitchers of throwing banned pitches.
But, while legalizing performance-enhancing drugs in organized sports would seem the quick answer for our liberty-oriented Editorial Board, we are happy to see that the recent scandal has provoked players to break from their traditionally lock-step ranks on the issue.
“The home runs that are hit because a guy’s on performance-enhancing substances, those ruin somebody’s ERA, which ruins their arbitration case, which ruins their salary,” Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson told reporters after the suspensions were handed down.
So, instead of creating an arms race over whose body can tolerate the most performance-enhancing substances, we hope players will now actually police themselves so that we may take pleasure from watching the pure, unaltered athleticism of the men of our national pastime, the boys of summer and nothing more.
The Orange County Register