Tuesday, June 24, 2008

At least there's an explanation for the baldness

Terry Bradshaw admitting he was occasionally 'roided-out in the '70s has the air of when Pat Boone admitted to infidelity.

The news has hit people with all the impact of a takeout menu -- the knee-jerk reaction is "who cares."

It just goes to show there's a such a double standard when it comes to steroid use in the NFL as opposed to baseball. It made headlines a while back when Mike Schmidt, a great ballplayer from roughly the same generation simply said that sure, he might have shot himself up with steroids if he had been playing in the '90s and early 2000s when it was so rampant. Let's say that Reggie Jackson had come out and said he was goosed up on steroids when he hit three home runs in the deciding game of the 1977 World Series. There would be columns written and sports radio callers demanding that he be removed from the Hall of Fame.

The crazy part? It's not necessarily wrong to have that double standard. All these years later, it's finally dawned why people get so bent out of shape over steroids in baseball and are blind to it in football.

Baseball is an all-comers sport and people do, whether they admit or not, know it's the hardest act to do well, hitting a round ball with a round bat squarely. It's one of the great mysteries why ballplayers span a physical spectrum from the Chuck Knoblauch and Ichiro Suzuki types at to porcine types such as David Ortiz who can hit, while in between, there's any number of chiseled-from-marble types who can't hit their way out of a wet paper bag.

Ours is not to question why -- although there's about one book per year published on the secret of hitting -- some people can't play baseball worth a damn when Cecil Fielder or Kirby Puckett could. In a sense, it's the ultimate vanity to believe that steroids can turn someone into hitter or help a pitcher get a little extra drop on a split-finger fastball. So, in the fans' minds, you're shorthchanging one of the game's eternal truths by sticking that needle in your butt. Why would you do it?

(OK, so it helps you recover from injuries faster, it helps with rest-and-recovery during off-season workouts, it reduces fatigue across the 162-game season, it's the difference between a seven-figure salary in the majors and eating PBJs on the bus in Triple-A and, baseball didn't test for it until recently and still doesn't test for HGH. But other than that ...)

Meantime, in football, the players shorten their life expectancy a good 20-25 years beating the hell out of each other for the vicarious joy of out-of-shape guys sitting in the stands in their Takeo Spikes replica jerseys. It's a brutish, bloody business that so many people would do anything to be part of, so why wouldn't someone use steroids and HGH? Perhaps that's why (well, that and the media's complicity) it barely registered when Rodney Harrison, the New England Patriots strong safety, admitted receiving HGH shipments just before one of the Pats' Super Bowl wins. The same goes for when Shawne Merriman won Defensive Player of the Year in the same season that he received a four-game ban for doping.

People shrug. They've seen football, they've seen how hard those guys hit, so it's almost like they should be testing to see which NFL players aren't using performance enhancers (steroids, HGH, anti-inflammatories, the whole lot).

It's not fair, but please keep this mind the next time you hear someone go all high-dudgeon over some baseball player getting pinched for failing a drug test, then in the next breath, talk about their fantasy football team. Terry Bradshaw used 'roids, and no one gave a damn.

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