- Realistic, the other day, linked to this story.
- In a comment in his diary on the topic, he also linked to this story.
Into the News.
Here's the thing, everyone. I've seen comments around the blogosphere, from players, and from the media, mentioning the idea that PEDs haven't done a whole lot to help players like Giambi, Bonds, Sheffield, Palmeiro, etc. Whatever you believe on this issue is irrelevant to this post.
The media has taken these comments, and run stories with them. While this is news, and it is their responsibility to report the news, they and the players making said comments have been spectacularly irresponsible.
"Think of the children", "The children are our future", etc., are all phrases that can sometimes cause us to cringe due to their status as fairly annoying cliches. I've done this myself from time-to-time. However, these are extremely important phrases to consider in light of the recent news coverage.
How much do PEDs really help a player?
This is a question that has been asked in a myriad of ways, to a myriad of people, and the answer is this: it doesn't matter. What does matter is what these things do to harm individuals.
WebMD has this guide on the detrimental effects of steroids on your health. It's not exactly an eye-opener, as I think we all know what most of the effects are. And indeed, you could point to the fact that only 4% of high school seniors have ever taken steroids and say that this is a satisfactorily low number. It is not. This number should be 0%. Why is it higher than this? Should kids competing at the varsity level have ANY reason to use PEDs? Does anyone have reason?
Steroids cause hormones to be imbalanced. Again, not anything eye-opening. Think back to your high school years, and you'll probably remember being a bit off-balance as it is. Now add unnatural substances MEANT to imbalance hormones to the mix. Sound good?
Now, yes, some of this has to do with parental pressure, school pressure, and peer pressure. Professional athletes can't tackle all these problems. However, being frequently in the public eye, they can change the way in which they are seen by the children who inevitably look up to them.
I admit that Wikipedia isn't exactly a reputable medical journal, but it does have a pretty clear article on the effects of amphetamines. Amphetamines were (and maybe still are) a widespread problem in terms of usage in MLB. Reading through the article, you can tell that the long-term and short-term detrimental effects of amphetamines can be pretty damaging.
"I didn't know the knife was sharp enough to actually kill anybody."
I'm speculating...a bit, but let's all go ahead and assume that some individuals have used steroids. Giambi, Bonds, Sheffield, Palmeiro, and there are probably others you have your own opinions on. The first four I mentioned have the most evidence against them (of players in the spotlight), in terms of what the public has seen. Bonds and Sheffield (and there would no doubt be others we could add to this list) were two individuals who stood up and said they weren't sure of what was in the substances they put on their body/ingested/injected/whathaveyou.
What does this teach? If I didn't know what I was doing, then I'm not responsible for my actions. If a high school sports coach hands his player something to put on his body, and the player does not question it, who has cheated? The coach? The player? Is that the most important issue?
We've become obsessed with the Mitchell investigation, whether you think it a "witch hunt" or something "good for the integrity of the game". Is MLB putting this same effort into educating children on the dangers of steroids? Of the fact that "not knowing what you were doing" isn't exactly a defensible statement?
Why am I not railing against Jerry Hairston, Jr.? Alex Sanchez? Juan Rincon? What these guys are doing/have done is wrong too, right?
Absolutely. But how often are these individuals in the public eye? My point here is not neccessarily to air out all of MLB's dirty laundry in terms of steroids, but recognize those who have the prodigous ability to go along with their assumed-to-be prodigous PED usage, and realize that kids see those inviduals, see what they do, and want to replicate the results within themselves.
I'm not a fan of Jason Giambi, I never was, and I never will be. Both of his public apologies have been weak, where one assumed responsibility of nothing in particular, and the other trying to disperse the blame amongst a large group of people.
I don't doubt that many in baseball have been involved in this scandal, from clubhouse attendants on up to GMs and MLB front office people. What Giambi said wasn't incorrect, but still wrong. Frank Robinson suggested that if Giambi thinks those involved should fully admit their mistake, and also apologize profusely, then he should be the one to start. And MLB, in the meeting, may have told Giambi to clam up about it.
I'm not trying to say that Jason is a villain in all this. He did apologize, and I, for one, think he meant it. The whole ordeal with this report of a failed amphetamines test is yet to be settled, and he may prove innocent of that particular offense.
Is it important to anyone that Giambi is a Yankee, in terms of this story? It is, but not for the reasons you might think, with me being a Red Sox blogger. The Yankees are the team that enjoys the most national spotlight. They play in the biggest city in the United States, and have had the most measurable success of any MLB franchise. This makes Giambi a lot more high-profile than if this scandal had opened up while he was in Oakland. Not only does the story make headlines, but he's also been seen on national television twice this week.
People see him. Kids see him. High school players who want more power at the plate see him. This is why Giambi's latest apology could be so damning, if you believe it was sincere.
Do something wrong? Apologize, but make sure to call others out at the same time. I realize this is a tricky situation for Giambi to be in, as he no doubt was asked leading questions that may have brought him to make that particular statement. His position is not an enviable one. But I think he has a responsibility, as a public figure, to make this right. And to be fair, he hasn't tried to blame anyone else for his own personal "stuff"/steroid use.
The Scandal is too deep, but there's something that can be done.
Let's be honest. Is Mitchell going to really get anywhere? Aside from a few names here and there that may or may not surprise us, I think the answer is no. For one, the MLB Players Union may be the strongest union in the history of unions. Don Fehr goes to the negotiating table and gets what he wants from MLB. Thus, if Fehr decides that the players, by and large, are not going to cooperate fully, then they aren't. This isn't the time to argue the right and wrong of that particular statement, only to realize the truth of it.
What can we do? What can the public do? Ignore the chase. Ignore Bonds' ridiculous Chasing Aaron games. Every night that the Giants play, there is a Chasing Aaron section on the ticker on ESPN. Should we ignore it because he's soiling a record set by a man who had to endure difficulties en route to setting his own record? Or should we ignore it because he's setting an extremely poor example for those who may look up to him?
Some of you who are reading this may have already chosen to follow this course of action. Some of you may think that he didn't take PEDs and that what he is doing is legitimate. Some may believe that he was talented enough to reach the record anyway. I'm not really trying to persuade you that any of those positions are wrong. I'm just saying, if we as individuals want to set a good example, that those positions don't matter.
As parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc., we can try to make sure that those around us don't pay attention to people who are setting a bad example. And the players who have made light the positive effects of PEDs, could perhaps spend a little more time talking about the negative.