NO PLACE FOR CHEATS IN PRO SPORTS

Imagine, being a Christian and then learning that Jesus was a thief. Or that Celine Dion never really sings, she lip syncs.

This isn’t quite that drastic, but I’m crushed nonetheless. One of my sports idols has fallen from the pedestal. It’s not an easy feeling to have admired a person for so long, and then learn he or she isn’t worthy. It’s no different than having trusted a good friend only to learn that trust has been violated.

It doesn’t matter if it’s sports, music or acting, we human beings admire, and often idolize those who excel over others in their field because, well, they deserve it. Deniro, Streep, Heifetz, Pavarotti, Ruth, Woods, are all names that are instantly recognized and associated with greatness in their respective fields, because they deserve it. That’s the operative word: Deserve.

The best athletes excel over others because of two salient factors: Talent and hard work. The premise is that all competitors start out on an even playing field, and only the best rise to the top.

There is no room for a third factor: Cheating.

When the Mitchell report was released this past Thursday, naming more than eighty baseball cheaters that used drugs to enhance their physical prowess, I expected to hear about Barry Bonds, and Jason Giambi, and others that we already knew about. Then came the crushing news. Roger Clemens, arguably the greatest pitcher of the modern era, winner of 354 games, second all time in strikeouts, and so many more achievements worthy of immortality, will never see his name embossed on a plaque in the Hall of Fame, because he was a cheat.

Pete Rose, who holds the all-time record for most hits in a lifetime of playing the game, has been barred from baseball and never inducted into the revered Hall. Rose may have committed a moral infraction by gambling, but his records are intact. Every hit was legitimate. He never cheated.

I had been a baseball fanatic all my life until the strike of 1994, when I watched millionaire players whine and weep behind union leadership claiming their salaries and benefits were not good enough. Tom Glavine, who then earned four million dollars a year for throwing a ball, led the union into a strike that not only ended the 1994 season, it put thousands of merchants out of their sources of income, including vendors, restaurants, taxi drivers, hot dog sellers, and more. That’s when I stopped watching baseball.

Baseball was in the pits until 1998 when renewed excitement injected the game with a barrage of homers by the likes of Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire. In the entire 130-year history of the game, the magic mark of 60 homers were achieved in only two times, and suddenly, two players did it in one year. Others were smacking over 50. Amazing. McGuire’s 70 round-trippers brought me back as a fan. He was my new sports hero. By the way, that same year a better-than-average player named Barry Bonds hit a mere 37 home runs.

Not to be outdone, Mr. Bonds suddenly bulked up like the Incredible Hulk and three years later, slammed 73 home runs.

Now that the Mitchell report is official, we learn that the players — by the dozens — have stuck it to us once again. We fans are the victims of cheaters.

It can’t be attributed to greed, these guys make more money than the average human being could ever dream of. It can’t be the quest for fame, they already have it. It can only be, the almighty ego — that powerful drive to be seen as the best, even if they are not.

Having been a team member for many years, that is — a police officer in a team of 3500 cops, I came to learn that some officers (though very few) are able to get away with improper conduct only because their bosses enable them or look the other way. Police officers who tend to be physically abusive are usually known to the sergeants and lieutenants they work for. The camaraderie is too tight for the higher echelon to claim ignorance. If Jason Giambi, Mark McGuire and Barry Bonds were using steroids with the help of trainers, there is no doubt in my mind the likes of Joe Torres, Tony LaRussa and Dusty Baker had knowledge, or even consent.

The shame is that players like McGuire and Bonds were destined for the Hall of Fame based on their outstanding records before they ever took the first drug. But that wasn’t good enough. They needed to be seen as better than Babe Ruth. That will never happen.

Marion Jones was recently stripped of her Olympic medals after it was learned that she used performance enhancing drugs to beat her opponents. Likewise, sprinter Ben Johnson of Canada was stripped of his records set in 1988.

Every baseball record that was set by steroid users starting in 1998, should be stricken from the record books.

Induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame? If it’s no place for gamblers, it’s certainly no place for cheaters.

10 Responses to NO PLACE FOR CHEATS IN PRO SPORTS

  1. Pete Forrest December 14, 2007 at 7:14 am #

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I was turned off by professional sports long ago. If you would like to read an apology by one of the early users, read “Juiced” by Jose Canseco. He names names including Barry Bonds and brought out into the open the steroids use by atheletes five years ago. His summation is a defense of steroids use when used carefully and properly by those willing to take the risk. It’s the old “it’s my body, I’ll do what I want with it” defense.

    Never mind that atheletes hold a privilged place in society and provide role models to youth.

  2. Pete Forrest December 14, 2007 at 7:16 am #

    Right on, Marshall.

  3. RBC December 14, 2007 at 9:48 am #

    Marshall,
    I couldn’t agree with you more. We, as a society, are partially to blame by placing athletes on pedestals and giving them special privileges from the day they throw the first ball or shoot their first basket. Your term “Deserve” is key here. Do they deserve all of this acclaim? Of course not. But whether they deserve or not is only part of the problem. In my mind a more critical issue is what our response (to this problem) will say to our children and our grandchildren. I fear that nothing is going to change the status quo and the children and grand children will read this as an OK to do what feels good and works even when it isn’t legal or healthy. Millionaire owners and those in their organizations wouldn’t have appointed a senator to investigate the problem if they really wanted to change things. I think US Senators and other politicians are use to doing nothing and this has become a way of life with them, but this is another story. I am waiting to see what happens and some of the articles I have read in the newspapers by sports writers seems to be leaning for a way to do nothing and as one writer says, forgive them. Forgiveness is what we as Christians are supposed to do, so, OK, I forgive them—as soon as they are kicked out of baseball or their sport of choice.

  4. JJS December 14, 2007 at 9:58 am #

    Sorry Marsh, this is a waste of time. Its baseball, the most boring spectator sport ever created. Who cares? George Mitchell is a has been windbag. “Cheaters?” You can’t be serious. This is bubblegum compared to iraq, handing our treasury over to Cheney’s company Halliburton, allowing W to ignore the bill of rights, and a congress which has no spine or balls.

  5. saverio December 14, 2007 at 10:07 am #

    LI-Q-I was turned off to baseball in ’94
    LI-Q-I was turned on for McGuire etc
    LI-Q-I was totally disappointed in Clemens.
    Someone once said “They’re stinking up the place.” I think the stink now will smell sweet compared to what it will be in the near future.
    Saverio

  6. Siobhan M. December 14, 2007 at 11:35 am #

    I believe Disreali said “The search for truth is more precious than it’s possession.”

    The real juice is all in the journey – not the outcome.

    Apparently, Machiavelli lives on.

  7. Renay December 14, 2007 at 12:24 pm #

    Correction……
    No place for cheats in ANY sports

  8. Sharon C December 14, 2007 at 2:33 pm #

    This is a worthwhile discussion, not just because of the integrity of the game for which the athletes are paid exorbitant sums but these are guys that our kids look up to. There are many young men now who dream about being the next Roger Clemens (or whoever) and now hear that their idol’s athletic prowess is pharmaceutically enhanced could entice them to consider this dangerous option. We’ve already heard of the tragedies of what steroids do to certain athletes, like the murder-suicide of the wrestler of recent news. Steriods affect not just the consumer, but their loved ones. The offending athletes should be punished to make a proper example and to clean up an already-blemished sport. We all need to “Say it ain’t so” here.

  9. Grace Urrows December 15, 2007 at 2:52 pm #

    I enjoy watching the game, cheering for my team, eating the hot dogs and drinking the beer. But I have no heroes in sports or any other field, so the report hasn’t hit me hard. It just makes me think I would like to take some of these drugs and be more physically powerful than I am. Anybody know a local dealer?

  10. Buzzy Robinson December 26, 2007 at 2:54 pm #

    This matter is symptomatic with our society today. To be succesful doesn’t require anything but short cuts and who you step on to gain recognition. Baseball was a part of my family as my grandfather played for the Philidelphia Athletics 1917-1922. He played the game with the God given abilities he possesed. The best year he ever had pay wise was $750. Then he worked as a mechanic in the off season in North Carolina. Success in my humble opinion is where knowledge, common sense, and training meet with opportunity. These ego driven ethics are doomed to failure and a lose of credibility in any envirnment sports or even our beloved law enforcement carriers. None of those associated with steroids should ever be admitted into the hall of fame making it a hall of shame.