On shameful steroids and No. 714*
THE problem with steroids, of course, is that they work. That's what's different about them, why those who (we know or strongly suspect) use them are branded cheaters, why Mark McGwire looked pathetic, Rafael Palmeiro became a pariah and people throw syringes at Barry Bonds. That's why Jeremy Giambi felt compelled to mysteriously apologize for something out of embarrassment and shame. Steroids are different. Why are they cheating? Because they really, really work.
A scene from the 714* Barry Bonds press conference:
First reporter: I've never had the courage to say this ...
Other reporters: Come on, go for it! You can say it! Yeah!
Barry: Go ahead, nothing can spoil my good mood today.
First reporter: Your head is freakishly large.
Second reporter: (Cough!) Too bold!
More so than simply lifting weights or watching video or eating nutritional supplements. Why aren't these considered unfair advantages, steps outside the norm? Why not show up and play and let the best men win? Aren't all these things just taking another step toward making yourself a better player?
And we wonder how so many took steroids in their time, how they justified it in their minds. To many athletes, hitting the juice was just the next step in the many avenues they took toward making themselves better, like extra training and tape study and eating right.
How many old-time athletes have admitted they'd have tried juice, too, had it been around then? Isn't it usually admirable, in working toward becoming a better athlete, to look for any, every, edge?
But of course those who did do them knew as they used them that something about it was wrong (otherwise why not admit it openly then, why not come clean now?). They knew. Deep down, there's something shameful about it. Why? Because steroids really, really, really worked.
Creatine isn't considered cheating. Why not? Because it helps, yes, but only incrementally, as God intended.
If steroids only helped a little, like everything else previously mentioned, nobody would care. We'd cheer.
But no, they do the job, all right. They work on a different plane. They work so well there's something wrong about it. And deep down, they all know. It's why men who had accomplished everything they ever wanted now seem so small.
It's why 714 came with a yawn, attached to an asterisk the size of a big, giant head.