So baseball’s dirty.
If that surprises you, shield your eyes, there’s bad news about the Tooth Fairy, too.
Baseball’s dirty. Is and probably has been since well before what we’ve come to know as the Steroids Era.
That much became as clear as an empty syringe this week when Alex Rodriguez, the Golden Boy and the savior of all that would be holy in baseball, admitted his use of performance-enhancing drugs.
The game is dirty and has been for quite some time. Before designer steroids, it was the attention-amplifying greenies — these days we call them amphetamines — widely abused in the 1950s and 60s.
As the kind of guy that sits around on his 30th birthday listening to Bruce Springteen’s "My Hometown" and thinking about his dad and the irreocovable relationship between his old man and the grand old game, it breaks my heart to say it, but drugs are a part of the game we grew up on.
Playing catch in the yard is as pure as it’s ever going to be.
After that, money and competition get in the way. And when those two are in mix, you can forget about sacrament. The chase for the almighty dollar beats all. Last one there is a rotten egg.
We’d all like to put baseball on a higher plane; above what life’s become. It reminds us of a time when leather, rawhide and red-dirt infields dominated the senses. A time of eternal careless summers. A time when boys could really be boys, adulthood be damned and years away.
That time doesn’t seem like it exists anymore. Relentless competition creeps in too early these days.
If it still does exist, it has nothing to do with the Hall of Fame or home run records or scholarships or starting spots on the varsity squad. What makes baseball what we remember it as are the memories we made around it.
For some it’s hot dogs on opening day. For some it’s Little League wins or high school state championships. But for those of us that were lucky enough, we had those careless summers spent mostly at the ball park. We had those games of catch with dad.
Now, being the grown-up boys and girls that we are, we’ve somehow tied all that up into what happens in the major leagues. And that’s where we’ve gone wrong.
That’s why we get so disgruntled over contract disputes and let down over failed drug tests and all the other things that go along with the business end of the game.
But we lose sight of that — the fact that it is just a game. We glorify these records and the players that set them.
They’re not gods. They just swing a bat like one.
So let them play their game. And be a fan. By all means, be a fan (my livelihood depends on it).
Follow the pennant chases. Go to Braves games and boo the guys in the gray jerseys. Jeer the general manager when he flubs it at the trade deadline. Talk about next year when it’s still six months away.
But when it comes down to what you’re really emotionally invested in, try not to have your heart broken when the hero’s white hat gets a little tarnished.
Save that stuff for the backyard.
Twenty years from now the Cooperstown credentials of A-Rod and Barry Bonds won’t be anything more than something to argue about over dinner.
But if you’ve got somebody to go throw the ball around with after you’re done, the most valuable rewards are right where you find them.