Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Hit and the Astericks

I looked at the calendar and I realized that there are only 16 days left until 2007 is gone forever. To celebrate the greatness that this year has been, I have decided that I am going to dedicate several posts to some of the memories of this year. The first installment looks at drugs, punctuation, and the pursuit of a legacy.

On August 7 Barry Bonds was up to bat in a game against the Washington Nationals. Facing a full count, the San Fransisco crowd began chanting his name. A crack of the bat and 435 feet later, history was made. Barry Bonds hit his 756th career homerun, passing Hank Aaron for the all-time lead.

Just in case you missed it that night, or on the countless replays later. Here it is...

While the crowd in San Fransisco was elated that Bonds hit this homerun, the majority of people were not. While few would argue Bonds remarkable abilities, he has not been a man without controversy.

In 2001, Bonds hit 73 homeruns, breaking Mark McGuire's single season record to the shock of many. Given the mans age and his previous high of 49 homeruns, people assumed foul play. Greg Anderson, Bonds person trainer during this time, was later indicted for supplying anabolic steroids to professional athletes. In a 2006 book entitled Game of Shadows, the authors made several allegations against Barry Bonds concerning steroid use. The authors stated that during the 2001 season, Barry Bonds was a veritable chemical cocktail, stating that he was on at least 6 different types of performance enhancing drugs.

During Anderson's investigation, Bonds vehemently denied using steroids, or that Anderson had given him any. However, in 2006, federal investigators began looking into the fact that Bonds may have committed perjury, and in fact had received steroids from Anderson.

The ball used to hit this historic homerun was put up for auction in September, and was bought by fashion designer, Marc Ecko for $752,467. Ecko set up a website to allow the people do democratically determine the fate of the ball. There were three choices, to donate it to the Hall of Fame, to brand it with an asterisk (implying that the achievement was tainted), or to send it off into space.

After millions of votes, 47% of people decided that ball should be marked with an asterisk, before being sent to Cooperstown. Showing that many people feel that Bonds' achievements were tainted.

To me, this really is our generations Watergate. Before any of you get ready to post some angry comments, insulting my intelligence, hear me out.

Before Nixon's imfamous scandal, politics was considered to be a very pure, and noble thing, the altruistic act of devoting your life to public service. However, the findings that the President himself was at the centre of political wrong-doings, opened the world's eyes to the corrupt underbelly of politics. This has ushered in a wave of cynicism towards the democratic process, whose effects can still be felt.

This asterisk really is the sporting-equivalent. Sports have a certain mythos for being a pure test of athletic excellence, and baseball has long propagated this perception with its reliance on a host of heroes from Ruth to Mantle to McGuire.

Now we find out that one of the greatest players of this generation, allegedly owes a great deal of his success not to abilities and determination, but to needless and oils. While Bonds is, of course, innocent until proven guilty, the majority of people have already thrown him to the snake pit, accusing him of being a blatant cheater. Gone appear to be the days when our sporting great would be held in the highest regard, instead they appear to be the victims of constant scrutiny as modern cynicism engulfs them as well.

I feel really bad for the next great athlete to come along and shatter this (or any other) record. People will not be revering their accomplishment, but instead they will be met with constant accusations that they were on some sort of performance enhancing drugs, similar to the CeNNa-gate story that I touched on a while ago.

As a foot not to this story, the allegations against Bonds, were the catalyst for a full scale investigation into steroid use in baseball. The findings of this investigation, the Mitchell Report, were just released earlier this week with staggering results (Click here to read the entire thing, or here to just read an article about it).

The report gives many, many, examples of players using various performance enhancing drugs over the past several years and lists several players, including Roger Clemens, as culprits.
The report even states that it would be impossible to find every player who has used performance enhancers, implying that there are a very large amount of them.

If steroids, and other drugs, are as rampant as Mitchell states, I really need to wonder why it took so long for it to be so well known. If so many players are using drugs, then surely the managers and/or owner of the teams must have known somehow, someway. While the players themselves are responsible for their own actions, there must have been a large amount of people who encouraged them, either directly, or by turning a blind eye to the process. Everyone in baseball, really is to blame for the current state of the game (including former Texas Rangers owner, George W. Bush, yes that George W. Bush). And really, if baseball is so drug-ridden, who is to say that any other sports aren't the same?

The date of Bonds' trial, and the presentation of the asterisk ball to the Hall of Fame, should be some of the more interesting moments of 2008. However, when we look back at the homerun, the asterisk, and the investigation, we will remember 2007 as a very important year in sporting history. It is the year that teamwork, dedication, and integrity all went out the window in favour of the pursuit of excellence, winning, and money at all costs.

In other words, sports has lost something that it may never be able to get back, it has lost its innocence.

Until next time,


No comments: