Misplaced Priorities, Death, PEDs, and Fictional Characters
This week, Ryan Braun was suspended for the remainder of the 2013 MLB season. This should be no surprise, really. We’ve been hearing and reading about the buildup for weeks. It was just a matter of time. That doesn’t diminish the heartbreak and frustration for Brewers fans, though.
This does, however, mark a very drastic change in how our society views what is important and what is not.
At this point, let me clarify my stance on performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). I don’t like them. I think they cheat the game, the record books, the fans, and the clean players. In no way do I support the use of them. Plus, as a biologist, I happen to believe they are extremely harmful to the human body.
But, it seems like we have some really twisted and misplaced priorities lately. It seems like the media and sports world is more upset with Ryan Braun than Aaron Hernandez. While Hernandez is innocent until proven guilty, he is being implicated in multiple homicides. That is some really serious, sick, and tragic stuff. We, as a society, should be appalled at the circumstances surrounding Hernandez.
I find the latest treatment of the upcoming New England Patriots training camp to be sickening. For example, with Rob Gronkowski injured, Wes Welker in Denver, and Aaron Hernandez in jail, Tom Brady will be throwing the ball to very different players this year. That seems to be the focus of the Hernandez drama. Who will Brady throw to? How will New England win their division again?
Tom Brady was quoted as saying, “The only thing I care about is winning. Nothing is going to ever get in the way of that goal. I’m just excited to report to camp and see what we can accomplish as a team. The fate of our season will be determined by the players in our locker room — nothing else.”
Wow. This is what’s important in this world? How about the man, Odin Lloyd, who is now dead? What about his family? There was a tragic loss, but it’s great to see that Brady, in his own words, has “moved on.” How noble of him. Touchdowns make a humanitarian not. Does he even care? He shared a locker room with Hernandez. He broke bread with Hernandez. He threw the ball to Hernandez.
They both helped each other become richer.
This is where our misplaced priorities lie. Forgotten is a dead man who died in the prime of his life. Instead, the media is eating up the vilification of Ryan Braun. Along those sickening lines is how Aaron Rodgers owes the world a large sum of money because of some stupid tweet. Really?
Why, as a sports society, are we more upset with Ryan Braun’s use of PEDs, and his subsequent lying about it, than we are with the Aaron Hernandez murder case? Have we really moved on that quickly from a murder? Is using a PED a more serious crime than taking one’s life?
If so, this signifies a very fickle and rapid change in our view of the world.
I find this sudden vilification of PEDs to be hypocritical. We relished the “juiced ball” era beginning around 1987. That saw an increase in the number of home runs. Hypotheses arose that a modified ball lead to more home runs, because it was “juiced”, but it was more likely the players were juiced. Remember Brady Anderson?
Baseball fans ate up the 1998 home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. That ride would not have been possible without PEDs. Everyone knew it. But, at the time, no one really cared. Stadiums were full, televisions were watched, and everyone was happy while making money. Many people also loved Barry Bond’s run to 73. People followed it closer than their senate elections.
So, you see, our society loved PEDs up until recently. If you really think about it, some of our favorite stories and favorite fictional characters used PEDs. Taking PEDs makes for a more compelling story and takes us to a fantasy world. Whether that fantasy world is in the DC or Marvel universe, or at a baseball stadium, we’ve come to love that alternate reality. We are greatly entertained by bending the limits of human abilities. We always have been, and probably always will be. It makes for great entertainment.
Let’s take a look at some our favorite fictional characters, and how they gained superhuman powers. Then, let’s look at how they could fit into the baseball universe.
Starting Pitcher: Dracula. This guy gains a major advantage from sucking human blood. He intimidates batters with his intense gaze. He’s money at night, but don’t count on him during a day game. He really needs his rest between starts.
Closing Pitcher: Mr. Freeze. Draws his power from cryogenics. Ice water in his veins, literally. Perfect to close out tight games when they matter the most.
Catcher: Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. The cool Dr. Jekyll can call a good game and manage his pitching staff, but one sip of a potion turns him into the nasty Mr. Hyde who will guard the plate against all charging base runners.
First Base: The Incredible Hulk. Gamma radiation turned this thin man into a monstrous, home run hitting machine. Not too unlike Mark McGwire.
Second Base: Link. Little feisty guy with great reflexes. Has access to all kinds of magic and potions to lift his life levels and bring him back from near-death experiences. Doesn’t stay on the disabled list for too long. Very superstitious, much like most baseball players.
Third Base: Thing. Cosmic rays transformed a scientist into a brick wall, which is ideal to play on the hot corner. Able to knock down scorching line drives down the line. Cannon arm. Hits a ton. Can be a backstopping catcher when needed.
Shortstop: Harry Potter. He has access to all kinds of potions and spells. Quick and nimble, has no problem turning double plays. He’s the guy always yelling, “Hey batter, batter, batter, batter, swing batter” while making the ball turn invisible. Never seems to spend any time on the disabled list due to quick healing from injuries.
Left Field: Spider-Man. Draws his power from radioactive spider venom. Can climb the wall to rob home runs. Has a great glove and never drops anything. For some reason, balls hit to the corner and gap never get very far. Superhuman range in the field.
Center Field: Alice. With one potion, she can shrink her strike zone to two inches. Another potion makes her ten-feet tall and allows her to rob all home runs in her path.
Right Field: Mario. A plumber who gets super powers by dropping mushrooms. He also gains a fireball cannon for an arm, which is required of all right fielders.
As you can see, our entertainment has a long, rich history of PEDs. It’s no surprise that PEDs showed up in baseball. Fans love 100 mph fastballs and long home runs. In the words of Curt Schilling, PEDs “make bad players good. They make good players great. They make great players hall of famers.”
And, not to mention, they are the difference between a life in the minor leagues or a $100 million contract in the show.
They are the difference between watching re-runs of Scrubs or an MLB broadcast.
They are the difference between going to the monster truck show or Miller Park.
Sports are entertainment, nothing more. They draw the passions of fans everywhere. It’s easy to get caught up in the drama, excitement, and frustration. But, let’s not forget about what’s truly important. It’s just a game. Cheating cheats the game, not the human experience or human existence.
We have a long history with PEDs. Let’s subdue the fake rage and wipe off the embellished shocked face we are carrying.
Featured photo from the Dana Files (Creative Commons).