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August 24, 2012

Bartolo Colon of the Oakland As got busted just a day or two ago for PEDs and suspended for 50 games.

A week or so ago, the Giants’ Melky Cabrera got outed. As did the Giants’ Guillermo Mota earlier this season. Both out for 50 games- although I believe Mota is now back from his suspension. (As I checked to verify that, I see that, for Mota, it was his second suspension, which meant he was suspended for 100 games.) Upon further investigation, it would appear that SS Manny Ramirez was suspended for his second time in 2011 when he played for the Rays. Just… wow.

And right after the conclusion of last year’s regular season, freshly selected MVP Ryan Braun of the Brewers got nailed, but has somehow managed to weasel his way out of it due to a technicality involving improper handling of the sample. Braun didn’t appeal the massively elevated level of testosterone in the sample, mind you, but rather that the sample was left in a refrigerator over the weekend because the collector “thought Fed-Ex was closed” and- get this- took the sample home and kept it in his refrigerator. Bottom line, dude [appears to have] doped but got away scot free.

Looks like now we can officially add Lance Armstrong to the growing list of athletes that have been caught doping and subsequently disgraced in the proverbial town square. He has dropped his appeal of his bad test results, in effect finally admitting, “Yes, I did it” after months and months of publicly denying and refuting it. He was then stripped of all seven of his Tour de France victories (ouch!).

I’m just not real sure where I stand with this subject anymore.

When the whole “steroid-era” thing in MLB first came to light in, what, the mid 90s or whenever it was, I was hugely, HUGELY vocal about how “they’re cheating the game” and “their records shouldn’t even be asterisked; they shouldn’t count at all”, et cetera. I have since figured out that asterisking (is that even a word?!) is not feasible nor even remotely practical. Not to mention, the whole notion is, really, pretty stupid. As more and more guys- especially the bigger and bigger names- started getting outed as dopers, I wasn’t so much disgusted with them as I was the amount of people that not only were okay with players using PEDs but were looking for ways to justify it, and even encouraging the league-wide legal use of PEDs, under the guise of, “Hey, if they’re all doping, they’re all on an even field”. Wow, really?

First off, let me say right off the bat (pardon the pun) that I neither support nor condone the use of PEDs in the least. I do, however, understand that Major League Baseball’s “ban” on PEDs is a fucking joke (as are those of any sports league that claims to have one) and that players still use them- obviously. I want it noted that my acceptance that it still happens should IN NO WAY be construed as my approval. But here’s the thing: it’s to the point now where I bat nary a judgmental eye anymore when a player gets caught, especially when it’s a big-name guy like the Brauns, the McGwires, the Sosas, the Palmeiros, etc. Now it’s really more pity. Which, I guess, is simply judgment disguised as empathy or something.

I pity them because I still can’t believe that they still feel the need. If you can’t hit 40+ homeruns, make a bone-jarring tackle on a halfback two-thirds your size, throw a 107-mph fastball, or win a grueling bicycle race without ingesting a metric shit-ton of chemicals, perhaps you’re simply not as good at your sport as you think you are. [THIS JUST IN: As I type this, I was just shown this article about why NFL doping is much less criticized than in MLB. Good read- and, frankly, a pretty valid argument.]

It goes beyond the tired, “Everybody does/did it” and “If they’d had them available in [insert player name]’s day, [that guy]’d have used them too” arguments. And don’t even get me started on how using PEDs is somehow less of a “crime against the integrity of the game” than Pete Rose betting on games. First of all, apples and oranges, and secondly, “the game” has no integrity and hasn’t for years. I believe wholeheartedly in sportsmanship, in fair play, in not taking shortcuts. It’s a shame that those principles are considered not only outdated but also a sign of weakness.

I mean, yeah, maybe baseball, a game that already lasts “too long” as it is, would be made even more difficult to bear if nobody is chemically mutated, and they have to rely solely on the talents with which they were born. But then, maybe- just maybe- some integrity might actually be restored to a game I once adored but to which I am now indifferent at best. Other than the 2012 All-Star Game- and can’t you just smell THAT irony- I haven’t watched a single pitch of baseball since last year’s World Series. Just not feeling it. Players keep getting caught doping, and I just keep on getting more and more disenchanted with the game. When we go a while without any players being caught, it’s not that they’re not using. It’s that they’re getting better at hiding it. And that’s just pathetic. Yet even I am less and less “outraged” when guys get busted any more. But again- do not confuse acceptance with approval.

My thing is, “What are we teaching our kids?”

It has been debated for years about whether or not athletes are role models. On this, my stance will not change: I believe unequivocally that athletes are NOT role models. To me, there is a huge difference between “sports hero” and “role model”. That’s why I’ve always respected Charles Barkley. He’s kind of an ass, but he makes no bones about it: “I am NOT a role model. I’d make a turrble role model.” (Okay, that second sentence I made up. But he did say the first one.)

But let’s say, for argument’s sake, that athletes are or should be role models. What are we teaching our kids? That blatantly and deliberately breaking the rules to gain an unfair advantage is okay? That “everybody does it” is a valid reason for not only cheating (yes, it IS cheating) but also potentially damaging your health and maybe even killing yourself? It’s not my business how anyone raises their children, any more than it’s anyone else’s how I raise mine. But any time an athlete- especially one whose name my kids will recognize- is caught doping, I make a point of making sure they understand that what that athlete did was wrong and why. I mean, if we’re going to look upon PED use as “acceptable”, why not just teach our little leaguers that it’s okay to trip runners as they go by? That a batter should be allowed to carry his or her bat around the bases in case someone has the nerve to attempt to get them out? How about that the best hitter on the team can pinch hit for any kid at any time, with no restrictions or limits, so that your crappy rally-killing 8- and 9-hitters don’t come up with 2 outs and the bases loaded? Far-fetched examples and poor comparisons, yes, but why are we teaching our kids that it is okay to break rules and to cheat? Or at least to give yourself an unfair advantage- although… to-MAY-to, to-MAH-to.

And what REALLY gets me are the Motas and the Ramirezes (and some others) that were busted, suspended for a little over 30% of the season, and continued using. And in Mota’s and Ramirez’s cases, caught again and suspended for about 62% of the season? Why do they continue using–and likely will continue to use, even though being caught a third time will [supposedly] result in a “lifetime ban” from the game. (Purposely ignoring the ridiculousness of Rose’s being banned for life for his transgression; another argument for another time.) What the goddamned hell is with people that break rules/laws, get caught, and get punished, yet go right back to breaking the rules/laws?! THAT’S where my Judgy von Judgerpants mode really kicks in, Mr. or Ms. I Am Above The Rules/Law.

Maybe I’m mad at the players for doping. Maybe I’m mad at MLB and the other organizations for claiming to have these “tough” anti-doping regulations when they clearly not only are still looking the other way but rather seem to be encouraging it. Maybe I’m mad at the sportswriters and talking heads for glorifying it. Maybe I’m mad at the legions of sports fans that shrug their shoulders at, turn a blind eye to, or flat out justify and condone athletes using PEDs. Maybe I’m simply mad at the world for being a shitty place half full of shitty people with shitty moral fiber. Maybe I’m just too idealistic with regard to sports, in thinking that people actually still believe in and practice- or even care about- sportsmanship. Me and my rose-colored glasses, I guess- something I have been accused numerous times of wearing. But whatever the reason, I am still going to do my damnedest to make sure my boys know (and, hopefully, follow) what’s right. And what’s right is NOT using PEDs. I’d rather my kids be shitty at their sports than be the best because of doping, and I’mma do everything I can to convince them that they should feel that way as well. If I’m a judgmental asshole prick for that, so be it. I’m okay with that.

But it’s like the old George Carlin line:

If your kid needs a role model and you ain’t it, you both are fucked.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 24, 2012 11:05 am

    Regarding the part about the game not having had integrity for years…

    I’m willing to bet that “The Game” never had any integrity to begin with. Cheating has been ingrained in the culture of the game since it began and has long been winked at. Tripping runners begat phantom tags begat stealing signs begat doctoring the ball begat corking bats begat amphetamine usage in the 1950s begat steroid usage in the 1980s etc. etc. etc.

    Top athletes are wired to WIN WIN WIN, and it is absolutely true that if Athlete X had access to steroids in the 1960s, he would have done them if he thought it would help him and his team win. And I don’t think that multiple violators violate multiply to thumb their nose at the rules, they do it because they want to win. Winning and money is what it is all about.

    What I can’t stand is the sanctimonious sports media looking to crucify today’s steroid users for daring to besmirch The Game, yet they lionize their beloved heroes from the 1950s and ’60s as being pure, when it is well known that amphetamine use was rampant in MLB during that time right up to just the past few years ago, when it was finally explicitly banned by MLB. Same goes with former players looking down on steroid users. Nobody is clean.

    And my final point: PED use, ball doctoring, stealing signs, etc., is all done with trying to win at its root. Betting on baseball is done with trying to lose at its root. Which do you think is less sporting?

    • Johann permalink*
      August 24, 2012 1:35 pm

      How DARE you mess with my rant by adding facts?!

      Seriously, I’m not completely unreasonable. You make some very good points. But I must counter a couple of them:

      In the first paragraph, you state the game likely hasn’t ever had integrity. Probably can’t argue that. You say cheating has been around forever. Probably can’t argue that either. So, “It’s always been that way, so it’s okay”? That’s a pretty weak justification.

      In the second paragraph: “Winning and money is what it is all about.” Yet another weak justification, but also quite possibly helps illustrate what’s wrong with sports in the big picture.

      And the third paragraph, one which, again, truthfully can’t be argued, is basically a reiteration of, “Everybody does it, so it’s okay”. Yet another weak justification.

      Can’t SOMEBODY with some integrity step up? Are integrity and ethics THAT horrible?

      As for the final point: Stealing signs is HARDLY the same thing as steroid use. Unless you consider the use of signs at all as “cheating”, stealing said signs is simply part of the game. If you’re going to allow your signs to get stolen dot dot dot. No different than a team “running up the score” on their opponent. If Team A is going to give up that many points, why should Team B be expected to “go easy on them”? Winning and money is what it’s all about, and what not. Aren’t they all professional teams? Oh, I forgot- parity is the enemy in sports. Even so, still not nearly the same thing as deliberately circumventing the rules. And while I DO see your point about gambling, there is nothing you can say that will convince me that gambling is any more egregious a “sin” than PED use. And corked bats and doctored balls.

      hehehe Balls.

  2. August 24, 2012 11:13 am

    I guess I have one more point.

    While you get the occasional Bonds, A-Rod or Manny outed as a steroid user, the vast majority of players caught have been marginal, AAAA-type guys. Like Gary Bennett. Larry Bigbie. J.C. Romero. Matt Lawton. Guillermo Mota.

    It’s a Murderer’s Row of “Who the Fuck are These Guys?” With these guys, their thought process is rational: “I can either stay clean and toil in AAA for $40,000 a year, or I can juice and be the 25th man on an MLB roster for $400,000.” As far as their concerned, cheating pays. And pays very well.

    • Johann permalink*
      August 24, 2012 1:36 pm

      Again, that’s what’s wrong with sports.

  3. August 24, 2012 11:15 am

    Also, holy shit. I used “their” instead of “they’re.” No wonder I’m getting laid off.

    • Johann permalink*
      August 24, 2012 1:36 pm

      It took me three re-reads to find it, so don’t sweat it.

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