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A Big Fat Asterisk
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baseball

I love sports, though not all of them equally. I have my clear favorite, football, but generally I know between a little and a lot when it comes to talking about all sports. Right now, it's basketball playoff time and baseball season. I'm not a huge baseball fan these days, I used to be much more so when I was little, I actually collected baseball cards, though probably because my brother did, and on occasion went to a St. Louis Cardinal's game. I generally only watch baseball today when the Cards are in the playoffs, a fair-weather fan you might say. But these days, even a no-weather fan has heard about Barry Bonds, who is chasing one of the biggest records in baseball, Babe Ruth's lifetime home run record of 714. Only Hank Aaron with 755 has more, but Bonds doesn't have a prayer to reach that, unless he can go back to taking steroids.

Speaking of Hank Aaron, let me sidetrack myself, as I often do, and talk a little about him.

Hank Aaron never played baseball in high school, he jumped right into playing semi-pro, which is a testament to what a naturally gifted player he was. His first foray into baseball included a brief stint playing for the Negro League's Indianapolis Clowns. Yes, Clowns. Ah, the 1950s. Because his talent was so obvious and couldn't be ignored, he quickly reached the majors, and his amazing career took off. I won't get into the details, but you can easily Google and find stuff. One thing I found so sad was that, in his quest to pass Babe Ruth, a white man, Aaron received numerous insults and death threats from people who thought an outspoken black man was not deserving of such a revered record. The equally great thing about Aaron, besides his baseball talent, was that as a black man in a high profile position, he felt a duty to speak out against prejudice, which of course angered many people. Aaron frequently chastised the very hand that fed him for, though there were many black athletes on the ball field, there were none in managerial positions or in the front office. Aaron said that as soon as a black player was finished playing they had to go "back to the back of the bus again." This has nothing to do with my point, I just found it interesting. The point I'm so circuitously trying to reach is that Hank Aaron at 755 home runs and Babe Ruth at 714 both accomplished their great records all without the use of steroids, which brings me to Barry Bonds, Mark Mcgwire and Sammy Sosa.

First of all, I'm not sure what I think about steroids. Generally I think they should be banned, though on rare occasions I think that they should just let players use them carte blanche and let the chips fall where they may. Baseball players are adults and if they want their testicles to shrivel up, have 'roid rage, or die, that's their choice. The bottom line is that the playing field must be level. So it should be all or none.

Back in '98 there was the epic race between McGwire of the Cardinals and Sosa of the Cubs to catch and surpass Roger Maris's single-season home run record of 61 set in, conveniently, 1961. The McGwire/Sosa race really was "great for baseball" as they say. It was exciting. McGwire got there first, Sammy's arrival was more like sloppy seconds, but they both broke and passed the record ending their seasons at 70 and 66, respectively. Then along came Barry Bonds who re-set the single-season home run record in 2001 at 73. McGwire, Sosa and Bonds, especially Bonds, have all been accused of being on "the juice." Do I think they all took steroids? Well, just look at pictures of them earlier in their careers and compare them to when they were at their prime. I didn't know lifting weights resulted in making a person's head bigger. So Bonds, as of this moment, is stuck at 713. And I do mean stuck. It's been 8 days and 31 at bats and no home runs. I'm not sure what his at-bat percentage to home-run percentage was before, but I think what's happening isn't a slump. Bonds said that, "Normally, I go home and work out and train and everything else. Now I'm just exhausted all the time. I'm tired. I'm always tired. It's never been like this before. I sleep all the time, all day." You know what I think? I think, because of the BALCO scandal and because he's being so scrutinized, Barry has had no choice but to stop taking steroids and because of that his body is breaking down at frightening speed. He can barely walk to the plate let alone swing a bat.

Yes, I think Barry Bonds will pass Babe Ruth, it would really suck for him if he didn't after having come this far. But my actual point is this - Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth did it with no artificial enhancements and I'm 99% convinced that McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds (who I'm 100% convinced) did use enhancements. So out of respect for Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth, any records the Three Giant Heads break or have broken should have a big, fat syringe-shaped asterisk beside them.

end of essay
Jeanette imagines herself to be the youngest and most attractive contributor to CSP. She is a writer/director/actor and is one of the founding members of Lucid by Proxy (along with David and Rick). She spends most of her time sitting at home alone talking to her cats, who lovingly ignore her in return. | more essays by Jeanette
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