Steroids: Why We Can’t Live Without Them

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Alright, so there’s steroids in baseball. With the Mitchell Report (spearheaded by former Senator George Mitchell, who is also on the board of directors of the Boston Red Sox) hitting the public yesterday, the world is aghast. This morning President Bush said both that, “My hope is that this report is a part of putting the steroid era of baseball behind us,” and that “we can jump to this conclusion: that steroids have sullied the game.”

Say what?

Steroids may be dangerous, and cheating, but make no mistake about it: The steroid era is what brought us increased revenues, fancy new stadiums, and a renewed interest in what, when Bush was owner of the Texas Rangers, was a serious flagging interest in America’s favorite pastime.

Predictions are now that the blacklisted players, 85 in all, will be summarily booed when they hit spring training (or the signing circuit). Glass houses, folks. The accused, surely not a comprehensive list, includes seven MVPs, two Cy Young Award winners, and 31 All-Stars. Remember, we the fans vote for All-Stars, so we essentially have been voting for steroids, cheering on the muscled, big-headed, giants who give us what we pay the big bucks for: home runs, strikeouts, monster moments.

And what of Barry Bonds? Yesterday was likely not a heroic day in the Bonds household— he’s on the list, though he’s facing perjury for swearing he didn’t use—but this dispels the Bonds-as-the-root-of-all-steroid-evil myth. The whole asterik hubbub around his home-run record, how about stars next to some of Roger Clemens’ seven Cy Young awards?

And to all those fans who want users punished and who hope this ushers in a new era of the sport, I say uh-uh. You don’t want to see baseball without steroids, for the same reason you don’t want to stop shopping at Costco. We like to feel like we’re getting a bargain for big packages. I don’t blame the fans, it’s what we’ve come to expect, the good deal in exchange for accepting the ridiculously high salaries and bulging box-seat prices. We expect nothing less than big time.

Of course, there are those (and I, being a San Francisco Giants fan, swear I loved Barry Bonds as a base-stealing Pirate much more than as a hometown slugger) who would say that if the entire league gets clean we again have an even playing field, that home runs will rocket again, that pitchers will still prove remarkable. Sure, eventually. But my hunch is that Americans just don’t want to wait around for that to happen, nor do ballclubs want to risk that adjustment period.

And one last thing to consider: With baseball being raked over the coals as being the dirty, disgraced sport, what could be going through the minds of the other professional league players, managers, coaches and owners? Football? Hello, are we going to really consider that steroids and baseball are the only alluring match? If we really want pure sports we can’t pick and choose which ones, can we? I mean football is about brutal contact, brute strength at its finest, so we’re going to let the juice slide? I haven’t heard calls yet for the NFL two-year investigation. But if we’re serious about wanting honest professional sports then it should only be a matter of time.

Yeah, we’ll see.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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