Friday, December 14, 2007

Say It Ain't So ...

Actually, I'd more likely say, "why would you expect it to be any other way?" The Mitchell Report on the use of performance enhancing drugs in baseball, released yesterday, confirms what common sense should have told baseball fans for the past decade as aging stars defied the gravity of time to turn in record-shattering performances at ages when they should have been collecting retirement benefits.
It should not have taken a $100-million report to confirm what our eyes and experience were telling us. I'm certainly no professional athlete, but I am a 48-year-old hoopster who had a 30-inch vertical leap ... when I was 30 years old. The past 18 years have been a long, slow decline as muscles age and take longer to recover from running and jumping. Nothing at all unusual about that -- it is a universal experience. Why then the surprise from so many quarters when it is revealed that Roger Clemens' age-defying performances were helped along a bit by chemicals?
Could it be that baseball fans do not want to believe that the good ol' Texas boy (who happens to be white) would engage in the same kind of cheating of which the surly superstar Barry Bonds (who happens to be black) stands similarly accused? That comes as no surprise. What of the role of the players' union? That they are accused of aiding and abetting the steroid era is also no surprise. Nor is the role of the commissioner, nor his refusal yesterday to take any real responsibility. (He should resign if he truly wants to clear the decks for baseball to move forward, but that will never happen.)
The only surprising thing to me in all of this is the repeated defense of the teammates who knew and said nothing because they did not want to be accused of "ratting out another player."
I suppose I'm not so much surprised as I am left wondering. What is it about the truth that is so difficult to acknowledge or articulate? Not saying what is so won't make it not so ... even if you want to say it ain't so. If the truth will set you free, why do so many in baseball seem more bound to the recent past today than they did the day before yesterday? Perhaps you have to claim the truth before it can liberate you. Amidst all the denial, freedom seems a long way off.

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