At this point even the most casual sports fan must have heard about Mark McGwire's admission to using steroids. Unless of course you get your baseball news from MarkMcGwire.com, in which case you think the sport of baseball went into a catatonic hibernation when Bonds* broke* BigMac's* record* in 2001*. I'm honestly not sure why I put an asterisk next to all those words, but the little star shaped punctuation seems to give baseball purists a sense of comfort, so I included it next to all the words that seem to get them antsy in their pantsy.
You have all read plenty of reaction articles to this latest steroid development, this is not one of them. I don't think anyone seriously disagrees that steroids are a form of cheating...the disagreement seems to boil down to whether people should care. That being said, this article is about keeping it real...and don't mean the way the Fresh Prince kept it real when he moved to Bel Air. I want sports fans to think about the following poll and be completely honest with themselves when I ask the question "Under the right circumstances, would you take steroids?"
Here are those circumstances. You have a smokeshow wife that you met while playing ball at Arizona State and a child on the way that you plan to name Fastball if it's a boy, Harriet if it's a girl. You are a first year minor league (AA) baseball player, current salary approximately $1,500/month ($18,000/yr). You have dedicated the vast majority of your waking hours to the sport of baseball, perhaps to the exclusion of education and the development of other marketable skills that could be applied to another career. You are a very good player, but not a phenom and your major league club is overstocked with solid outfielders that hit for average, but not power. If you could increase your production at the plate just a little bit, you would have a realistic shot of making the major league club. The minimum MLB salary in 2009 is $400,000. The average MLB salary is $3 Million. Meaning, if you could boost your performance to match that of even a below average Major League Baseball player, you could still put your family in a situation where they would be financially secure for a very long time, even if you only played for a single year. Let's say steroids gives you a reasonable chance to get to this level, maybe even better. You are aware of the potentially dangerous side effects. Do you use steroids under these circumstances?
I'll tell you my answer right now would be "yes" without blinking an eye. I would almost go so far as to say, it would be wrong/irresposible not to. Let's not forget, that what many of us watch as a game is a career for many men...and in professional sports there is a very fine line between being paid (handsomely) to play ball and being paid (sh*%) to teach gym class. Honestly, if you had the opportunity to be able to financially take care of your wife, child, parents and siblings for the rest of their lives, merely by taking a few injections...would the fact that Hank Aaron "did it the right way" deter you one bit? Because that seems everyone's major objection, the fact that the numbers aren't pure. But the fact that the numbers are dirty, doesn't detract from the fact that Sammy Sosa, coming from poverty in the Dominican Republic can take care of every Sosa born for the next 100 years.
Some people cite the health issues, but thats B.S. because men and women put up with all sorts of health issues to support their families and make sure food is on the table. People voluntarily join the Army and rush into burning buildings for a paycheck, they risk their health in coal mines and by working around dangerous chemicals all day. According to reality TV, even cutting trees, catching Alaskan King Crabs and Ice Road Trucking are apparently very dangerous ways to make a living. Where is the public concern for these individuals?
The point is, that steroids are most definitely cheating, but in many instances...the implications outside the rulebook and beyond the record book are far more significant. That is why I am very interested in the poll.