The PED Lesson

A fellow Yankees fan and blogger, Kate Conroy, yesterday wrote this piece about A-Rod and the ongoing MLB attempt to slap him with the longest ban any player has yet seen for using PEDs.  After some great back and forth on Twitter, I got thinking more about PEDs in major sports.

So far, the only two major sports that have acknowledged there’s a PED problem are baseball and cycling.  If you believe Porter Fischer, former Biogenesis employee, there are professional athletes in the NBA, NCAA, MMA, boxing, and tennis, as reported in this article on ESPN.com from August 2013.

Baseball had no choice but to deal with the PED situation after Jose Canseco came out with the claims he did and made so much noise.  The questions had been there; Canseco confirmed them and made everyone aware of what people suspected but until then couldn’t figure out.  For years it went on, and the reason it went on was because everyone loved it.  The players loved it because it was putting their names in the record books.  The fans loved it because it was exciting, and fun.  Bonds going after the all-time home run record.  Sosa and McGwire chasing single season records.  While some didn’t want to see Aaron and Maris fall from grace, most fans were thrilled to see new players emerging.  Under Commissioner Bud Selig’s watch, the game seemed to be thriving, but with a dark secret hidden that he allowed to happen, and now he has to try to clean up the huge mess he helped make, or at least ignored.

Then the walls came crashing down.  A big asterisk discussion happened not just publicly, but around water coolers everywhere.  Should we allow Bonds’ record to stand?  Should it have an asterisk?  Was Hank Aaron really the home run king still?  Opinions differed like crazy.

In all this discussion, all this accusation and indictment, we’ve missed one key piece.  If we’re looking to professional athletes for morals, we’re looking in entirely the wrong place.  (I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else sometimes).  Baseball, like every other major sport, is a business.  Businesses, when they believe they can, do unethical things.  Would we look to Microsoft, or Apple, or General Electric for morality?  I sure hope not.  Would we look to them for quality products?  I would hope so.  The same should be true of major sports.  When we go to a game, or turn on the TV, we shouldn’t be looking for morality, we should be looking for entertainment, and nothing more.

I have NEVER liked A-Rod.  I always thought the deal the Yankees offered him was too much.  The guy is an arrogant, narcissistic player who only seems to care about A-Rod.  I don’t know; I can only speculate he’s a difficult teammate.  The Yankees have always portrayed themselves as a classy, fine, upstanding outfit; I’ve always wanted to believe that as a die-hard fan.  But this is no longer about morality.  It’s about baseball.

Yeah, a bunch of guys cheated.  Yeah, a bunch MORE people knew about it and looked the other way.  Baseball is a business, not a court.  If they want to go on a witch hunt, and find evidence against A-Rod and Braun and Peralta and anyone else, so be it.  At least Selig has sent the message he’s tried to punish some people (though I fail to see how he himself is still there after allowing all this to go on, but that’s a different blog).  I also agree with Something else Ms. Conroy said to me on Twitter: it’s time to focus forward, tighten up the rules, and move on by cleaning things up now.

It’s also time to realize that a business should never be looked to for morality.  We can teach our kids to want to play like Jeter, Cano, Ellsbury (that one still makes me choke a little).  We should teach them to have the morality of other figures, like ourselves, their teachers, or others who demonstrate the qualities of morality we want them to have.

So while yesterday I advocated sitting A-Rod on the bench if and after he’s deemed worthy of a suspension, I’m re-thinking that one.  IF (and this is a big if) he’s truly better than any other option at third base for the Yankees, then put him out there when he’s cleared to play.  Not because he’s a nice guy.  Not because he demonstrates the qualities and morals we all want to see in everyone.  Simply because they are the New York Yankees, and they have a 28th championship to win.  I have my doubts that after two hip surgeries and the inability to use PEDs any more that A-Rod is really the player he once was; I could very well be wrong, and I’d admit that too if I am.  I will NEVER like the guy, but I still love the team and I still want to see them win.

In the meantime, I sincerely hope that the big takeaway from all this is that business is business.  Business is not moral.  And major sports are businesses.  We should stop trying to make them some sacred holy shrine of humanity and just take them for what they are: entertainment, and entertainment alone.

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