I have been a baseball fan my entire life. I love all sports, but baseball is the one absolute constant that has remained with me from my earliest childhood memories. And, rest assured I am not a fair-weather fan. Even when my frustrations are at their highest, based on one disturbing loss after another (I am a lifelong Braves fan), those days have not impacted my love for the game. Those games might have had something to do with the many expletives that I probably should have never uttered and those games may have had something to do with unfortunate bouts of acid reflux and bulging eye syndrome; but never lessened my enthusiasm to look forward to the next game. I¹m a fan, just like so many others who have been since the first pitch in 1839.
I will admit that there have been some things over the years that have tested me. Being a child of the sixties, I can remember the Curt Flood drama which was the beginning of collective bargaining for MLB players. I was too young to understand the complexities of the topic, but I knew that sportscasters were talking more about contracts than they were about who was winning the game. I lived through the Pete Rose scandal where he received a lifetime suspension from the game for betting. I know that betting has raised its ugly head in the game before with the old Black Socks scandals, but to see Pete Rose banned for life was hard to imagine. But even with stories such as those, who did much to harm the reputation of my beloved baseball; I stayed on course and the game played on.
But, now we are facing something that has the potential to harm the game in a way that will make Pete¹s gambling look like a bunch of kids playing a hand of Old Maid. The issue of performance-enhancing drug use that has been and continues to run rampant is a serious issue that extends well past the foul lines for the overall integrity of the game and those who play it. If left unchecked, it will have negative ramifications to those people throughout the world, who just like me, simply love the game.
We have seen PED use already destroy the reputations of some of the game's greatest stars. Starting with random stories over the past 10 years or so, and culminating this season with the suspension of over 100 payers in the major leagues, this scandal has taken on a life of its own. And, this year, after several years of speculation one of the games all time all stars, Alex Rodriguez, finds himself at the top of the hit list. A-Rod...perhaps the greatest third basemen to ever play the game is a cheater. Say it ain¹t so! A sure bet to be a first year selection to the Hall of Fame, and now this? And we all know that there are others. These are just the ones who have been caught. It will have a domino effect that will take years to get over.
How many kids out there already believe that it is okay to juice up a bit if it means getting noticed by the right people? Why not? A-Rod did it. Look at his career. This is a trend that must be reversed and reversed now. Even if it means a black eye to the game, which it does, it has to be remedied. To their credit, Major League Baseball has seemingly taken this bull by the horn and is not backing down on the issue, regardless of who the offender is. It is painful, but necessary. Otherwise, some of the greatest performances that we have all grown up watching are nothing more than an unattractive jump off the top rope by some overweight guy in a leotard. It¹s all fakea sham. It is a slap in the face to those players over the years that have given their heart and soul to displaying God given talent that did not include an asterisk or a picture of a syringe on the back of their baseball card. The performances of these hoaxers, who have used PED no matter how great, should never be mentioned in the fact books as the true heroes of the game.
It is an issue that will correct itself in time. To put it in a sports analogy, baseball is going to have to go through some extensive rehab to correct this injury. It will be a sometime painful rehab but once the injury has healed, baseball can come back stronger than ever.
Everything in life has pros and cons. Baseball is no different. There are things that are good about the game and things that are not. Pros and cons. As long as we can tell the difference, that it okay. But what is dangerous, and what we now have, is when the Pros actually become Cons. When we can¹t tell the difference, human nature will lead us to believe that every good performance has been aided by an unnatural source. That is the doubt that baseball must remove in order for it to return to its stature s the greatest game in the world. I for one am hopeful that it will.
Let's just get back to playing ball, pure and simple. And play it the way that old Abner Doubleday himself intended. A stick, a ball, and a glove; nothing else is required except that raw and natural talent that has always been present to bring these inanimate objects to life. It¹s so much more than just a game. It¹s the American pastime, that's what has been passed down for over a hundred years from father to son (and daughters too). That¹s real baseball!
If you would like to have Stan speak at your next group event, please send your requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.