Simply put: If Major League Baseball advertised the game as a steroid-infused, home-run loving, strikeout-dominating sport, then I'd be fine with steroid use. Until that happens these guys get rule books and memos pointing out exactly what is OK and what isn't in baseball several times over. They know what they're doing is wrong, so in my mind, they're cheaters.
|These guys are just a symptom of a larger problem|
To me, to take any other stance is to rationalize something that deserves none. And if you're willing to do that, then you better be willing to reward your child for posting a phony "A" after copying off the class genius' test.
However, with that being said, I will raise another issue.
Can we blame only Ryan Braun?
Can we blame any of the previous assumed steroid users? McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, Bonds, Clemens,.... the list goes on.
Aren't the owners, the agents and even we the fans slightly culpable?
The first MLB player to earn an average of $1,000,000 a year was Dave Parker of the Pittsburgh Pirates after he signed a five year, $5 million dollar contract in 1979. Nolan Ryan is thought to be the first player to earn the actual coveted $1 million salary for a single season in 1980. This, back at a time where according to the US Census, the average price of a home in 1979 was anywhere between $67,000 - $70,000. According to the Department of Energy, an average car price cost you around $6,900 and imports were even cheaper. While prices have more than tripled since then, salaries have skyrocketed through the roof for professional athletes, with more and more athletes signing large, incentive-laden contracts fresh out of high school.
According to MLBtraderumors.com, Josh Beckett was the first player to receive a contract as a high school player - Four years, $7 million at age 18.
If you had a chance to make $7 million dollars back in 1999, the year Beckett signed his agreement, you'd do it in a second. And if you had a chance to earn that kind of bank, the kind of cash that would garner security for you and your family for years, meant injecting a fluid into your thigh twice a day just to get you to the signing, would you pass it up? Maybe you would if you had good parenting, solid morals, truly believed you shouldn't be paid on false pretenses, etc. But an 18-year-old, presented with these options and parents who aren't on such morally high ground, come on. He'll do it. And yes, we all probably would.
It would be like someone coming back from the future, and offering you the numbers to that day's as-yet drawn lottery with the only requirement being that your name will be scowled upon ten years down the road. You'll keep the money, the wealth, the fame (or the infamy if you will), the girls/boys, the cars, the royal treatment, the admiration and most enjoyable memories of ten years of a dream life but you'll be remembered with a sour taste.
As someone who myself has scraped, clawed and failed so many times over to reach any of the goals I set for myself, I can fully understand the lure this ticket provides young athletes.
So yes, you can hate Ryan Braun and I can hate Ryan Braun.
But before we all throw stones from our glass houses, let's remind ourselves that we as a society have loved the idea that our kids might someday win this lottery. We have not taken it upon ourselves to protect our youth from themselves because the bait on this hook is just too great. And if you doubt any of this just check out a Little League field these days and see the outrageous parents abusing volunteer coaches over how little their son or daughter played. Read the ridiculous stories of coaches taking practices too far in the name of cashing in on a great high school season and moving onto the college ranks. There have been deaths over this kind of thing.
Ryan Braun might be a putz.
But as with most things, he's a reflection of the society that helped build him up.