I. Hate. Steroids. Can't stand 'em. But let me clarify - when I say "steroids," I'm referring to the idea of steroids. The drugs themselves can actually be helpful when they are taken in the proper context and prescribed amount. The idea of steroids, however, has become so entangled and crushingly synonymous with America's pastime (not to be confused with America's sport, football) that it has squeezed almost all of the positive sentiment out of the concept of baseball. I hate them because they take the focus off the game. I hate them because they ignited a witch hunt the likes of which no one has seen since the Red Scare. I hate them because they got the government involved in something they have no business being involved in, considering the economic crisis at hand, recent rocky presidencies and, oh yeah, all those soldiers we have abroad. (For the record, if you ask a government official about the BCS, the NCAA tournament field, or any other controversial sports issue, the only acceptable response they should be allowed to give you is a blank stare. Thank you, Jon Stewart, for putting it in perspective.) I hate them because no one is safe from judgment now. I was reading Rick Reilly the other day and came across an email in which one reader actually had a solution that sounded plausible, which, as Reilly half-joked, is entirely too simple. No way Bud Selig would take a fan's suggestion and make it policy, even if it's simple and brilliant. I hate them because they destroyed so many role models for Little Leaguers that parents and coaches are now reluctant to point to any ballplayer and say "See? That's how it's done." It's downright awful. Don't get me wrong: I absolutely think that users should be punished, and repeat users should be punished repeatedly. I don't like playing on an unlevel field any more than the next guy, but just having the idea in the public eye erases any shred of credibility that a young player might have, even if the drugs were accidental or happened early on in his career or in the minors. These days, Pujols is all we have left. And if he gets skewered, we're really screwed.
But I digress. The latest word on the street: A-Rod's now being suspected of continuing his sterioid use while in New York. (Can you blame him? It's a slightly more pressurized situation.) However, what I found more interesting was this morning's ESPN.com poll that drew attention to the fact that he was accused of intentionallly tipping pitches to opponents when the outcome of the game was no longer in doubt or when the batter needed to get his stats up. Readers vote 63%-37% that 'roids were a worse offense, but I'm intrigued by the pitch tipping allegations. First off, if his team knew, how did they feel about it? Yeah, it keeps the fan's attention maybe, but you risk losing the game. And it hurts your own pitcher's stats, which affects salary, which affects literally everything. Who does this, really? Is there a batters/pitchers divide that fans aren't aware of? If you're the catcher, exactly how do you deal with that conflict of interest? Having played in high school, I know we would steal signs on occasion (or try to), but giving them away? Nuts. I understand the value of keeping fans in the seats, but I'd be offended if I wasn't watching an honest game. After all, how do you combat that? I'm just bewildered, frankly.
Stumbled across an ESPN.com sneak peek at Madden NFL 10. Pretty cool.