Drugs, Cheating, and the Purity of America's Pastime

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Most children who have grown up in an American household have at one point in their lives looked up to sports figures as heroes. Whether it was your grandfather telling his stories of watching Babe Ruth become a legend, your father’s stories of Mickey Mantle and the legendary Yankee teams of the 1950’s and 1960’s, or your own memory of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa chasing the home run record, the feeling of wholesomeness that baseball provides has always found its way into many people’s hearts. Steroids have tarnished these sacred memories, cast doubts in the minds of many on the legitimacy of records and statistics and finally affected the way younger players play the game.

Baseball, America’s pastime, is embedded in the fabric of society. The players and teams have come and gone, but the thing that remains constant is baseball’s ability to unite people as well as families. My own personal experience of this came right after September 11th, 2001. Following the tragedy that was 9/11, the country needed something to help everyone return to normalcy. In our moment of weakness and uncertainty, baseball helped calm my nerves. Fifty three thousand three hundred and twelve brothers stood up in unison and took back their lives. The electricity of that game, the sense of regularity in my life, and the knowledge that millions of people were finding comfort together with me during such a hard time, helped me feel a sense of closure that the worst was behind us.

It is the mystique and aura of the players, the exciting tales behind them, as

well as the history of the game that keeps us interested as fans. These are the reasons why people, children especially, see these players as invincible, and perfect in every way, shape, and form. What would happen if after a century of inspiring stories, and incredible tales of heroism, the inconceivable notion that these players were not perfect, took prominence? Or that many of these superstars cheated their way to the top?

Recently the topic of steroid use in baseball has been everywhere in the news. It has finally come to the attention of Major League Baseball, and now the general public, that a vast percentage of players have been using illegal performance-enhancing drugs. This not only casts a cloud of suspicion over which players are using steroids, and makes one wonder which players are genuine, but it tar...

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...ue Baseball is showing that they are finally becoming adamant about ridding themselves and their reputation of this problem, is something that should give us hope for now, as well as for the future.

Even more so than simply testing the players though, I think a key issue that has been overlooked and that may be a huge contributor to the steroid problem without many

people being aware of it, is the incentives given in a player’s contract. Getting rid of the six figure bonuses commonly given for a certain amount of home runs, hits, strikeouts, innings pitched, etc, will help reduce the apparent need to use steroids as a source of instant reward and income. While doing this there will still most certainly be players drawn to steroids as a means to get ahead of the competition for personal glory or other reasons, the fact is eliminating bonuses has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of users in the league. It is then, and only then that we can be prepared to fully eliminate the steroid problem as we know it today, remove the cloud of doubt over everyone’s heads, and return the game of baseball to the past glorification that it once knew, as the true American pastime.

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