Baseball. The word brings different thoughts to mind for different people.
To purists, baseball is the sights, the smells and the sounds of the wonderful game that we call our national pastime. To millions of kids, baseball is the game that they play to have some fun, forget about the stress in their lives and dream of becoming professional ballplayers.
When the Major League Baseball (MLB) season wrapped up in October, everyone was still shocked over the Boston Red Sox’s first World Series title in 86 years. New York Yankees fans were still trying to figure out how the Yanks could have ever coughed up a three-games-to-none lead to their most hated rivals.
Unfortunately, when people hear the word baseball now, they do not think of the sights and sounds, their childhood memories or the most exciting postseason in recent memory. Instead, baseball is synonymous with steroids.
The MLB received far more attention in the offseason for its steroid use than it did during the season for its games. Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Mark McGwire have rapidly deteriorated from heroes to goats. Recent hearings attacked the league’s drug policies and Congress threatened to intervene if the steroid problems continue.
On Sunday, the baseball season finally kicked off with a contest between the Yankees and the Red Sox. The season openers went pretty much according to plan – the Yankees won easily and the Mets suffered a late-inning breakdown.
Major league officials hoped that the start of the season would take the attention away from the steroid scandal. However, those hopes faded quickly when one major leaguer and 38 minor leaguers failed drug tests.
The steroid scandal should send a message to professional players that things need to change. Competition is so fierce that players feel the need to cheat in order to succeed.
The good guys who refuse to give in to the temptation of steroid use are the ones who suffer. A solid minor league player who does not take steroids may lose his dream of making it to the big leagues because one of his teammates decided to cheat so he could bulk up.
Yet despite all the negativity surrounding baseball, the season will go on. Records will be broken, games will go down to the wire and heroes will emerge. Just like the season following the 1994 players’ strike, baseball will recover from this obstacle because many people have a true passion for the sport.
Hopefully, there will be a time when players get the message, realize that they are role models and stop using illegal performance-enhancing drugs. Fans will be sure that no asterisks will need to be placed next to any new records set. Hall of Fame voters will not have to balance the ahcievements of a player with the drug allegations against him.
Baseball is an amazing game that means so much to so many people. Let us hope that the athletes who get paid millions of dollars to play it never forget that.