When looking for the latest edge crosses the line
BARRY Bonds said it himself: "It's real now." And so we're all going to have to come to grips with the fact that it's going to happen. He's going to break Hank Aaron's all-time home run record.
And so the next question is: So what? So he took steroids, and probably other stuff. Everybody knows he took steroids and other stuff. Even the people who deny it are doing so mostly out of a sense of defiance. Yeah, he did it. What's the big deal? Aren't athletes supposed to look for every edge? Aren't they supposed to do what it takes to get better, to always be on the lookout for the latest training techniques, the latest drill, even the latest pill (after all, what is Creatine, what's all that stuff at GNC)?
Isn't this just the next step after weight training and improved nutrition and film study and even, if you think about it, a few extra laps, putting in more practice time, more work? Isn't that what steroids do, simply allow you to work harder? Isn't this just like that?
But also no.
You see, there's a sign that it's wrong, a way that we can tell that it's cheating, an indication that steroids and HGH and all that other stuff are not just the latest in a long line of stuff but in fact have crossed that line. And that sign is this: Almost none of them have admitted it. They deny it. They change the subject. They lie badly, like a kid who's been caught.
That's how we can tell that it's cheating.
You know the old saying, If it feels wrong it probably is?
Almost none of them will admit it. They know.
Many of Bonds' -- what's the word? Justifiers? -- will point out that steroids and other artificial enhancers weren't even against the rules in baseball until just recently. Exactly. So why won't all these guys who were "legal" just admit to it if they hadn't done anything wrong? Instead, they're ashamed.
The thing about steroids is that they work. Incredibly well. Beyond all reasonable expectations. This isn't, say, better nutrition. These guys know they've found the magic pill (or cream, or clear, or syringe in the ... um, never mind).
You say steroids don't help you hit a round ball with a round bat? Well, there's better bat speed, less fatigue, improved confidence (Yogi said 90 percent of the game is half mental); some medical experts have even theorized that vision can get sharper, too. Yes, steroids help you hit a baseball. These guys know what they were before the stuff, and know what they were after, and if something feels wrong it probably is.
The polls say many fans don't care about steroids, but apparently the players themselves do. Deep down, they know.
That's why nobody talks.
The story goes -- in Jeff Pearlman's book "Love Me, Hate Me" -- that Bonds himself saw steroids as cheating, was disgusted by it. Players like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa weren't half as good as he was, but thanks to artificial help they were the biggest superstars in the game. Well, Bonds would show them. He'd show us all. He was a truly great player, already a lock for the Hall of Fame. If he took all that stuff too he'd surely be the greatest hitter of all time. And now that's happened. But it doesn't feel good. Not for us.
And deep down inside, probably not for him, either.