No, I don't mean priests. I mean Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, those guys. As in Performance Enhancing Drugs.
Manny just got caught using and was suspended for 50 days. He wasn't using a steroid, but another type of banned substance. Rumor has it, he was using it for ED - a whole other type of performance enhancement.
This has made my father very happy. He's a Boston Red Sox fan and in his eyes, and the eyes of many Red Sox fanatics, Manny can do no right ever since he did the Red Sox wrong.
Now if you read my last blog entry, you know that I love baseball. I am a lifelong Dodgers fan. And as such, I have been very excited to see the impact that Manny Ramirez has had on my team. And I am disappointed by his suspension, but not devastated. I think the Dodgers have a good team without Manny (a better defensive team even.) But still, all the commotion around a flamboyant future Hall of Famer on the team was a lot of fun. And the man can HIT.
But, it is very rare that a 37 year old can hit as well as Manny does. So rare, that it's sort of suspicious when they can.
But you know what? And here's where I'm about to get into big trouble with my father and most of the other sports fans I know. I don't give a damn if Manny or any other athlete takes PEDs.
And a whole lot of fans out there, if they were honest with themselves, would agree with me.
Baseball players aren't curing cancer. Basketball stars aren't bringing peace to the Middle East. Football is not one of these new "green" industries. Sports, no matter how much money is involved, no matter how many people take them seriously, no matter how many inspirational stories emerge, is a business and a game.
Sports is a form of entertainment. And what the consumer most wants from sports is to be entertained, thrilled, excited. What the owners of sports franchises, TV and radio networks, merchandising manufacturers and sellers, memorabilia dealers, most want from sports is to make money.
And you know what, PEDs give everyone what they really want. They make superstars even more super, and for longer. They make average players just enough better that they improve their supporting role abilities. And that makes the level of play better. And in turn that makes bigger, happier, more excitable crowds watching games. And that makes everyone who turns a buck out of sports happier, from the owner of the NY Yankees and the CEO of ESPN, to the guy with a heavy box of hot dogs slung around his neck at a minor league ballpark.
The fact of the matter is that PEDs do lead to farther homeruns, faster fastballs and feminine breast development in men. And that's what most of the crowds want to see. And what the sales and marketing people want to promote. (Okay, maybe not the breasts so much.)
I prefer little ball - lots of singles and sacrifices and squeeze plays and tense moments, and intelligent pitching - the sorts of things that steroids don't enhance. I prefer Ichiro Suzuki to Barry Bonds; Greg Maddox to Roger Clemens. (Some of you might not know what that means, but take it from me, I just told you a whole lot about my baseball preferences.) I'm in the minority, apparently.
I know the objections:
What about the kids? Athletes who take steroids set a bad example.
So what? So do people in every other walk of life. Why should sports be any different? It's up to kids parents and teachers to point out who's a good example and who's a bad example and to make a convincing case for it. (Okay, so maybe athletes who use PEDs ought to have to say so, to help parents and teachers figure out who's who. And maybe, like booze, they should be restricted to people over a minimum age.)
What about the athletes? It's bad for their health.
They're adults, after a fashion. (A lot of them suffer bad cases of arrested development.) Like all adults they're already entitled to engage in a fairly broad range of self-destructive behavior. As a matter of fact, I'm in favor of legalizing all self-destructive behavior, so long as it remains SELF-destructive; from steroids to heroin, ED PEDs to autoerotic asphyxiation.
It's only cheating when some athletes have the opportunity to do it and others don't. Sure, plenty of smart athletes don't want to take PEDs because they aren't good for their health. Some athletes lift weights, others don't. Some go on special diets, others don't.
Besides, sports is about tradition, among other things, and doping to enhance performance is a long standing tradition. Athletes used various herbal concoctions for thousands of years. In the early 20th Century they used cocaine, then amphetamines, all sorts of stuff. Chewing tobacco has long been popular, in part because it helps to calm the nerves. There are people who swear by acupuncture. What's going to happen when ballplayers start sticking needles in themselves in the dugout between innings?
And new PEDs are being invented all the time. And as fast as anyone comes up with tests to find them in blood or urine, lab rats come up with new ones that can't be tested for. There's a whole lot of money in it, just like there is in anything that's illegal but people want. And athletes, as well paid as many of the professional ones are, can afford it. If PEDs were legal, even some of the ones making the Major League Baseball minimum - currently, a "miserly" $400,000 a year - could afford them.
Sports, like all forms of entertainment, panders to its public. There's a reason why so many moronic, mega-budget blockbusters show up on movie screens in the summer (and throughout the whole year, really.) That's what puts the butts in the seats.
If everyone liked the kind of baseball that I do, and no one gave a damn about the idiotic homerun derbys, ballplayers wouldn't be as interested in PEDs. But most people prefer the kind of baseball, and other sports, that PEDs help to make bigger, stronger, faster, harder, farther - and in their minds, better. So why shouldn't the pros be allowed to do whatever they can to give it to them?