I like some of these points, about the steroids scandal in baseball, and I do agree that we should move on. Fixating on scandal is no way to live.
But I do not agree that “cheating is cheating” and because of that alone, we have a good reason to shrug our shoulders and pretend the whole thing never happened.
And besides, it’s too soon: first, let’s allow some time for the victims here, the fans, to heal. Here’s three reasons why.
Cheating vs. Gamesmanship
The word “cheating” covers a lot of ground. One form, more commonly known as gamesmanship, has a long and storied role in baseball, even though technically it could be considered cheating. Throwing a spitball, corking your bat, catchers moving their gloves a tiny bit to frame the pitch … these are examples of gamesmanship. And the players themselves begrudgingly accept it. They admire those who can get away with it, because it is commonly considered acceptable behavior. Barely acceptable, yes, but acceptable, nonetheless.
Changing your body’s hormonal balance by taking illegal drugs is not gamesmanship. It’s cheating in track, in swimming, in cycling, and yes, in baseball.
Obviously, not everybody will see a big bright line separating those two categories, but I sure do.
For one, public opinion would consider it cheating. You can argue definitions all night long, but when public opinion goes against you, it’s a rough road.
Also, it is pretty clear that taking a substance that shrivels your acorns and causes depression and homicidal rages because it screws with your hormones is way, way beyond weight training and basic nutrition.
Don’t Lie to Us
But even beyond that, there is another issue, and for many fans I think, a bigger issue: don’t lie to us. Many fans don’t like to be taken for fools, and Sosa, Bonds, the whole lot of them, have been treating fans like chumps for years now. Millions of us don’t care for it. And some of us would now like to see certain players taken down a peg or two as a punitive measure.
Truth matters. The fans’ opinion matters. Image matters. Goodwill matters. Public perception matters. The history and integrity of the game matters; baseball, unlike any other sport, is the grand old game that it is because of the accumulated history behind it.
Object Lessons and Role Models
In fact, I would go even further here: I think object lessons in cheating, and more importantly, how you handle yourself when you get caught, have a sizable impact on society and culture in general. Especially young people.
This impact is impossible to measure, but it’s there. And it can be bad, or good, or a mixture. So it would seem to be in our best interests right now to hear some mea culpas and some truth-telling (finally). Maybe even a little groveling. It’s cathartic, and that’s worth something to the fans, and therefore, to the game itself.
Here’s a truism: what people do matters a lot more than what they say.
And whether they seek it out or not, athletes are role models, and have responsibilities to our youth. You want fame? OK, but in exchange, you get to help mold young people. It’s just the way it works. Even Charles Barkley, who famously shrugged off his role model status many years ago, has come around to understand the power of the famous athlete to shape behavior in young people.
So while I understand and advocate the desire to move on, and not focus too much on the seamy side of baseball and sports in general, and I most definitely agree that the media in general is exploiting all this for ratings, I still think there is value in players being held accountable. Tremendous value, in fact, to the fans, to the game, and even, in some ways, to our society.