"Daddy, What Does Asterisk Mean?"

Jon Z.Correspondent IMarch 31, 2009

BOLTON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 29:  Syringes are lined up as teams of workers from Bolton Primary Care Trust carry out a mass vaccination exercise on March 29, 2006, Bolton, England. Health officials immunised 1,000 volunteers  in the Bolton Arena as part of the exercise to test the time and logistics of mass immunisation in the event of a flu pandemic. The last flu pandemic was 38 years ago and it's recurrence is every 30-40 years. Volunteers were not actually injected instead an orange was used to simulate the vaccination.  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

After reading Richard Marsh’s article Enough with the Baseball Controversy: Let’s Play Ball (great article, Richard), I too felt that it was time to move on with all the performance-enhancing drug talk surrounding baseball and get on with the 2009 season. 


I want to eat a hot dog at Citi Field (even if it’s going to cost me close to $10). I want to frantically check fantasy updates, and I can’t wait to commence with daily arguments about the Mets and those other teams in the area.     


However, on Sunday, I was helping coach my daughter’s T-Ball team, and it hit me: After seeing so many A-Rod shirts on so many children, it really made me wonder whether all this performance-enhancing drug talk is so easy to forget. 


"Another steroid article?" Bear with me, folks.


As a Mets fan approaching the start of the 2009 season, I’m fortunate that there are no vicious rumors or allegations surrounding this year’s lineup. Even so, they would likely be silenced by the constant talk of two September collapses and a questionable rotation past Johan Santana.


Nice diversion.


So, is it just luck? Could you brush off the fact that your favorite player was linked to or admitted to the use of performance-enhancing drugs? I’m not sure that I could, especially if that player was so dearly loved and looked up to by kids and adults alike. 


But maybe I’m just naive, just like Little C in A Bronx Tale was prior to being told by Chaz Palminteri that Mickey Mantle didn’t care about him.  


How often do we hear that our favorite quarterback or [insert Hall of Famer] was linked to these substances? (Certainly, the NFL’s drug testing was in place far before MLB “woke up”).


Is it because these players couldn’t possibly have taken them? Now that’s naive.


If and when something like the MLB controversy comes out somewhere else, either about players past or present, we’ll be left discussing the very same issues, and we’ll be stuck assuming that we’ll never know if a person was clean or not.


What I’m struggling with is how all this plays out down the road for future generations, even though we as adults can brush this aside and focus on the games, the stats, the highlights, the blogs, and the articles.  


Anyone who has read Ball Four, The Bad Guys Won, or enjoyed North Dallas Forty knows that professional athletes are not angels.


However, the alcohol, greenies, and harder stuff they took didn’t seem to leak into their descriptions as much back then, perhaps because these players weren’t taking true performance-enhancers as we define them today.    


Think about how you’ll describe a current player who is finishing his career and might be eligible for Cooperstown in a few years.  


I’m ready for, “Daddy, tell me about player X.” 


I’m not ready for, “Daddy, did he cheat, too?