Saturday, February 7, 2009

Alex Rodriguez Used Steroids...And the Sun Will Rise Tomorrow

Can we please stop with all this sanctimonious indignation over the news that Alex Rodriguez' urine tested hot for steroids in 2003? Woe is me, woe is me. The mighty and pure A-Rod was juicing. So freakin' what?

You can call him A-Fraud if you want.

The truth is he's no more of a fraud today than he was yesterday or the day before or the year before. Nor is he any more of a fraud than most other professional athletes competing in our modern, performance-enhanced world of sports.

If you're still surprised by an athlete—any athlete—being tainted by a doping scandal or a steroid scandal or a human growth hormone scandal, you're just not paying attention. Or you're incredibly naive and optimistic.

Those aren't necessarily criticisms—my mother fits both descriptions and they're two of the things that make her such a lovely person.

However, coming from the likes of Mark Kriegel, such traits ring false and cowardly. Kriegel goes on and on about how A-Fraud has messed with history because, until this moment, he was the untainted heir-apparent to Barry Lamar Bonds' very tainted homerun record.

What a load of bull excrement. What a very full load.

Because that is exactly what the media did during the Great Homerun Race of 1998—turned a willfully blind eye to abuse of performance-enhancers because doing so suited its purpose. Namely, the race sold newspapers and padded the bottom-line so nobody pointed out that something suspicious might be going on.

Then, that venerable institution did it again in 2001, when Barry made his assault on history.

Of course, when Bonds really started taking down the prized pelts of history, that's when the media finally cranked up the grinder and sharpened its spears. Some members told us how sorry they were, how they should've seen the situation for what it was, how they were blinded by this, how they were intoxicate by that, and how it would never happen again.

And, yet, this news comes as a surprise? To whom? Those same people who promised to keep their eyes on the ball?

Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on you.

And I'm not fooled. Not by Rodriguez nor Kriegel nor anyone else trying to dodge their role in this morass. Nor is anyone else fooled who's been paying attention and reading between the lines.

It's not just the scrubs who've been caught. It's not just the older players or the sluggers or the relief pitchers or baseball players or football players or even athletes. Sylvester Stallone was busted trying to bring crates of HGH into Australia or something.

Weren't 50 Cent and a bunch of other rappers nabbed for purchasing it illegally?

These are all groups of insecure people who make a living off something that fades with age. Guess what? Human growth hormone and other performance-enhancers (allegedly) turn back the hands of time. They let you recapture a little of that fodder for future boring stories.

So what if Rodriguez is young and a physical specimen to begin with, he's also insanely insecure—even by celebrity standards. Additionally, by all accounts, he's a perfectionist from whom a lot is expected.

Sounds like the perfect candidate to me.

Yeah, it's probably got some pretty heinous long-term side-effects. So do a lot of the unhealthy things you and I take into our bodies everyday. Obviously, the maladies befalling steroid users and the like are usually much worse and more certain. Then again, the benefits of successful use are a hell of a lot more substantial than those of a Whopper or shot of Jack Daniels.

Still, the really ridiculous part of the whole episode is that all this faux-outrage and shock comes after the Mitchell Report. After Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. After Jason Grimsley, Andy Pettitte, minor-leaguers by the busload, and Neifi Perez.

I mean, c'mon. Who are we kidding?

Look, I'm not saying everyone is guilty. What I am saying is that there's no longer a reasonable excuse for our heads to be in the sand. Sure, it'd be nice if there were some clean-but-still-elite players. There probably are some. Maybe even a lot. But that firm presumption is no longer reasonable.

Sad but true.

If the presumption isn't reasonable, than neither is the surprise. Even worse, that surprise is an attempt to separate from yourself from the guilty. It's an attempt to dodge your responsibility in all of this.

In fact, until we're actively and sincerely trying to solve the problem, I'm not even sure it's fair to be upset. After all, it's been clear for many years now that the system is broken. That it actually encourages the use of performance-enhancers rather than discourages it. That a sincere and sweeping effort needs to be made.

And that it has to come from the fans.

Everyone else is making money off the situation—the players, the agents, the executives, the owners, and the media. Great performances get great contracts, sell tickets, and move newspapers (as does a good scandal). Why would they want it changed?

Furthermore, the last 20 years or so have proven that they will NOT change it unless a figurative gun is to their collective head.

Well, until we're ready to point it, we're part of the problem.

Step one is admitting that even your guy is probably on the juice. I don't like it and neither will you. But the important thing is that nobody inside baseball (or any other sport) will like it, either.

The innocent will demand real change to clear the aura of skepticism and the guilty will feel hunted. Agents will find it harder to sell their products, owners/executives will (rightly) fear the tangible manifestation of diminishing goodwill, and the media will lose a scandal to sell.

The fans might even get to a chance to win for a change. Wouldn't that be nice?

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