Only Baseball Matters
…. Backtalk

Let’s see now. Knowledge and facts. Steroids are illegal. Or as Dr. Mauro Di Pasquale points out, depending on one’s point of view, hormones. Viable medical studies by experts indicate that steroids cause little, if any harm when not mis-used. They are actually beneficial to overall health. “Roid rage” occurs in people with anger and other psychological issues because steroids increase energy levels.

Alzaedo died from a brain tumor, but it had nothing to do with steroids–never mind that his lifestyle with fraught with risks as was Ken Caminitti’s and all the others apparently, whose premature deaths were blamed on steroids.

Current medical studies with steroids and stem cell research at acclaimed universities are underway. There is great promise that the big breakthrough in preventing/curing the Big “C” that has so many people frightened to death is just around the corner.

Yet they are illegal. Seems to me, this country has been down this path before–It was called the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. It went into effect on January 16, 1920 and was repealed by another amendment to the Constitution, the 21st on December 5, 1933.

During that time period, one George Herman Ruth set the single-season record for home runs; 60. The vast majority of his 714 career home runs were hit during that time frame. It is also well documented that Mr. Ruth, and many other baseball players imbibed from time to time in such controlled substances as prohibited by the Constitution of the United States during this time period. Mr. Ruth died prematurely of cancer in August of 1948. Babe Ruth was, still is, and deserves to be; a larger than life baseball hero.

But unlike today, in Ruth’s time there were no congressional hearings. There were no media outcries that Mr. Ruth deprived the NY Yankees of his substantial talents by indulging in illegal drugs. There were no accusations of cheating. There were no federal grand juries convened. There were no daily headlines implying that Ruth was defiling the game of baseball and leading children to hell in a hand basket. No New York opinion writers demanding his banishment from baseball. There was no hue and cry by sports writers, or any other “subset” of memorabilia collectors, stat freaks or former owners/players turned president/congressmen to prevent Ruth’s induction into the Hall of Fame.

It is also documented that the misuse of alcohol is a leading cause of violence, heart disease, cancer, organ failure, and insanity not to mention destruction of property, death by auto, and other forms of abnormal behavior, not the least of which is rendering Major League Baseball players senseless in strange hotel rooms, night clubs, and other public and private places. None of these can be reasonably connected to the proper use of steroids.

So why all the fuss over Bonds?

“There’s a whole subset of the industry that’s very devoted to the record books,” says Rodney Fort, Washington State University professor of economics and author of Pay Dirt: The Business of Professional Team Sports. “These are everyone from the people who make baseball cards to the journalists who cover baseball. They believe you can’t argue about who’s the best batter ever if some of the best batters were on steroids. They’re a subset, but they’re an impactful and vocal subset, and when it came to steroids, they were almost unanimously against.”

Well, okay. I can understand that. Reasonable people disagree all the time about issues that are complex and nuanced. And if one has a financial interested in existing records, than the disagreement can escalate.

But what boggles the mind is the pure wild-eyed unadulterated hate directed at Bonds by media, politicians, and so-called fans. Nightly since the season started, Bonds is verbally assaulted by shrieking men, women, and children in the most venomous way–many under the influence of alcohol. I look at these people as the cameras pan across the crowd and cannot help but be reminded of the 7th century whackazoids that run the streets of the Middle East demanding retribution, and death to infidels.

So lets compare and contrast:

Ruth took performance debilitating drugs.

Bonds is alleged to have taken performance enhancing drugs.

Neither Ruth nor Bonds is alleged to have been the sole indulgents. On the contrary, the widespread use of steroids is used as an indictment against Bonds: “He looks just like all the other users,” and an excuse for Ruth: “Everybody drank during prohibition.”

Both substances were illegal during each player’s respective careers. Neither substance was against the rules of baseball at the time. Ruth is confirmed to have indulged in illegal controlled substances. Bonds has not. And Bonds neither drinks, nor uses tobacco — his health regimen is well known. Alcohol has wreaked more havoc on American Society than any other chemical known to mankind outside of tobacco, another now legal drug. Steroids actually have many medical benefits and are one of the many weapons modern medicine is using to prevent and combat many debilitating diseases.

Even under worst case scenarios, any rational person could/should at best decry the use both. So where does the hatred come from?

The only differences between Ruth and Bonds that I can see are these.

1. Ruth had no “subset” of vested interests to contend with, thus no organized opposition to his use of drugs.

2. 21st Century America Life is frantically paced compared to the 1920′s. Society is slammed in the face on a daily basis with changes so rapid that it spins ones eyes to just try and keep up. It is all too much to bear sometimes. Baseball affords its fans and the country in general the opportunity to reflect that some things in life do not change. There are constants. That there is stability in an unstable world. That there is a place for green grass, sunshine and the little kid in all of us.

Change threatens all that we hold dear sometimes. Jackie Robinson represented change. Roger Maris represented change. Henry Aaron represented change. Divisional Playoffs, The Giants and Dodgers move out West, expansion were all changes from the pastoral norm of baseball, and all were decried as bad for baseball from one source or another. Looking back now, time has passed and there is context. None of that change seems bad now.

3. That still doesn’t explain the rabid vitriol coming at Bonds. Most in the media hate Bonds for whatever reason or reasons. The media hatred has given cover to closet racists, who pump up the volume on the vitriol. They are to be sure a minority of the spiteful, but the color-blind rest of the haters have given them cover.

So do not dismiss lightly the term lynch-mob. Bonds’ life is threatened on a daily basis. The SF Giants, sports-writers and Bonds’ family are being innundated with racist hate-mail. The difference between Aaron’s time and Bonds’ time is that the media spoke up for Aaron and decried the racism. This time MLB and the media are in denial.

+mia -special to OBM-

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All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
None of the opinions expressed should be construed as being endorsed by the
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