The Other Side of Anger

When I was a kid, my dream was to dig a tunnel in my backyard and wind up in Disney World. I really thought I could do it, too. I’d get Gary Miller and Dennis Gargano and John Ballerini to come over with their shovels, and we’d dig and dig and dig until reaching the Magic Kingdom. Boy, that would have kicked butt.

When I was a kid, I also saw ballplayers as heroes. I never thought about marital infidelity or drugs or even cursing, spitting, missed curfews. Garry Templeton was the switch hitter with the cool ‘fro. Ken Griffey (he wasn’t known as “Senior” back then) made these insane leaping grabs in the Yankee Stadium outfield. J.R. Richard threw 100-mph bullets, Rod Carew slapped the ball to all fields, Tim Foli wore cool glasses, Gary Carter sported a curly brown mane, Ron LeFlore could burn rubber and Steve Garvey was Mr. Wonderful. These were my idols, and all I wanted was to one day be exactly like them.

Which leads me to a point I’ve been thinking about for much of today. Of the, oh, 30 e-mails I’ve received about my recent Alex Rodriguez postings, 90 percent have been negative. I’m too hard on ARod or too haughty when it comes to ARod. Everyone makes mistakes, what’s the big deal, you’re jealous, who really cares, they all do it, you’re nobody to judge, where were you in 2001, etc … etc. In short, get off your high horse, you wanna-be geek writer.

To be honest, I’m not even quite sure how to reply. On the one hand, a huge part of me wants to stop addressing this stuff. Many of you are 100-percent correct—I tend to dwell on the negative, where there’s the freshness of a new season to write about. And, just like my boyhood, perhaps we’re better off simply not knowing what our heroes do behind closed doors. Does ARod’s steroid usage impact world peace, or global economics, or the homeless problem? Clearly not.

Yet, as I sit here before my laptop, admittedly sounding as self-righteous as ever, I just can’t do it. By luck or destiny or fate, I cover sports. I’ve done so for 15 years, largely out of a love for the games people play and the characters who play them. It’s a fantastic way to make a living, and I count my blessings quite often. But there’s something about this widespread cheating (and it is, undeniably, cheating) that drives me to drink. In my six years of covering major league baseball for Sports Illustrated, I was led to believe I was seeing a lot of amazing things. Faster-than-ever fastballs; deeper-than-ever homers; arms that acted as cannons, and jumps that rivaled Mike Powell’s best. In hindsight, however, I’ve learned that much of it was fiction. I was, in a sense, covering the WWF. Why does this bother me? Because I have always been a lover of baseball’s history; of the very idea that Mickey Mantle and Bernie Williams stood in the exact same spot; that Rickey Henderson’s stolen bases, Lou Brock’s stolen bases and Ty Cobb’s stolen bases can be measured on the same chart. Yes, things have changed over the years: Stadium sizes, ball textures, integration, internationalism. But baseball is baseball is baseball is baseball.

Hence, to see someone like Barry Bonds or Alex Rodriguez come along and show such blatant disrespect for the history of the game, well, it infuriates me. I’ve written this before, but if you’re Barry Bonds, how do you possibly justify breaking Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record while loaded with steroids and HGH? You know the man faced bitter racism in his pursuit; know he received death threats on more than one occasion. So how do you cheat? How? Or, in a similar case, you’re Mark McGwire. You’ve been juicing regularly, and when you pass Roger Maris’ single-season mark you rub your bat against his and begin to cry. How? How? Roger Maris’ 1961 was, from an individual standpoint, a nightmare. The media rooted against him; he began losing his hair and chain smoking. It was pure hell—and you come along, cheat and claim the title as your own? How?

So, yes, I am self-righteous, and I need to move on, and my high horse is on stilts by now. But I just can’t shed this anger. I probably need to, but I can’t. Not yet anyhow.

That’s my sincere explanation.


13 thoughts on “The Other Side of Anger”

  1. Jeff, you have every right to complain, criticize, feel disappointed, cheated, angry. You are a sports writer, a fan and someone who analyzes things to the very last bone. lol Write on my friend. Let it out. Thats why you have your own blogging page!

  2. Jeff,

    I feel you.

    I agree with you.

    And I don’t think you should feel bad for clinging to this issue when so many in our drive-by, disposable, 20-minute news cycle country have already forgotten about it.

    I’m 28 and part of the generation (they say) that doesn’t understand hard work, loyalty, or the impact of doing the right thing. We don’t ask what we can do for others; we ask what others can do for us.

    Part of this attitude involves not really CARING, and that’s sad.

    You care. It shows.

    Suck eggs, everyone else.

  3. Hey, DSFC, you can name-call Selena Roberts all you want, but her reporting on A-Rod has proven to be true so far. Even A-Rod himself admits it.

  4. DSFC has it exactly right. If you think your ‘heroes’ were clean, you’re an idiot. Hank Aaron is a self-admitted user of amphetamines! I cannot seriously believe people don’t understand this. Maybe in 20 years the morons of today will either be dead or have finally gained the needed perspective to see this reaction as nothing more than pure hyperbole, hypocrisy, and ignorance. You fell out of love with baseball because of your bullshit moral high horse and generally negative attitude. It’s no one’s fault but you’re own that you’re upset.

  5. Hank Aaron may have been a self-admitted user of amphetamines but if you think speed use translates into home run power like HGH and roids do you are delusional. Players did speed to keep up with the grind, like college students using No-Doz. Do you think No-Doz really helps cognitive ability? HGH is a completely different matter. It directly translates into more power, look at people like Bret Boone. Its good that people are willing to be angry. If more angry players had spoken out like Pearlman is here we wouldn’t be in this situation. Great Blog, thanks for writing.

  6. Perhaps it’s time to require people that invoke the “steroids and HGH help more than amphetamines” post a link to a scientific article proving their assertion. Then, no problem. So far, all I’ve heard is the media expressing lots of phony outrage, and a reinforcement of the old stereotypes. Anyone who dares to question their effect is tarred and feathered, so to speak. Well, if you’re so sure, then show me. And don’t you dare linking to an article by some ESPN journalist. Science exists for a reason.

  7. Ballplayers have been taking all kinds of things as long as there has been baseball. Booze, nicotine, grass, LSD, speed, etc. And I’ll refrain from getting into the personalities of ballplayers, suffice it to say that the individual with the most career hits once left a game to pummel a handicapped fan. His record was later broken by someone who earned them self a lifetime ban from baseball. It’s not hard to see that baseballers aren’t the most distinguished people.

    But Steroids is different. While I can’t condone any of the chemicals or behaviors mentioned above, steroids—both chemically and physically—alter the body to provide a significant advantage. I fail to see how users can be innocent in any respect. They either knew what they were doing and are lying, cheating scum, or didn’t fully understand the situation and are even dumber than we could have imagined. And I imagined they were pretty dumb to begin with.

    They cheated. They knew they were cheating. And they still cheated. If I conducted such behavior where I work I would have been fired years ago. Now we compare them to people like Jackie Robinson? C’mon! (Not only should they not be allowed in the Hall of Fame, but I wouldn’t let them in the sports department of a Wal-Mart.) I see no reason to throw the book at them, change commissioners, and move on from this whole mess.

  8. I understand your anger and have no problem with your feelings on the use of PEDs. I think what bothers me is trying to compare what is happening today to some sort of idealized version of the past…there has never been a time in the history of baseball that can be considered “clean” or “pure”. Between the rampant use of cocaine in the 80s, greenies in the 70s, and the shameful time in baseball prior to 1947, its pretty frustrating to have the self-righteous media try to tell fans what awful things the current players have done to the game.

    And, again, if what has happened with PEDs has made you this angry, so be it. But you have decided to take it a step further by attacking the Yankee players simply for supporting a teammate who is facing adversity. Supporting a teammate doesn’t mean they condone his actions…but you would have them turn their back on him? That doesn’t seem even remotely fair…

  9. Joe Torre and Tom Verducci, THE YANKEE YEARS, page 132:
    “Clemens lost himself in his usual pre-game preparation, which typically began with cranking the whirlpool to its hottest possible temperature. ‘He’d come out looking like a lobster,” trainer Steve Donahue said. Donahue then would rub hot liniment all over Clemens” body, “from his ankles to his wrists,” Donahue said. Then Donahue would rub the hottest possible liniment on his testicles. ‘He’d start snorting like a bull,’ the trainer said. “That’s when he was ready to pitch.'”
    No worse job in sports than being Roger Clemens’ trainer. This may prove that Clemens did not use and never needed steroids. But he was too embarrassed to tell Congress about the liniment. Or he was guarding a closely held sports secret. Maybe the hot liniment on the testicles is THE secret to great performance in sports, the explanation for famous triumphs and upsets: Frazier over Ali , Swoboda’s catch, Don Maynard running loose in the Colts secondary in Superbowl 3, Buster Douglas over Tyson…
    Why hasn’t the press reported this -other than, typically, the reviewers and commentators didn’t read the book?
    —MISTER SENSUOUS, New Orleans

  10. Jeff, the people telling you you’re too hard on ARod, lighten up, etc… they’re the same people who make similar arguments about letting Pete Rose into the Hall. They don’t GET it. They don’t understand what it means for things to be on the up and up and legit. There’s no other explanation than that. There aren’t as many people like you who view the game the same way… many view it as ocassional entertainment, no different from “Reality” television or Grey’s Anatomy. As a result, they lose clarity on where the line between real and fake is… and they don’t care. If they’re entertained, that’s enough. And while I get that, I will never agree with it, either.

    Keep up the good work.

  11. jeff

    the sports talk hosts and journalists in Los Angeles place the blame on the owners, the player union, and the individual players, but never themselves. It seems they are trying to tied a knot around this ‘cheating era’ with the use of word ‘steroid era. The implication being that everything from 2004 on is clean. Until players are given blood test and not the easily misleading urine test, the cheating will continued. The sports journalists know this and yet on most occasions will make no reference to this.

    Journalists have families and can not approach their love ones with ‘i lost my job because I told my boss that I wanted to expose the hypcracy of the ‘urine test vs blood test’ since 2004.” I am sure that the “love ones” would tell the journalists to forget their ethics and remember that they have a family to feed.

    The problem is that without the journalists speaking out for blood tests on all sports events, more and more of our college kids and highschool kids will be taking these ‘harmful growth hormones (hgh)’ because they believe that the ‘money and fame’ cannot be reachable without this ‘cheating’.

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