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 …