Steroids on Baseball and Society
This was a research paper I had to write for my ENC 1145 class. Its quite lengthy but it is very interesting. The topic was to pick a source that satirizes something and analyze the satirical elements. I received an A on this paper and A's are hard to come by in this class. I chose the episode of South Park where they made fun of steroids in baseball and well, here it is:
Steroids on Baseball and Society
Over the last century, during wars, depressions, hardships, Americans have always been able to unwind with the great American pastime. My father would tell me that when he witnessed Henry Aaron set the all time home-run record, it was a moment he would never forget. Then he would go on about how Jackie Robinson went against all odds and became the first African-American baseball player, breaking all color barriers, ending baseball segregation that lasted 60 years. My father would tell me how the Brooklyn Dodgers were his favorite team and everyone in New York hated J-Rob, as my dad would call him, because of the fact, he was an African-American. I’ll never forget the grin my father would have on his face when he would talk about baseball, it would give me chills. Nowadays, that same grin doesn’t occur. When the only time baseball is on the news is when another big-time player was caught taking steroids. “How could these guys disgrace the game?” He would say. “The Sultan of Swat is rolling over in his grave”.
In the Southpark episode, Up the Down Steroid, a handicapped fourth-grader, Jimmy, enters the Special Olympics. Jimmy trains really hard everyday but finds himself slipping into a state of depression when he cannot keep up with the other kids. So he starts taking steroids to give himself the extra push. Jimmy then breaks all sorts of Special Olympic records and shocked the world, but when its time to claim his Gold medals, he confesses to taking steroids. He steps up to the podium and says:
“Taking steroids is like pretending to be handicapped at the Special Olympics because you’re taking all the fairness out of game. But I know now even if you do win on steroids, you’re really not a winner. You’re just a pussy, you’re just a big, fat pussy and if you take steroids the only decent thing to do is to come forward and say remove me from the record books because I am a big, fat, stinky, pussy, steroid-taking jackass” (Jimmy 803).
While this speech is going on cameras keep pointing back and forth between Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, and Jason Giambi, three alleged steroid abusers in the Major League. This is where South Park starts poking fun at baseball and the acclaimed Steroid Era. They are indirectly saying all these things towards these three alleged steroid users.
When Jimmy is at the gym training for the event, another handicapped child calls him aside and tries selling him steroids. He says, “everyone is taking them, and without them they will finish way ahead of you” (Nathan 803). South Park is saying that if you don’t take steroids, then everybody around you is taking steroids and will easily do better than you. In Jose Canseco’s book, Juiced, he said that, “As many as 85% of all players in the Major League are on, or have used steroids at some point in their career” (Canseco 96). Baseball, honestly really isn’t a sport anymore. It is like a cat and mouse game to try and find out the players who are hiding steroids. These players are destroying the integrity of the game, along with the records the players in the past worked their ass off to achieve. Taking steroids is a disgrace, and disrespectful for the players before the “steroid-era.” Growing up around baseball, I was able to be a part of the incredible run of Mark McGwire and Barry Bond’s run at Roger Maris’s single season homerun record, then when Barry Bonds blasted number 73. "It was the most cherished record," says Maris, a high school baseball coach in Gainesville, Fla. "Guys like my dad (who died in 1985) had great numbers, but they look like nothing compared to these guys. Now the records aren't attainable if you are legit” (Maris). We the fans, felt as if we were a part of that history, that great achievement. I was looking forward to telling my children I was able to witness such a performance, being part of something that was larger than I was. Being able to witness the greatest single season performance the world has ever seen. Instead of being able to do this though, to do what my father has been doing for me growing up, I’m going to have to tell my kids I sat through baseball’s darkest years. The year where steroids ruined the reputation, the record books, and the overall integrity of the game.
“Athletes now are taking doses that would have blown our minds, and kids are taking them younger” (Connelly 25). Major league baseball players like Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez were portrayed as heroes and role models in the eyes of kids and future big time baseball players. Kids who dream of one day playing in the big leagues look up to them as an idol or even a father figure. So when they are caught taking steroids, it has a huge effect on the kids because kids see their heroes doing it so they think it’s okay. “We’ve had incidents of use and self-reported incidents of use down in fifth grade, so 11 and 12 years old” (Greisemer 51). South Park shows this fact by having Jimmy, a fourth-grader, start taking steroids to cheat in the Special Olympics. South Park is showing how young of an age steroids can begin, young kids don’t seem to understand the long term affects of steroids and only see the positives. They see themselves getting bigger, stronger, and faster than the rest of the competition by doing half the training. Kids of all ages think steroids appeals to them because they believe it will give them that edge to get to the next level. Abraham Socher commented on the subject, saying:
“A minor leaguer--especially one who is not a power hitter--can muscle up to get to the majors. A good pitcher can move into the superstar category by throwing a faster fastball. With the use of anabolic steroids, a great hitter can build extraordinary muscle mass, increase his endurance, and prolong his dominance. For older players, human-growth hormone (HGH) can speed the healing after an injury, help tired bodies bounce back from workouts, and prevent the muscle deterioration that comes with age” (Socher).
With that said, steroids is starting at a much younger age than previous years. Whether it’s Kids trying to make the high school varsity team, or just trying to get that boost from Double A to the Major League. When kids begin to start taking steroids they think they are going to take it once and that’s it, well at least that’s what Jimmy thought when he said, “Maybe I’ll just take them for a little bit, as a performance enhancer” (Jimmy 803). Sen. John McCain had a comment on the topic and said;
“Like it or not, professional athletes serve as role models to our kids. Mark McGwire’s admission, in 1998, that he was using androstenedione to enhance his performance led to a fivefold increase in sales of that dietary supplement” (McCain 3).
Jimmy decided he couldn’t keep up with all the other kids by just working out, he decided to take steroids. When Timmy caught Jimmy taking steroids, Jimmy said, “You know all the other kids in the Special Olympics are taking steroids, I’m just trying to keep up!” (Jimmy 803). Jimmy started breaking special Olympic records and getting faster, bigger, and stronger. Throughout the Major League it was known that if a player hits 50 homeruns, he had an unbelievable season. Even today, if a player hits 50 homeruns, it’s a big deal. So, in 2001, when Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire all hit over 66 homeruns, the steroids issue was brought up. Of course, later down the road, Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire were caught taking steroids and Sammy Sosa was caught corking his bat, which is when the bat is filled with cork to make the bat lighter without losing much power. South Park parodies this by having Jimmy break all sorts of records right when he began taking steroids.
“Even if you do win on steroids, you’re really not a winner” (Jimmy, Episode 803). This quote is a very accurate quote, because after Barry Bonds hit is 755th homerun there was a lot of talk about putting an asterisk on the ball, which is what Southpark is aiming this part of its parody at. Yes, Barry Bonds is the all-time leading homerun leader, but every single person will forever question the fact weather he did it “on his own”. Mark McGwire had the world in his hands, he was on the cover of Wheaties, his rookie card was worth well into the hundreds, he was smacking homeruns left and right, and then he was found guilty of taking steroids. Again, he was winning in every way imaginable, taking home all-star appearances, MVP’s, homerun derby crowns, but in the end he still passed over when it comes time to being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Tracy Ringolsby, a writer for Fox Sports says:
“Instead of finding himself mentioned among the likes of Rickey Henderson and Tom Seaver and Babe Ruth, he will be forever linked with Pete Rose and Roger Clemens and Shoeless Joe Jackson, players of distinction whose refusal to face up to their misdoings has left them banished from baseball's ultimate recognition. To be fair, not everyone who has left McGwire off their Hall of Fame ballot has done it in protest over his role in baseball's steroid era” (Ringolsby).
Throughout the episode, as Southpark parodies the entire era of baseball, they are also making a lot of valid points. Nobody will ever know the real reason these athletes begin to take steroids. They know what they do to your body and they know they have a huge influence on the children watching them. Roger Clemens, a pitcher in the major league who was convicted of using steroids said this,
“I want the kids that are out there listening this day to understand that, that there are no shortcuts, that steroids are bad for your body. Everything that we’ve heard about steroids, they’re bad for you, they break you down. I believe it’s a self-inflicted penalty. I want the children to know that” (Clemens 159).
Even if you win on steroids, you really aren’t a winner. Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi are all perfect witnesses of this major claim. All three of these guys need to just come forward and say, “Remove me from the record books because I am a big, fat, stinky, pussy, steroid taking jackass.”
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