Posts Tagged ‘steroids’

The SaniTERRYum XII: An Essay for Asterisks

The asterisk remains a mysterious mistress in sports. She only shows up on stats and achievements if something out of the ordinary is determined to be by the powers that be. Late game not included. Steroid Era. Pete Rose. Strikes, lockouts and the like. LeBron’s first title? Oh, definitely an asterisk next to that shortened season Miami championship.

This isn’t even coming from the Heat hater, die-hard Bulls fan in me. This is just me keeping it 100. A 66 game season culminating in a ‘chip does not a champion make. Well, technically it does, but with an asterisk next to it in the books…a permanent asterisk. As much as I admire the Spurs, their run in ’99 falls into the same asterisk-ridden category. It’s just not the same if 82 games aren’t played. Hence, the permanence of the ever-lingering, ever-annoying asterisk. You can debate the asterisk all you want, but it’s not going anywhere. It’s as much a part of legitimizing an accomplishment as it is from taking away its legs to stand on in a world of amputees.

Everything LeBron has done in the L has been legitimate. We don’t need to talk about anyone taking their talents anywhere. We don’t need to talk about the receding hairline. We don’t need to discuss the 4th quarter meltdowns of yesteryear. The man is the best player on the planet right now, possessing a skill set mashed with athleticism the NBA has never seen. But I’m sorry, asterisk applied to his first championship. I can hear the so-called Miami Heat fans now:  “It took him so long to get here, and now this fucking jerk off writer from Chicago who’s still bitter about the Derrick Rose injury wants to diminish what LeBron and Co. have worked so hard for?” Hey, don’t hate the player. Hate the game. Asterisk stands.

The LeBron-imposed asterisk would have gone to whomever the NBA crowned champion this year. That comes with the territory of any sports’ lockout, strike, holdout, or any other new way greedy players and owners can find to prevent us, the fans, from enjoying a full, asterisk-free season. And you can bet your bottom dollar, us fans would love to live in an asterisk-free sports world.

On the topic of betting bottom dollars: Pete Rose, in many ways, personifies the asterisk, a walking asterisk, if you will. He has become the victim of an opinionated asterisk, possibly the worst kind of typographical symbol there is. Bud Selig has sort of made it his life mission to keep Charlie Hustle out of The Hall, which makes me wonder: “Does Bud have a running bet with someone somewhere on an over/under for years it’ll take to get the all-time hits leader (among many other records) into Cooperstown?”

“Dive in head first. Like Pete Rose.”

Although Bud’s not alone: On February 4, 1991, the Hall of Fame voted formally to exclude individuals on the permanently ineligible list from being inducted into the Hall of Fame by way of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Rose is the only living member of the ineligible list. Players who were not selected by the BWAA could be considered by the Veterans Committee in the first year after they would have lost their place on the Baseball Writers’ ballot. Under the Hall’s rules, players may appear on the ballot for only fifteen years, beginning five years after they retire. Had he not been banned from baseball, Rose’s name could have been on the writers’ ballot beginning in 1992 and ending in 2006. He would have been eligible for consideration by the Veterans Committee in 2007, but did not appear on the ballot. In 2008 the Veterans Committee barred players and managers on the ineligible list from consideration.

What’s the BFD here? It’s not like he was betting against his team and then throwing shit intentionally. “I bet on my team every night. I didn’t bet on my team four nights a week. I bet on my team to win every night because I loved my team, I believed in my team.” Those sound like the words of a competitor, someone who truly cares about winning, a real gamer. Why shouldn’t he make a little dough on the side? I mean, MLB players’ salaries barely allow one to scrape by, so by all means…

“Do you wanna know the terrifying truth or do you wanna watch me sock a few  dingers?”
-Mark McGwire to Bart Simpson

We are all tired of performance enhancing drugs taking over the sport we love, hijacking the headlines. When I look at the list of baseball players I grew up watching who are now all but blackballed from ever receiving the slightest bit of consideration to top anyone’s HOF ballot, let alone make it in,  it brings a heaping pile of bullshit on fire to my front door. Absolute flaming bullshit. I’ll always have Ken Griffey, Jr. and Frank Thomas though…

Guys have been cheating the game for ages, but now that we’ve evolved into drug-taking, performance enhancers, now you want to blow the whistle? The eligible players on this year’s ballot is mind-blowing when you step away and realize that most, if not all, will remain Cooperstown outsiders…possibly forever. Bonds. Sosa. The Rocket. Piazza. Big names, and that’s leaving out perennial snubs McGwire, Palmeiro, and the rest of the renounced hardball heroes turned ‘roid ragers. Barry Bonds has more to worry about than asterisks, though. By the way, can someone explain to me how the fuck Royce Clayton found himself onto the ballot?

The steroid and human growth hormone, performance enhancing goes far beyond baseball and stretches into the world of track and field, football, the Olympics, and the, wait for it, Tour de France.

Lance Armstrong: what a let-down after so much build up and feel-goodery. The man beats cancer like 200 times, takes over a French-dominated, absolutely enduring event and hope is restored to the humanity of sports. Then it all comes crashing down amongst allegations of PED peddling. Really, Lance? You? Say it ain’t so! Marion Jones gets an asterisk, jail time, AND community service. She was dubbed the fastest woman alive, but she has been stripped of her medals won at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. I’m sure she would have been just fine with an asterisk next to her name in history, but the asterisk only has so much power. We could all learn a thing or two from LeBron James and Pete Rose: just hustle and work hard to get where you’re going. You don’t need to shoot steroids in your butt.

*Late Game Not Included

After all, My erstwhile dear,
My no longer cherished,
Need we say it was no love,
Just because it perished?

-Edna St. Vincent Millay

America had a love affair with baseball. It was a slow burning love that lasted generations, a constant companion during hard times. Baseball was there everyday, during the depression, during WWII, during the communist scare, baseball was always there, giving you living legends. Williams, DiMaggio, The Holy Trinity, Koufax, Gehrig, Ruth, Foxx, Rose, Aaron, the list goes on and on.

Of recent vintage, the love affair has cooled as a sleeker, much faster sport has taking it’s place as sports king of America. Football reigns supreme and that’s fine. It’s the hot one. Football gives you collisions and car crashes, but with human bodies. Football gives you the cheap quick entertainment that the twitter generation enjoys so much. It’s the most popular sport in the US by a mile, nothing else really comes close to it.

We’ve forgotten about baseball, and it’s because it strayed away from the one thing that made it personable. We loved baseball, but we loved its players even more. They weren’t steroid infested freaks in the past. The bodies weren’t cartoonish. Ted Williams looked like a butcher at the corner store.

Yep, greatest hitter of all time.

For years you could imagine yourself playing baseball and it wouldn’t look clownshoes ridiculous. You can still kinda do it now, but this was especially true in an era before off-season training and, well, steroids.

I understand the drive to become the greatest player you can be, the drive to make the most money, I really do. While I don’t despise roided up players, I do not like them for the negative contributions they’ve made to a game I adore. The relationship between baseball and it’s fans is fractured. An entire generation of fans is growing up not knowing if their favorite player is a cheater or not. See, this doesn’t matter in football. Those guys are just things in helmets that run into each other for our personal enjoyment. They’re like NASCAR vehicles to us. Their personal health matters little because if it did, we’d outlaw the sport.

Baseball on the other hand is a game that is married to history and context. It’s the only game where you can compare players now to players of a generation ago. George Mikan would get destroyed in the modern NBA. Red Grange would be knocked out on his first snap in the NFL. Babe Ruth would still mash in the modern MLB.

History and relatable stars are the main draws with baseball. The true legends of today are awe inspiring because of the legends that they walk with. Greg Maddux is a living legend, a giant in the historical baseball world. The man has amassed 355 wins, he can hang his hat with legends like Warren Spahn (363), Steve Carlton (329), Christy Matthewson (373), and Pete Alexander (373). When you think about Maddux, it’ll be in the context of Greatest Players of All Time. His name is intertwined with players from the aughts, the teens, the twenties, the thirties, and the fifties and sixties. What other sport does that?

In a roundabout way, that brings me to Ryan Braun.

He did indeed test positive for performance enhancing drugs. He did indeed get off on a technicality. He did not, however, exonerate himself whatsoever from being a steroid cheat. The thing with urine is that it doesn’t magically grow testosterone when it’s refrigerated.

Crazy, I know.

Ryan Braun had a 20:1 ratio, which means whatever it means to you. It was high, but it wasn’t the highest in history as he’ll have you believe. There have been 70:1 positive results in the past. The sample was not tampered with, the seals were intact, and while they did sit in the collector’s fridge over the weekend, the alternative was to have them sit at Fed-Ex for the same amount of time. Again, I have yet to hear of the case where testosterone grew in urine because it was cold.

The crime Ryan Braun committed doesn’t just taint his legacy. The continued use of performance enhancing drugs has driven away fans. Baseball is slowly recovering from the steroids scandal, and it finds itself in an odd place. It is trying very hard to actively eliminate the use of performance enhancing drugs, but the athletes themselves are finding exotic ways to cover up the use.

Ryan Braun, baseball is partially at fault for the “Guilty until proven innocent,” stance that the general public has taken in past years. More to blame are the players, however, like yourself and Rafael Palmiero, that use and deny so fervently. Baseball has lost a lot of fan credibility, and that’s unfortunate. Living legends are more difficult to identify, I have no idea who’s clean now. I can make my assumptions, but the last round of “damn he’s juicing too?” was too damn painful to give anyone the benefit of the doubt.

Yeah, everyone in baseball is guilty until proven innocent. It’s not really safe to point at anyone and say “He’s completely clean.” It’s not the era we live in.

That still doesn’t give players an excuse to use. You’re hurting my game man, and I’d appreciate it if you cut that shit out.