Friday, May 25, 2007

Some Things Never Change

“Good evening, everyone, I’m Jon Miller, and this is Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN. Tonight we’re ready to watch Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants break Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record. Some other players might also participate in the game.

“Joe Morgan is with me in the broadcast booth. Joe, what’s been the secret for Bonds to come back from injury and have such a successful year?”

“Well, Jon, this off season he had an experimental new surgery to remove all his arms and legs and replace them with robotic ones. It has really reduced the wear and tear on his body, and made his swing much more consistent.”

“What a great comeback story, Joe. Good for him. Of course, there has also been this controversy about steroids. For more on that, let’s go downstairs to Peter Gammons. Peter?”

“Thanks, Jon. Well, I just spoke with Barry Bonds and he told me he has never used steroids. Personally, I believe him, because if I didn’t, my life would have no meaning. Jon?”

“Great stuff, Peter, thanks.”

* * *

I probably should not mock our American Pastime. This is serious stuff. Most baseball fans find it sad and disturbing that modern players, with the aid of seedy, illegal substances, can erase the achievements of those who earned their legacies when the game was pure and wholesome.

For example, Babe Ruth did not have steroids. He also did not have fancy chartered jets to help him get to road games in distant cities. He had to walk up hill both ways, which limited the time he could spend at raging parties.

The Babe had fewer games in the schedule. A longer season means more chances to hit home runs. And the mound was higher in Ruth’s day, making it harder to see the ball, especially during a hangover.

In Ruth’s time, keeping yourself in game-shape meant only having two or three cigars in the dugout during the game.

And the pitchers in those days had silly names like “Hippo Vaughn” and “Burleigh Grimes” (both actual names), a clear distraction.

And, of course, Black players were not allowed into the Major Leagues for more than 70 years, meaning The Babe did not get to play against competition he most likely would have viewed as inferior.

Fast-forward to the 1970s. As Hank Aaron smashed is his final homers, it was common for players to rely on amphetamines and other drugs to get through the season, and teams wore horrifying uniforms with colors that can only be seen together in the depths of a municipal landfill.

By the 1990s, every big league ballplayer was on steroids, along with most of the bat boys. Owners and general managers could be seen in luxury boxes celebrating wins by openly injecting each other with Human Growth Hormone.

Make no mistake, the culture of baseball changed. But this is no excuse. Like the lone geezer tooling along at 65 on I-95 while legions of other drivers zoom by, Bonds should have risen above the norms and expectations of his era and played by the letter of a law that was never enforced or taken seriously.

Instead, he has tarnished our cherished national pastime. He deserves society’s eternal scorn.

Although those robotic limbs are pretty cool.

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