“There is so much hypocrisy in sports.” ~ Dennis Rodman
I want to start off with a disclaimer: I am not a “baseball fan.” I did not grow up playing the sport, or going to the games, or watching the games on TV. Unlike baseball fans, I have never vested childhood dreams and fantasies into the game. My identity isn’t wrapped up in “baseball wisdom”; batting averages that reveal near-mystical implications; baseball legends, folk lore, or myths. The only childhood memory I have of baseball, other than my stepdad playing on an amateur team every summer, is the one time he took me to see a Red Sox vs. Yankees game in NYC. I was about 8 years old and got lost in an ocean of spectators; just before I completely freaked, my stepdad swooped me up and set me on his shoulders. I haven’t gone back to Yankee Stadium since.
So when I speak about the A-Rod PED case, I do so as a non-fan. As a person who has nothing to gain or lose from A-Rod’s professional ruin, but who would like to point out the case for what it truly is: hypocritical bullshi* in an effort to save a few bucks. The three issues I have – that we should ALL have – with the hoopla surrounding Rodriguez and his steroid use are:
- The constant, shrill, and fallacious demand for an “even playing ground” anywhere, when none exists in the natural world.
- The mantra that anything that enhances a person’s performance should be viewed as “cheating”; and MOST importantly…
- The blatant duplicity of his accusers – the MLB, the Yankees, and the fans themselves.
The truth is:
- There is no “even playing ground,” anywhere, at any time; and there never has been. In baseball as in life, some players are better than others; some are younger, stronger, more experienced, better trained, and/or better connected than others. So should we break a star runner’s leg so that he can be “the same” as the worst runner on the rival team? So that they can be “even”? Studies prove that attractive people are more successful in life than their unattractive counterparts; should beauty therefore be considered an “unfair advantage”? Should we, for example, ban surgically-enhanced candidates from applying for jobs because of their “unfair advantage”? Or just ban all attractive people from the labor pool, enhanced or not? And what of salaries? Not all players are paid the same, either. Is this an “unfair advantage”? Should they all be paid the same so that the guy at the bottom of the food chain can feel validated? And how would this “even playing field” affect the team, and the sport, as a whole? THE TRUTH IS that there is no even playing field anywhere and demanding one isn’t going to change this simple fact of life. No, life is not “fair”; deal with it.
- Advances in medicine and technology cannot be considered “cheating” in a modern world. Is Viagra “cheating”? Is Adderall? Most people would probably agree that advances in science are a good thing. To keep athletes from the benefits of these advances simply because not all athletes choose to, is lunacy. How can it be “cheating” if everyone has equal access to it? Besides, no PED can magically transform you into a better lover, a smarter student, or a star athlete; PEDs can only “enhance” a God-given talent. Alex Rodriguez was a star player even before his admitted steroid use from 2001 through 2003. Let’s keep in mind that in 1993, Rodriguez was the No 1 overall draft pick when he was scooped up by the Seattle Mariners (during his time with Seattle, Rodriguez produced 189 home runs). And in 1996, at just 20 years of age, Rodriguez emerges from Spring Training coming within three votes of winning MVP, with 38 homers, a .358 batting average, and a league-best 141 runs scored. THE TRUTH IS, Roids didn’t give him natural talent; he was born with that. Therefore, there is no “cheating” about it. However, there is A LOT of hypocrisy and double-standards about it, which brings me to my last point…
- Nobody questioned A-Rod’s performance when he was winning games and making money. Everybody loves a winner; nobody loves a loser. This is human nature, and rightly so. Folks with the ability to be more, do more, and accomplish more are those who most normal, healthy people gravitate towards. Winners and record breakers challenge us to “be” more, too; isn’t this inspiration why sports is such a big deal to begin with? In fact, isn’t this exactly what is expected from players that sign multi-million dollar contracts? In 2000, Alex Rodriguez signs a record-breaking $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers; by 2003, Rodriguez wins MVP and become the youngest player ever to hit 300 home runs. When Alex Rodriguez was breaking records and winning the World Series Championship years later, nobody questioned how he was doing it. He was a cash cow, and that’s all anybody cared about; as long as the money kept rolling in, he remained the darling of the MLB, the Yankees, and the fans. The questions and accusations didn’t start until after his performance began its slow descent from 2007 to 2012. THE TRUTH IS that suspending A-Rod would potentially save the Yankees $37.5 million in 2014 ALONE. THE TRUTH IS that this ‘scandal’ is all about the money, not about some marketed ‘integrity’ of the game; pull up your big boy pants and get over it. (read the facts in detail here):
It seems pretty obvious to me that the writing’s on the wall; eventually, even the sports world will have to join the rest of civilization and realize that as long as there are millions of dollars at stake, there will always be athletes willing to take a risk with PEDs in order to give their fans and their employers what they really want – the fastest, the strongest, the best. If the MLB continues to witch-hunt its star players after years of profiting from them as a means to renege on their contracts, they will open up an opportunity for a new kind of league to take over the baseball industry; one, perhaps, that allows every athlete to choose for themselves.
And I’m willing to bet that this new league will have a much greater following, because at the end of the day, human nature is what it is. And everybody loves a winner.