Here’s what my screen looked like when I searched for “steroids” on the baseball hall of fame site:
As I thought of this and did the quick search I thought of “Loving Baseball” by Joe Posnanski in the July 25, 2011 Sports Illustrated. He wrote:
Baseball is at its best when past and present click together seamlessly, like pieces of Ikea furniture. I think this is the biggest reason there is a different tenor of outrage in baseball when star players are caught or admit to using performance-enhancing drugs. Commissioner Bud Selig has often lamented that there never seemed to be that kind of outrage for steroids in football.
But football is different. Football is about looking ahead, betting on the future. Football is about recruiting and the draft and three-team parlays on Sunday. Sure football celebrates its history, but only as history, like a married couple that every now and then looks at the wedding album. In baseball, history is a living and breathing character. When Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs and then Barry Bonds hit 73 and 762 and both, one publicly, the other tacitly, later acknowledged having used steroids-well, that wasn’t just an unhappy incident for many baseball fans. It was the crack in baseball’s timeline. It broke up baseball’s once hallowed connection to Hank Aaron and Roger Maris and Babe Ruth and the past. If football’s history was wiped blank tomorrow, the game would go on, as popular as ever. Not so baseball. Derek Jeter hit a home run in the third inning of a July game against Tampa Bay. The homer tied the game 1-1. So what? Why would anyone care about that? But no one who was there will forget it, because it was Jeter’s 3,000th hit, and only 28 men have done it. Ruth did not get 3,000 hits. Lou Gehrig did not. Joe DiMaggio did not. No Yankee ever had. No matter how much people love the NFL, when Clinton Portis becomes the 26th man in NFL history to rush for 10,000 yards, it won’t be magical like that.
This is insightful. (Unfortunately, with respect to the writer, the insight is coupled with at least the second stupid simile in an otherwise fine article. Posnanski’s editor should be reprimanded for letting “like pieces of Ikea furniture” stand, but I digress…) The steroid stuff ticks me off differently than with football (although it really ticks me off). There is something about baseball’s history that is special, and though I do not love baseball, my son and his beloved grandfather do and that’s enough for me to get back into this sport that I left formally after sixth grade.
Baseball has been having the “steroid” discussion for a while now. People who love baseball have a spectrum of opinions about steroids and the Hall, but I find it hard to imagine a baseball man arguing with Mr. Posnanski’s point, so I am surprised—and I know it’s stupid, but I am also a little disappointed—that a search for “steroids” on the Hall of Fame site turned up no results. I wish baseball could formally say in its most hallowed hall what Mr. Posnanski has so truthfully described: Baseball is at its best when past and present click together seamlessly.
I have already had some discussion of this issue with my oldest son. He is just 11, but the more serious part of that conversation will arise again soon. When it does I will talk about the care of his body, which Biblically is—in Christ—a temple of the Holy Spirit. I will also use Mr. Posnanski’s insight to help explain another part of the issue. Perhaps, then, baseball will help me to talk about family and legacy, always good talks for a father to have with his son.