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if gomer pyle can forgive lance armstrong, so can we

I DON’T HAVE MUCH TO SAY about the world of sports these days. I used to be a big major league base­ball fan—I still have enough books to fill a good-sized shelf. And I mean the real base­ball books: Bill James, Marvin Miller, and other in­sider ac­counts con­cen­trating on the pol­i­tics and re­al­i­ties of the game in­stead of the ro­mance.

I have sev­eral books on the eco­nomics of the game (most of which lead me to con­clude that the MLB owners are a hundred-year-old ar­gu­ment against al­most any form of un­reg­u­lated cap­i­talism).

But when the ‘modern’ (cheap shot) home run en­tered the game in the early ‘90s, my faith was sorely tested. I re­member watching a weak-hitting shortstop—I want to say Walt Weiss, who hit all of 25 homers in more than 5,000 plate appearances—swing at a pitch low and out­side, the type of pitch that when hit usu­ally ended up in the glove of the second baseman be­fore the hitter was a few feet down the line. In this case, the off-balanced batter lofted the ball into the upper deck of right field, making my jaw drop to the floor.

 

My ob­ser­va­tion is not a pop­ular opinion right now, but I have to ac­knowl­edge my own per­sonal, sordid his­tory.

 

I watched hit after hit that would have been a deep fly-out a few years find their way not into the gloves of a waiting out­fielder, but over the wall and into the hands of an eager fan. This cul­mi­nated in the 1998 race be­tween Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire for a record that ceased to have any meaning to me midway through the season.

What was going on?

I could guess: The parks were smaller.

Of course, the players were bigger.

But that didn’t seem enough. I as­sumed the ball had been ‘juiced’ a wee bit, and that some new drugs were in play. Ac­cording to all the in­ves­ti­ga­tors, the balls were un­mo­lested by their Costa Rican yarn-winders.

But many ob­servers sus­pected then what everyone knows now: performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs, al­though sub­stances might better fit than drugs) were being used by many players. Then I re­al­ized that many pitchers were also using PEDs, hence the strikeouts—we have had sev­en­teen straight years of more than 30,000 Ks per season­, an un­think­able number when I was a kid!—and the pro­longed ca­reers of many of the best hurlers.

(If Roger Clemons comes to mind … Bingo!)

And so it’s the use of drugs in base­ball and other sports I want to ad­dress with one small ob­ser­va­tion (even though I’ve blath­ered on for 431 words al­ready). It’s not an ob­ser­va­tion that I would have made ten years go, but it is one based on the re­al­i­ties of the world in which I live and a re­al­iza­tion of, hey, you know I have been there, too.

And my ob­ser­va­tion is NOT a pop­ular opinion right now, but I have to ac­knowl­edge my own per­sonal (and some­times sordid) his­tory when I say: Can we not for­give Lance Arm­strong?

To quote Gomer Pyle, I think it’s ter­rible ter­rible ter­rible how everyone—even sup­pos­edly loyal fans—have treated poor Lance Arm­strong. Look at what the man achieved: He won the Tour de France a record seven con­sec­u­tive times be­tween 1999 and 2005! That’s a twenty-one (21) day-long seg­ments cov­ering 3,500 km (or 2,200 miles) and all the while he was on drugs!

Wholly Grom­mett! That is one hell of an ac­com­plish­ment. When I was on drugs I back in the ’70s, couldn’t even find my damn bi­cycle let alone ride it …

 

 

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