Baseball reflects the best – and worst – in American society

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhicker: Clemson demonstrates that it’s tough to knock out the champNo, you don’t need to win the genetic lottery to play in the majors. But for the little guy, and even the not-so little guy, to really make it, using highly dangerous drugs was all but required. Naturally, the revelations of the Mitchell Report have sparked outrage among the American public, which is rightfully fed up about the nation’s pastime being tainted by cheating. And there is no shortage of people to blame – the athletes themselves, unscrupulous owners who effectively encouraged the abuse, the union that protected it, the commissioner of baseball, even the federal government, which seemed impotent to stop it. But let’s not forget that we, too – all of us – share in the culpability for this scandal. “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” hasn’t only been Major League Baseball’s policy toward steroid use. It’s been the American public’s, too. Baseball is the quintessential American sport, an athletic representation of the nation at its best. It’s a sport that celebrates teamwork as well as individual accomplishment. It honors tradition and lore. And, making it especially American, it’s uniquely meritocratic among the sports. Unlike football or basketball, where players need to win the genetic lottery just to compete on the field of play at the professional level, baseball is the game where the little guy has a chance. Or at least did. But now the Mitchell Report confirms what everyone knew all along. In baseball, size matters, a lot. As many as half of the players in recent years have been using steroids or human growth hormone to speed up their throws and put more power into their bats. Nothing in the Mitchell Report is new – not even most of the names. The rumors and the evidence have been around a long, long time. Players who were so-so in their 20s suddenly defied the laws of human biology to become Hall of Famers in their 30s. Their physiques ballooned before our very eyes. We guffawed. We joked. But we tolerated. We enabled. Like Major League Baseball and all those it employs, we were having too much fun watching records crumble one after another to answer the hard questions. We came to expect cheating, and so we made our peace with it. If baseball is a reflection of America at its best, it’s also a reflection of America at its worst – a society that can too often value fame, wealth and success over literally everything else. Make an honest, humble living and you’re a schlub. Make a dishonest living as an athlete using steroids, and you’re a celebrity, a hero to millions, fabulously wealthy. For a struggling athlete, who can be a millionaire with steroids or a stockboy without them, the choice is obvious. Ditto for the merely good-enough pro who can get a shot at records-book immortality with the help of modern medicine. We’ve got it all backward. Even now, the names in the news belong to those who cheated, who chose glory over honor. Perhaps when the hoopla has died down, we need another Mitchell Report, one celebrating all the players who sacrificed to do the right thing. These are the real heroes, the real role models – ambassadors of the quintessentially American sport when it really does represent America at its best.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

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