‘Darkest days’ much deeper than steroids

By Nick Pitts
February 12, 2009

Shannon Keough

Perhaps it is because I’ll never get to play the game that I love on the big stage, I have the ability to see baseball for what it really is: an escape from reality, a childish pasttime and most importantly, a game.

A quick read through ESPN headlines reveals the media position in all of this nonsense.

“A-Rod sorry-sorry he got caught,” and, “Where’s the accountability,” are just two examples of mediocre, cliche thoughts feeding into the media circus.

Had Alex Rodriguez not admitted to his short-comings, apologized to his fans and taken full responsibility, this column would have staked the same claims.

But A-Rod did come clean, and put all of the blame on himself, instead of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

This certainly warrants some thought.

What is the true message being sent to athletes?

Do something amazing so that we can show the replay on every highlight reel for months, kids will buy your jersey and teams will throw trillions of dollars at you during free agency signing periods.

But do it legally, otherwise we’ll hate you forever.

Yes, that sounds about right.

Are we all so na’ve of the pressure that we put on our super stars?

One hundred and three other major leaguers tested positive for performance-enhancing substances during the survey in 2003.

This number should tell something about the league at the time.

Everyone was doing it.

Take 104 and divide it into 30 teams. Roughly three players per team in the big leagues tested positive for a type of performance-enhancer.

In his sixth year in the league, and the first time he got traded, A-Rod undoubtedly felt the pressures of performing.

Dangle a $22 million a year contract in front of an average worker and ask him to preform their best every day, and then wonder why they decide to take a performance-enhancer.

Makes a lot of sense, right?

Those who continue to write and report about how A-Rod was supposed to set the course of history straight and how big of a disappointment he really is are missing the big picture.

When questioned why he took the substances, he admitted that the pressure of living up to expectations of being “one of the greatest players ever,” justified his decision at the time.

If A-Rod hadn’t taken steroids back in the day, who’s to say that all of the media pressure put on him to “fight the good fight” and beat Barry Bond’s records wouldn’t have led him down the steroid path in upcoming seasons anyway?

In that interview, A-Rod appeared as a broken down man for all of the world to see.

More importantly, he was more concerned about the possibility of children thinking steroids are OK than he was about his now asterisked stats.

Many claim that with 103 players yet to be exposed, the darkest days are still ahead.

But that threatening grey cloud has been hovering over every stadium since the first multi-million dollar contract was signed, since televised events happen to be games instead of vise-versa and ultimately since a children’s sport has been made into a suit-and-tie risk match, rather than a cross-town sandlot rivalry.

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Nick Pitts

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