Monday, August 01, 2005

Not My Pastime

Today was another sad day in what has been a sad decade for Major League Baseball. Today, 19-year veteran, Rafael Palmeiro was suspended for a whopping 10 days for having violated the league's drug policy. The issue I have with all of this does not have much to do with the individual as it does with the sport.

I have enjoyed backyard baseball games with my neighbor kids and professional games in huge stadiums. Still, my heart sinks to think about the potential of any of my brothers or cousins using drugs so that they could be better athletes. I don't want them seeing players and creating heroes out of athletes who are secretly destroying their bodies. I don't want them to see these athletes lying on television and in the newspapers and in front of Congress. Lying is wrong. Cheating is wrong. Winning is not that important. Money is not that important.

Professional sports in general has skirted around this issue for a long time. In Major League Baseball, players are suspended for ten days when a player is caught the first time. Depending on the schedule, this could mean the offender misses between one and ten games. Palmeiro will miss nine games (if my math is correct). His nine games will mean he misses under six percent of the season. In the National Baskeball Association, first-time offenders are suspended for five games. The percentage is almost identical; six percent. The National Football League goes farther than basketball and baseball. The rules for its offenders mean a player could miss a quarter of the season. Just two weeks ago, the National Hockey League ended its work stoppage, and players agreed to random drug tests twice every season. Here, first-time offenders are suspended for 20 games. Those first-time offenders are going to miss almost a third of their season. The NHL has the stiffest rules for offenders. The second offense will lead to a player being suspended for sixty games, and the third offense will get a player kicked out of the league forever.

Ironically, hockey has seen the least amount of the spot light for drug abuse among its players. Why do I think this is ironic? Baseball knows it has a problem, but it won't do anything significant about it. Hockey knows it doesn't want the problems baseball has had, so it created a preemptive policy. Baseball is going to have to publish two record books. The first will be the pre-1970 records. I propose the title of this book be "Records from America's Pastime" The second will have to be "Baseball's Drug Era Record Book" or "Baseball Records by Dummies" not "for Dummies." That second book could probably have an entire section dedicated to "Games Missed Due to Drug Suspension" or "Games Missed Due to Injury Rehabilitation Because Drugs Destroyed My Body and I Couldn't Heal."

Baseball may be called America's pastime, but I disagree. Professional baseball has embittered me toward the game. Basketball, soccer, football, hockey, cricket, polo, and quittage all rank higher than baseball right now for my preferred sports. Goodbye, baseball.

I finish now with two quotes from this spring's congressional hearings.

"This is like the theatre of the absurd, here," Rep. Tom Lantos (D-California); House Government Reform Committee; 17 March 2005

"I am in favor of eliminating the problem completely," Rafael Palmeiro, Baltimore Orioles.

1 comment:

Carla said...

I think quittage has become the world's new sport. No drugs needed for this game. Just a cool broom. Let's make it our new pastime.