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SportSass: Nice Guys Finish Last, Even in Baseball

For weeks now, I’ve listened to the radio pundits, the television talking heads, even my buddies at the local watering hole make arguments against steroid use in Major League Baseball. “It’s a bad example to set for the kids,” they say. “It’s unhealthy for the players,” they add. “How will we ever know the truth about records?” they ask. But in all these discussions, and there have been plenty of them, I have never heard anyone talk about one simple word: fairness.

When Barry Bonds takes steroids, goes up against a pitcher, and hits a home run, he has been unfair to the pitcher. A little rub of “the cream” here, a few drops of “the clear” under the tongue there, Bonds has disregarded the code of sportsmanlike conduct. He has un-leveled the playing field. He has cheated.

“If I knew for sure a teammate was using steroids,” Tom Candiotti said, “that would be a tough spot to be in. It would be hard to report a teammate, because then you’d be ratting him out, and no one wants a rat on his team.” I appreciate that sentiment, Tommy boy, but why is this non-rat principle more fair than equal competition among non-enhanced players.

The value system in MLB is topsy-turvy, on its head, Alice in Wonderland whacked. What ever happened to loyalty to the league? Loyalty to this principle called “fairness”? Loyalty to that little old thing called the “truth”? Why are players loyal to the unfair? Loyal to cheaters?

When Jason Giambi injects human growth hormone in his stomach and testosterone into his buttocks, he is doing the moral equivalent of injecting arsenic into the pitcher and fielders of the opposing team. Once again, the nice guys, the guys in the league who don’t cheat, who don’t take substances that the other players aren’t allowed to take, the nice guys finish last. Bonds and Giambi are the cover of Sports Illustrated, the stories on, the lead on SportCenter, the record setter listed in the record books.

Not only are the players who use banned substances unfair, not only are the other players who don’t report it unfair, the head office of MLB is unfair. Why is it that a player can admit to using these substances, and they’re not thrown out of the league? Where is that essential value of fairness? Where?

The only people who seem to be in any trouble are the founder of BALCO, Victor Conte, the Vice President, James Valente, and the trainers who used their products. Oh, those poor innocent baseball players. Used. Abused. Misled. Mistreated. Jeremy Giambi has been quoted as saying, “For all I knew, it could have been baby lotion.” Right, extremely expensive, very hush-hush baby lotion.

Shakespeare ends Act One, Scene One of MacBeth by having his witches call out, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair. Hover through the fog and filthy air.” He might well have been writing about the current climate in MLB. Articles proclaim that Sheffield, Giambi, Bonds will never face charges. The owners and other players look the other way with sales climbing and more butts filling more seats. Commissioner Selig only wants to look forward, not backward.

So who are the real victims in all this mess? The nice guys. The players who don’t cheat.

Too bad no one wants to fight for them, fight for what’s fair.

January 2005

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