February 23, 2007
We all know the story about performance enhancers and professional athletes.
Barry Bonds and countless others have used them. Rafael Palmeiro even went in front of a sham congressional committee, wagged his finger Slick Willie style, and lied, well...Slick Willie style.
Lucky for Raffy that Patrick Fitzgerald is busy trying to destroy Lewis "Scooter" Libby in another sham government inquiry—otherwise the special prosecutor might want to depose Tim Russert and some sports reporters to determine when and to whom Palmeiro said what he said.
But here's a more important question: At the end of the day, does anyone really care?
I didn't think so.
Bonds' image is so tarnished that the national response to his breaking Hank Aaron's home record will be something to to tune of, "Great, he's done it. Is Favre coming back?"
In other words: Start warming up that asterisk.
Floyd Landis made a name for himself as the American underdog who went to France and won the Tour after the great Lance Armstrong retired. But then he failed the golden flow test, got stripped of the victory, and left people wondering (still) if Armstrong was (a) a miracle of modern medicine, (b) a cheater, or (c) the beneficiary of some real good lovin' from homewrecker-queen Sheryl Crow.
Floyd has left a stain on U.S. cycling, and it's not likely to go away anytime soon. But, again: Does anyone really care? Lance was and is a hero to millions of Americans, especially cancer survivors. Landis is a wannabe who shouldn't have even been allowed back into the country.
Then there's Michael Vick—real genius there. Last time I checked, carrying a water bottle through airport security wasn't legal. Neither was possession of marijuana. So trying to carry weed in a water bottle onto a plane in Miami probably wasn't the brightest thing Vick could have done.
Wait, you do remember this one, don't you? Or was it just another NFL player in trouble with the law?...or maybe just another pro athlete in trouble for drugs?...and still, honestly:
Do you care?
Has the pro-athlete mugshot become so commonplace that we as a society have become numb to it? Could we even care if we wanted to?
Hey, drug use didn't exclude Michael Irvin from the Pro Football Hall of Fame—not to mention a successful second career in the broadcasting world.
So it must be okay, right?
Randy Moss, Ricky Williams, Quincy Carter: Got pot? It's okay, you can still play, make millions, and receive the adoration of fans because you're helping their team win.
And what else really matters?
Daryl Strawberry, on the other hand, is living a life roughly akin to that of Dave Chappelle's crack-head character Tyrone Biggums: not too fabulous. But it's still okay, because we still don't care...
At this point, it seems the shine is off the pumped-up superheroes. When the pop media shapes the attitudes and values of society, we all lose. After all, he who controls the information controls the people. The chosen few—the superstars—are put on a pedestal by the media, and they can do no wrong. Or they can do wrong, and they get pass after pass for it.
But that's not the end of the story. Our kids are watching these guys. They're learning from them, mimicking them, waiting for their chance to be next...
And who's going to set them straight?
Parents? Maybe. But when law enforcement, league rules, rehab programs, and congressional oversight fail to keep these egomaniac meatheads in check, what are we as parents supposed to tell the kid who dreams of being the next Michael Vick?
Somebody please 'splain that to me.