Saturday, March 7, 2009

The unpleasant truth needs an unpleasant spokesperson

I hate the War on Drugs. I don't hate it because it makes my life difficult; it doesn't. My favorite drugs are caffeine and alcohol, and there is no war on them. They are readily available and reasonably priced. I hate the cost to society, I hate the lies and I hate the clichés.

Lie #1 is also cliché #1, and that is the name War on Drugs. As Carver said on The Wire, "This isn't a war. Wars end." But if there is a cliché that war and the drug enforcement policies share, it is that the first casualty is the truth. No one tells you what's really going on, and the hypocrisy never ends.

Steroids are the drugs currently being demonized and grabbing the most headlines. Baseball completely ignored steroids for decades, allowing their use when almost every other sport had banned them. The sport was in the dumper after a work stoppage canceled the World Series, and one of the things that brought the fans back were the increased number of home runs. The favorite conspiracy at the time was that Major League Baseball had changed the ball to make it fly farther, something that actually had been done in the past. But this time, it wasn't the ball that was juiced, it was the players.

If I hate lies and hypocrisy, I should love Jose Canseco, but I don't. He has admitted taking steroids and named names of others taking steroids. Many have denied his accusations, but those people claiming their innocence have later been proven to be liars.

The reason I can't find any love for Canseco is that the steroid situation is serious and Canseco is a joke. Back in the 1980s, it looked like he could be one of the greatest players in the game. He was the first player ever to hit more than 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in a single season. Guys who have power and speed are the top of the heap in baseball. DiMaggio, Mantle, Mays, Aaron, Clemente, none of them hit 40 and stole 40 in the same season. But after several productive seasons in Oakland, Canseco was traded to the Texas Rangers and the slide from hero to laughingstock began. In the picture here, he misjudged a fly ball, it bounced off his head into the stands for a home run. In a blowout game with his team losing big, he talked his manager into letting him pitch. He injured his arm so severely, he needed surgery and missed the rest of the season.

If I were selecting an unpleasant person to tell the unpleasant truth about steroids, Barry Bonds would be my first choice. After proclaiming my hatred of clichés, I blush to quote Kris Kristofferson, but if "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose", Bonds isn't free. The feds want to make an example of him especially. Dave Zirin, the leftist sports writer, discusses the misplaced prosecutorial zeal the feds have about Bonds, and that their zeal is only matched by their incompetence. With the legal threats that face him, there is no way Bonds will say the things I'm about to write, but let me put some words in his mouth anyway.

Hi, I'm Barry Bonds. You probably hate me. Most of what you know about me you have heard from sportswriters, and they hate me, so I expect you feel the same.

Here's the truth. I'm a jerk. I have been for a long time. But you know what? A lot of sportswriters are jerks, too, and I've had to deal with those punks my whole life. If you see me at a microphone at a press conference, I promise you, I'm not the only jerk in that room, and it's unlikely I'm even the biggest jerk in that room.

Here's another truth. I was the best player in baseball during my career. I'm probably the best player of all time. Some may disagree with that, saying Babe Ruth or Ted Williams or even my godfather Willie Mays were better hitters than I was. I'm not saying they weren't great, I'm just saying I was better. Players got better over time. Training and nutrition and coaching got better, the talent pool expanded, and I was the best in that expanded pool. Day in and day out, I faced better pitchers than those guys did. Pitchers have a big advantage over hitters, but they didn't have an advantage over me. When I came to the plate, they were scared, and they had every right to be scared.

I used steroids. I didn't use them my entire career, not like Mark Mcgwire, that overrated hack. I used them to level the playing field. I knew I was better than Mcgwire and Sosa and all the other clowns grabbing headlines by hitting ridiculous numbers of homers, so I juiced up and showed the world what the best player in baseball was capable of if he did the same stuff the no-talent bums that surrounded him did.

73 home runs in one season. The highest slugging percentage in a season ever, beating Babe Ruth's record.

Any questions? Nah, I didn't think so.

Some people think a sport is dirty if a lot of people are getting caught cheating. Ooh, cycling is dirty. Baseball is dirty. But basketball and football are clean.

Seriously, grow up. They are all dirty. In every sport where you can make serious money other than stock car racing, people are using steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. A LOT of people.

There's this idiot notion that sports develop character. What a load of crap. As you climb the ladder in competitive sports, the so-called character issue is about how far you are willing to push your body, but the other side of the coin is how far are you willing to push the rules.

In any sport, the rules are written down. You can look them up if you want, but the real rules are the ones the referees and umpires actually enforce. The rest are useless nonsense.

You go to a baseball game, and groundskeepers make a special effort to draw the batter's box in chalk. The first batter will start trying to erase the batter's box so he can stand wherever the hell he wants. Does the umpire throw him out of the game, or tell him to stop? Hell, no. The batter's box is a rule, but it isn't enforced.

You go to football game, your team makes a big play, but there's a flag on the field. Offensive holding. That lineman just ruined things for your team, right? Wrong. He's doing his job. Some people say that holding could be called on every play if the refs enforced the rule rigidly. A lineman should do what he can to find out what is going to be allowed that day and what isn't. You don't want a guy getting flagged a lot, but if holding isn't called at least once against your team every game, either the linemen aren't doing their jobs or the refs are allowing anything and everything that game.

It's the same with performance enhancing drugs. There's that old saying that it's only cheating if you get caught, but what's really true is that it's only a rule if someone actually makes an effort to enforce it. Some sports are now making a show of enforcing rules against steroids, but even those are jokes. They'll stop steroids maybe, but it will be something else like human growth hormone or whatever else the chemists can come up with. As long as athletes get paid ridiculous amounts of money during their careers and next to nothing after, they will do whatever it takes. If you had the talent to get to where we are, you'd do the same.

So that's the truth. Get used to it. You still hate me? Whatever. I'm outta here.


Mathman6293 said...

When millions are at stake it's no surprise that "peds" are a problem. If the best math teachers made that kind of money and there were drugs to make you calculate better than the next guy I would be playing baseball.

Distributorcap said...

no secret - i HATE sports - for lotsa reasons (manny ramirez's agent -
"we only take serious offers" - 45 million of them, as millions lose their jobs - yes i get the market thing, but you dont have to rub it in people's faces)

as for steroids - here is my thought - they are ALL cheaters but baseball didnt ban them until (what year 04 05 06 - dont remember) - so if people were using them - tough nuggies. they were legit in the baseball world. bad, dirty, cheating, phony - yes, but not banned.

bonds - really bad guy. and a liar - they sent martha stewart to jail for lying, they should send bonds to jail. rodriguez - same thing. if he lied to the govt, he should go to jail

how do we fix it - there is ONLY one way and it will never happen - everyone must stop watching and going to games - that is the only way to fix this broken system. just like no one buys GM cars cause they suck, no one should go to baseball games because the players make too much money (market conditions allow for that, no tv contracts - no money) and treat the fans like necessary evils. b

but as long as this society treats sports like the be-all end-all of americana (most kids could care less about steroids in baseball, they say they do, but they continue to follow every single aspect of the game) - there will be barry bonds and alex rodriguezes and terrell owens and others like them that have an overwhelming sense of entitlement

i will reiterate
i hate sports

end of soap box

sfmike said...

I love sports, and I love your channeling of Barry as The Truthteller to the Lying Sportwriters.

I don't care if athletes take steroids. I care if cops (like those trigger-fingers on BART) are taking steroids. But do they get tested as a matter of course? Noooooo...

Matty Boy said...

Mathman: There are now "smart drugs", which actually do what gingko biloba and energy drinks have promised to do, but don't actually do. I haven't tried them, and I'm not sure I could afford them anyway.

D-Cap: Don't sugar coat it, buddy. Tell us how you really feel.

sfmike: Thanks for the kind words. Good point about the cops and shootings. The guy who made the movie Bigger, Stronger, Faster isn't sure about 'roid rage being real, and prefers the Bigger Asshole theory, which says if an asshole takes steroids, he becomes a physically bigger asshole and therefore people notice his asshole like tendencies (Assholery? Assholishness?) more.

Regarding the BART shooting, it happened at 2am on New Year's Day. I wish someone on that platform had the authority to give breathalyzer tests to all concerned parties at the scene.

As a current blockbuster asks, who watches the watchmen?