Our modern day gladiators, the professional athletes who perform on center stage of the coliseum to entertain the mob.
Thumbs up when they succeed, turned over when they fail. The mob, in need of a distraction from its tedious jobs and daily doldrums, expects greatness.
For the gladiators, greatness brings great rewards. Money, lavish lifestyles, and women are just some of the benefits that accompanies those who thrive in the spotlight.
So why is it the mob turns so quickly on its gladiator heroes when it is determined they did everything in their power—including risking their health, permanently damaging/disfiguring their bodies, and even shortening their lives—to please them?
Are you not entertained?
Okay, so this is a somewhat facetious look at professional athletes and the fans who helped create their stardom, but are we (the fans) so much different in our expectations of professional athletes than the Roman people were of their gladiator warriors?
Have we really changed all that much, or is the modern day fan better at looking the other way, as long as it suits our needs?
It was obvious to everyone Barry Bonds' head had doubled in size. We knew Mark McGwire’s neck was as thick as a pumpkin—and maintained the texture of one as well.
Sammy Sosa transformed from a razor-thin teen with the Chicago White Sox to a middle linebacker with the Texas Rangers, right before our very eyes. We never blinked and we most certainly didn’t mind.
Sosa even went as far as doubling up on his efforts to keep us amused. As if juicing up wasn’t enough, he took his cheating to the next level by altering the equipment he used and corking his bat.
But we were wowed when he produced that 550 foot blast during MLB’s All-Star Home Run Hitting Contest in Milwaukee’s Miller Park.
It was after his usefulness had dwindled when Sosa’s legitimacy was questioned.
Our society (in particular sports) has established a creed so to speak: “Do whatever it takes to succeed; win at all cost,” but, if you get caught, you will be demonized and you will be made into an example.
Instead of parading Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Barry Bonds into a court room to berate them—while their millions gain interest in the bank—why not question their achievements prior?
We the fans helped create these disfigured idols. We willingly pay outrageous sums of money to watch them perform at the coliseum.
Do we not share in the blame? After all, we were the ones looking away.
It wasn't that we were naive, we opted to watch the ball fly over the fence rather than observe and question the physical transformation of those who hit the balls.
Either way, it is likely our fallen sports heroes—the ones who enhanced their abilities by purchasing and injecting illegal chemicals into their bodies—will ultimately pay the price.
No one knows for sure what the ultimate toll will be for those who sacrificed hard work and ethics for fame and fortune. Perhaps it will be a shorter life span. Maybe disfigurement in areas we’ll never see. Be certain, a sacrifice was made so they could be wealthy and fans could be entertained.
So, when Mark McGwire returns to St. Louis as a hitting coach this spring, and he is introduced on opening day, don’t be so quick to boo.
Ask yourself this before judging him, “Wasn’t he great the year he broke Roger Maris’ record?"
Were you not entertained?