The most unfair part of it all

As the HGH and steroid and Hall of Fame continues, I’m reminded of who, ultimately, gets dicked the most.

Answer: Fan supporters.

By “fan supporters,” I mean those loyalists who stand behind an athlete who has been (rightly, as it turns out) accused of cheating. In the aftermath of “Love Me, Hate Me,” my biography of Barry Bonds, tons upon tons of Giants die-hards slammed me, ripped me, attacked me for the audacity of suggesting their hero cheated. Then, it turned out, he cheated.

Silence from the masses.

I wrote two CNN.com columns in 2012 on Lance Armstrong, and how it was crystal clear that he was completely full of crud. Man, the letters I received. Who the fuck do you think you are? What gives you the right? You’re just a hater. Then, of course, enough came out to prove Armstrong’s true self.

Silence from the masses.

As more and more PED-era ballplayers talk; as more feel comfortable using their names behind their secrets, the pattern will, I believe, repeat itself. Inevitably, the angry Mike Piazza defenders—convinced their hero is being targeted out of jealousy by a bunch of pencil-necked geek writers—will be hit with enough knowledge that his accomplishments will be, rightly, reduced. Inevitably, furious Jeff Bagwell backers—certain that he was a natural, clean, whole milk-and-steak-consuming mountain of a ballplayer—will see that milk and steak only go so far.

Silence will follow.

The thing is, I take no comfort in that silence. Professional athletes don’t exist without fans. Hell, if no one watches the games, no one pays the salaries, no one cares. That’s why it infuriates me how Bonds, and Armstrong, and Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa—convinced fans of their innocence and pureness … then yanked the rug away. It’s not merely selfish; it’s friggin’ mean. Whether you’re a child or an adult, few things are worse than finding out that you put your love behind a scoundrel.

I know—back in 2008, my presidential candidate of choice was John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator with the people’s touch. I believed Edwards was the best man; the right man; the perfect man to serve in the highest office.

Then—yank!

It was all a lie.

6 thoughts on “The most unfair part of it all”

  1. Its not the “fan supporters” its all baseball fans. To wipe out what happened in the 1990’s is just wrong. As much as I hate Barry Bonds (especially after reading “Love Me, Hate Me” – Love the book btw and have given it as a gift to many of my baseball minded friends) he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. The man should have been a 10 time MVP winner (1991 is a no brainer, 2000 he really shouldn’t have lost to Kent and 1996 he had the best WAR by over 1.5). To not include him is to basically wipe out all of baseball history in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. I know I will never convince baseball voters/fans who believe the Hall is sacred and should never allow “cheaters” but I think we can’t just gloss over an entire era of baseball. I think McGwire and Sosa should be left off because their stats are predicated on power but Bonds and Clemens (as ridiculously obvious that they were taking PEDs) should go into the Hall of Fame based on their production pre-PEDs.

  2. If just one of Piazza or Bagwell turns out to be innocent of steroid use, how will you feel about how you’ve used your pulpit? Damaging their reputations while saying nothing about the impending HOF induction of a man who took ownership of a stadium with integrated seating and segregated it! All the blacks go in the back. But that pales in importance to performance-enhancing drug use? When i say you, i mean the baseball writers who align with your views Jeff, not just you individually. One more thing – when the Jonah Keris and Nate Silvers of the world (the “nerdy math” guys) come down on the opposite side of an issue from you, does that ever get you to reconsider your views?

    1. Jon, if—somehow—it is proven that Bagwell and/or Piazza never used, I would feel beyond awful. Fuck, I’d apologize and never speak on this issue again. However, I also feel that way about pigs flying. I’ve said they can’t.

      I love both Jonah and Silver. And I try very hard to listen and grasp and understand opposing views. But I’ve got many on my side here, too—Verducci, Costas, etc. So, it’s a split issue. As it probably should be.

  3. As a Democrat, i thought Edwards was shallow and phony from the get-go. I’m not naive about performance enhancing drugs in sport, i’m just not particularly bothered by it. I certainly hope you devote about 100 times as much energy into ruining Bobby Cox’s candidacy for being a wife-beater (and yes i know that has nothing to do with baseball but there’s still that pesky character clause…)

  4. I agree with Doug’s comment above. I’m 28 and am just old enough to have grown up in reverence of the statistics and the Hall. Now, some of the great records and stats are meaningless and the game’s history is forever altered. But is the answer really to ignore ten or fifteen eventful years of baseball history? I don’t think we can. To exclude from the Hall guys like Bonds, McGwire, and Clemens is to ignore an important part of the game’s history, however ugly it is. And to exclude guys like Piazza and Bagwell, about whom nothing has been proven or even really alleged, is arbitrary at best and wrongfully punitive at worst. I certainly don’t like rewarding cheaters, but I think the MLB has to acknowledge that for better or worse, this is a part of its history.

  5. I don’t understand the thinking behind, “But is the answer really to ignore ten or fifteen eventful years of baseball history?” If you go to the Hall of Fame’s museum or research facility, all of Bonds’ home runs are there and all of Pete Rose’s hits are there. This is a question of whether they should be singled out and honored and the answer is no. Think of it like James Frey, the author of A Million Little Pieces. No one thinks we should pretend that he never wrote the book. We just think he shouldn’t be given a Pulitzer for it. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and all the other cheaters played. We know that. But, their enduring legacy is that they shamed the game. Why should they be rewarded for that?

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