Revisiting steroids, I wanted to give a shout-out to an excellent essay I read in Time this week by James Poniewozik. I know DM's view especially on the steroids issue and I share it for the most part. We have done a decent amount of Bonds bashing here, and I still believe rightfully so. But Poniewozik's treatment of the issue is the first one to make me think about it on a deeper level.
His take on it is essentially: what right does society have to criticize the steroid users when people get plastic surgery to enhance their image and get ahead in jobs and lives, people take brain tonic to get smarter, people send their kids to these intensive SAT courses to do better on a test designed to measure natural ability, people use drugs and surgery to increase their sex lives (and lengths), singers voices are enhanced dramatically in the studio (and at concerts), nations spend millions to get their athletes gold medals, smaller children are given growth hormone to get them taller, tons of research goes on every day to get genetically smarter and faster babies or so that you can choose your baby's gender, eye color, etc. You can add other examples Poniewozik leaves out--a particular pet peeve of mine is studios paying millions in ads and gifts to get films nominated--but he makes the points well in the limited space he has.
I think it is a pretty good point. And it's probably a pretty shallow argument to counter with: "we expect more of athletes" considering these are the same people to whose actions the public turns a blind eye when they are arrested for DWI or domestic abuse among other sordid activities, as long as they are helping the team win.
I guess my best counter would be that while I don't expect more from athletes, I enjoy living in my sports purist fantasy world. Part of my joy is the history of the game (for all sports), comparing feats from era to era, from player to player, trying to account for the differences in the game over time, and such. And the steroid issue takes that away from me, which simply upsets me. I think Poniewozik's essay does put things in perspective very well--the steroid issue is simply a larger societal issue, and a small part of it at that. But for those of us to whom the game really means something, we care a lot more about it than whether the waitress just got her breasts augmented.