The Game Of Shadows and The Steroid Garden

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The Game Of Shadows and The Steroid Garden

Let’s talk about steroids and the game of shadows.

I hate to chime in on an already well documented issue, but with Mark McGwire's recent declaration, I feel that it is time that I do so.

As an avid 22 year old sports fan I have had the great opportunity to observe the dynamics of the game, day in and day out for nearly the last two decades.

I have a great perspective on the issues at hand because I have viewed the game completely impartially and have no vested financial interest in the game. My involvement as an avid fan and consumer is purely driven by the fact that I love the competition and entertainment the game brings to my life.

The owners, players, and media all profit off of the game, but not the fan. We show up and we follow because we care. The fan wasn’t good enough to make it to the big show but we all wish we were. We admire the work ethic and the desire it takes to be a big leaguer and we live vicariously through our favorite players and teams.

It’s a sad day when you see your favorite player listed in the paper for using steroids, women fertility drugs, HGH, or even speed. We want our heroes to be clean and “the real deal”, and it definitely leaves you wondering if what you thought you were watching was really baseball or WWF wrestling.

None of the recent steroid allegations and headlines surprises me, or the avid fan. As a youngster I knew something was fishy. I played ball growing up and I had a grasp for the sheer strength and desire it took to be a pro at an early age. Even to an uneducated, 8 year old untrained eye these guys looked freakishly huge and anyone could tell that they were much bigger than other players from previous eras. I always figured that at least 80 percent of athletes if not more were on some sort of steroid. None of the recent leaks or positives have shocked me in the least.

It seems like an oxymoron to call a player clean nowadays. What players are truly clean? Every player takes something. You can claim all you want that your favorite player is only hitting protein shakes and herbal supplements but I’m not buying it.

If you have ever played sports you know that it takes a special personality to make a pro athlete. You have to be able to handle pain and most importantly keep playing even when you’re sick of the game. Most guys you talk to tell you that they stopped playing a given sport in high school. You have to be a winner and you have to want to win to be a successful athlete.

These guys live with the mindset that they must do whatever it takes to be the best at whatever they do. You’re a hypocrite to ask professional athletes to dedicate their mind and body to the game, but not want them to use something that has been proven to enhance their performance. If you could take a pill that made you a better talk show host, doctor, lawyer or politician how could you not take it?

Performance enhancers are not a new trend. Players have always attempted to one up the competition. Arguably the greatest Centerfielder of all time, Willie Mays allegedly used uppers during his playing career and I think it is safe to say that he wasn’t the only one of his era to dabble.

Willie’s alleged amphetamine usage was first reported during the 1980’s drug hearings by John Milner a former teammate of Mays. There is an inherit pressure to use in sports because players have a relatively short career and are constantly under pressure to perform or they will lose the job and be replaced by the next up and comer. 30 teams and roughly a few hundred roster spots make it incredibly alluring to use anything and everything you can find to improve your chances and earning potential. 

I love sports, but honestly I have lost all faith that any of the top athletes really competes with a clean slate. With that said, it’s not fair to point fingers at athletes of our generation who use steroids because most athletes given the opportunity to enhance their performance will do so.

Would Mickey Mantle use steroids if given the chance? I’m 100 percent sure he would, although we obviously have no way of proving this speculation. Mantle already had a tendency to abuse his body and given the chance to enhance his abilities I’m sure he would have taken any risks. Players back in the day abused amphetamines because that was the technology of the day, but if steroids were more readily available I’m sure they would have used them as well. Ballplayer ethics have not changed, the technology and advancement of performance enhancers has changed.

What makes me pissed off is not that my favorite players were roided beasts, but that everyone in the media and even baseball officials seem to discredit the incredible achievements that have been accomplished during the era I have been an avid fan.

What makes me sick is that Bud Selig and the players union led by Donald Fehr, had a chance to stem these problem years ago, but because both parties are so self interested and arrogant no compromise could be reached. Columnist Dave Newhouse put it best when he wrote this comment recently, “Selig is the owners’ servant; thus he tiptoes through the steroid garden, picking as few weeds as possible, always protecting his green (as in money) thumb. Manny Ramirez, out two months? Should have been one year minimum. Selig monitors the game instead of protecting its future”.

If either party really wanted to address steroids in baseball they could have implemented a real testing policy. The fact remains in my mind that steroids have been a part of all sports since the 1970’s. Selig silently loves steroids because they improve the product he sells. Selig loves roided out players because they bring in fans and fans spend ridiculous amounts of hard earned cash at the ball park.

Much like our government, Selig only claims to care about things publicly so that he can claim plausible deniability down the road. Players love being roided out because they want to be the best at what they do and this is a tool that allows them to excel past even their god given ability. If the commissioner and players really cared about the avid fan or steroids they would have agreed to a real testing policy back in 1994. They would have implemented a real strategy to combat steroids, one that included rigorous hair follicle and blood testing. Note, even the current piss test does not detect many forms of steroids and there remains no test that detects HGH.

Technology and medical advances will always attempt to prevail and you cannot stop the use of steroids, but you can attempt to curtail the rampant usage in the league. However, again Selig does not really want to stop steroids, he just wants to patch the damaged situation and move forward as is. If the union and commissioner really cared about their players they would implement a strong suspension system and make a public statement that steroid use in the league will not be tolerated. One positive, you’re out for the year. A second positive and you’re banned.

A strong policy from the start and you could have saved the game a lot of negative publicity, but no, you didn’t want to concede to testing because the players were guilty of using and Bud Selig was even more guilty of enabling. Due to the lack of accountability by both parties the only action a player can implement to clear his name nowadays is to drop their pants and piss into a cup, extract a hair follicle from their bulging head, prick themselves in their exploding arms for blood, and offer to take a lie detector test after each and every game.

As silly as that sounds that is the only way anyone can keep a clean name in this day and age, during the infamous time of shadows. If Pujols, Jeter, Chipper, and company want to make it into the hall with a clean slate the time is now to make a public statement and demonstrate that they are clean and willing to go to any extent to prove this fact. Unfortunately between the two of us this is a fallacy and will never happen because there is no such thing as a clean player anymore.

By: Morgan Spokny


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