If, like many baseball fans, you are having a hard time deciding where you stand on the explosive steroids report issued last week, I am here to help.
Below are two lists. Why Steroids Matter. Why Steroids Don’t Matter. Get a pencil, and circle the statements you agree with.
WHY STEROIDS DON’T MATTER
1. It’s not illegal to use them if you have a prescription.
2. There was no testing in baseball until a few years ago – well after many of the athletes cited in the Mitchell Report allegedly used them.
3. The misconceptions about steroids are insane: When properly used, they are not health-threatening.
4. Athletes always try to get an edge.
5. What about “greenies”- amphetamines – which players took for years? Should every player who took them be black-marked and asterisked?
6. What about caffeine? Doesn’t that give you an edge? Some players gulp coffee or take caffeine pills. Should they be black-marked too?
7. If steroids were so bad, why did coaches and managers look the other way for so long?
8. If steroids were such an advantage, why were many of the players in the Mitchell Report unexceptional talents, some even journeymen?
9. Baseball is entertainment. You pay to see a show. The summer of 1998, when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa had their record home-run chase, was a glorious time. What’s bad about that?
10. These guys are grown men.
11. It’s unrealistic to test every player for everything.
12. Human growth hormone is not an illegal steroid. You can use it if you get a prescription.
13. Many nonathletes swear by HGH for healing and slowing aging.
14. Who cares about baseball records? You can’t compare eras anyhow. They used to play fewer games. Blacks weren’t allowed until the 1940s. All records are relative.
15. The general public is sick of this story.
WHY STEROIDS MATTER
1. They are illegal without a prescription.
2. They easily can endanger a player’s health.
3. They give users an unfair edge.
4. If you don’t have a level playing field, you don’t have a true competition.
5. Caffeine is one thing; anyone can use it. But dividing baseball into players who will risk illegal activity and players who won’t is ruinous for the game.
6. An artificially enhanced home-run hitter is not as worthy as one who does it on his own.
7. There was a baseball drug policy all this time – as the Mitchell Report said. Just because baseball didn’t test for steroids doesn’t mean it condoned them.
8. Baseball is more than entertainment. A concert is entertainment. Baseball has an outcome each night – a winner and a loser – and if you can’t trust the players, you can’t trust the outcome.
9. Baseball records are important; they are the measuring sticks of the game and the connections to its past.
10. Kids look up to ballplayers. Do you want your kids sticking needles in their butts because their favorite pitcher does it?
11. Steroids are dangerous and were not designed for you to get stronger than the next guy.
12. The use of steroids and HGH creates a secretive, lying subculture.
13. San Francisco fans may cheer Barry Bonds, but think of all the other parks in which he gets booed. That can’t be good for baseball.
14. The players’ union should be protecting the careers of the huge majority who DON’T use steroids, instead of shielding the handful who do.
15. You don’t make policy based on whether fans are tired of a story: This is critical for the future of the game.
OK. Done your circling? Now count how many from Category 1 and how many from Category 2. Bigger number is where you stand.
And if that sounds like confusing, non-declarative, mixed signals – well, now you know how baseball came to this sorry point in the first place.
Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He will sign his books at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Borders in Canton, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Barnes & Noble in Allen Park and noon Thursday at Borders Express in Renaissance Center in Detroit.