By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) Are you ready for some good ol’ public flogging and moral superiority that results essentially in nothing but another baseball dry hump?
Reports are that Major League Baseball has informed the players’ union who will be placed in the pillories and stocks this year, and we can expect suspensions related to the Biogenesis hullabaloo any minute now.
And it is a hullabaloo, not a scandal as so many are calling it and as it’s been historically solidified Wikipedially. Scandals are supposed to serve as cautionary tales, to shock the rest of us into ensuring something like it never happens again. Jerry Sandusky and Penn State. Dave Bliss and the murder of Patrick Dennehy. Calling up Carlos Marmol. Those are scandals.
Biogenesis is just another in a line of cases that aren’t going to end. Baseball just so happened to find a nest of pretty big mice this time instead of just one or two randoms a year scurrying across the kitchen floor. But to expect that this is the death knell for PED use by professional ballplayers is ludicrous. Especially when baseball decided years back to build its own house out of cheese.
The game promoted for years FrankenSosas and RoboBonds, all the while knowing that something about them just wasn’t right. Expanded cap sizes, acne, making guest appearances mornings in the 1990s on ESPN 2 doing the Farmer’s Walk and pulling airplanes with their teeth—you know, red flags.
Sure, it was Nike’s campaign (and an awesome one at that), but there was certainly some quiet, satisfactory head-nodding at “Chicks Dig the Long Ball” ads and the catchphrase they spawned by then-brass of a league looking to bring back fans who had left due to the recent strike. Atop that brass was the guy who now pretends he’s history’s greatest hall monitor, Bud Selig.
So a bunch of guys will cop plea deals and be gone the rest of the season, except for maybe Alex Rodriguez who will fight baseball, maybe lose, but in the end make MLB look the worse for it. Pundits will do some hand-wringing for about forty-eight hours before America’s collective attention span moves on to the next big news to come out of SEC football. And you won’t shun any of those suspended ballplayers, especially not if they play for your favorite team. You’re lying if you say otherwise.
Admit it: you’re not so much angry that these players or the ones in the past or the ones in the future who got/get popped for chemically enhancing themselves a la every generation of baseball doing whatever it can to gain an edge for shaming America’s pastime as you are that your entertainment is being inconvenienced. Either a player on your favorite team is made to go away or you at least have to be subject to media once again emphasizing that sports aren’t perfect, that our outlet for escape from reality actually has a lot of icky reality in it.
If it’s the former, it’s like one of your children doing something bad that you take as a poor reflection on you initially until the repetition of it wears you down to an emotional state somewhere between apathy and just hoping for the best.
It was like the first few times I was caught by my parents for smoking cigarettes as a teen. I was punished. Over and over. Hadn’t they raised me right? How could I do this to them? And after a dozen or so times it finally became “Ah, screw it. He smokes.”
Milwaukee fans will accept the imperfection in their fanhood and still cheer Ryan Braun next year, and other than him being a dbag, I won’t begrudge the fans any of it. Listen to the Cleveland Indians TV and radio calls of noted PED user Jason Giambi’s walkoff homer from Monday night. Both mention how beloved and popular he is. Because he still hits the baseball far, and that’s all that matters.
If it’s the latter, that you’ve had the fantasy tainted, and you’re aghast and all Helen Lovejoy about it, well, you’re just too naïve to be rightly jaded. That was me back in the day with the McGwire and Sosa stuff. I resisted finding out Santa wasn’t real. I still clung to some shred of the game’s decency until Rodriguez’s admission in 2009 to using banned substances. Santa had a final bullet put through him then. That doesn’t stop me from celebrating Christmas, just as steroids haven’t stopped me from watching and enjoying baseball.
And as I still celebrate Christmas, I’m still aware of its pitfalls and that they won’t change. The gift giving will still be awkward, items will be returned, relatives having had too much to drink will fight, somebody will make a racist joke, etc. It will be like that five years from now. And so will baseball with illegal things in players’ bodies.
At least it will be so until some massive changes in the way PED use is treated. These suspensions don’t scare anybody because they know that for the most part they will still get paid. Checks have been cashed already, and for the most part even suspended guys will still get the remainder of their deals. The Toronto Blue Jays signed Melky Cabrera for $16 million mere months after he was caught using, less than what he’d have received without being caught, but not exactly a harsh tale to future users.
Part of me would be fine with a zero tolerance, lifetime suspension policy for first-time users, but that creates so much gray area and legal issues that it hardly seems feasible. Do you go retroactive with past users? What if we know that guys are abusing technically legal Adderall prescriptions? And, really, it’s not as if we’re dealing with illiterate, criminally-underpaid rubes that deserve an afterlife of shame here.
Or maybe make it a free for all. Use whatever the hell you want, and no substance in your body is illegal. Make it a full-blown freak show we pretend we aren’t already seeing, covered in a dumb cloak of faux honor. You know, like the Olympics. When cheating becomes the norm, is it really cheating anymore anyway? A baseball drug orgy really wouldn’t bother me, but it’s not likely to happen.
But Biogenesis teaches us almost nothing. Players will get caught next year and the years after that the way baseball has created its own monster. One thing we do learn is to not leave a paper trail at all. Other guys not named in this round of public beatings are using because chemists for profit will always be ahead of chemists for justice. They just didn’t have their stuff documented that we know of.
And so once again we’re supposed to shake our heads at the kids who got caught smoking, notice again that the beard on the mall Santa is loose. Whatever. Nothing changes. This doesn’t drive viewers away. Hasn’t really in almost a century. Even in the days of baseball’s Mt. Rushmore figures, fans dug the long ball over all else.
Charles Alexander wrote in his biography of Ty Cobb, baseball purist who despised Babe Ruth’s game, “The Detroit fans […] gave Ruth ‘the welcome due a conquering hero. He got applause, the shrieking adoration of the multitude, in Cobb’s own city. Cobb, standing aside, could feel deeply how fickle the adoration of the sport-loving public is. He saw before him a new king acclaimed…’ Real students of the game preferred Cobb, acknowledged New York manager Miller Huggins. Those were the people ‘who could fully understand and appreciate his finesse.’ Ruth, on the other hand, was for everybody. ‘They all flock to him,’ said Huggins, because nowadays the American public ‘likes the fellow who carries the wallop.’”
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa before earning his degree from Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @TimBaffoe , but please don’t follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago’s Beverly To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.