Friday, January 11, 2013

Back to the Hall -- the steroid thang

As he usually does, Gino gets to the nub of the matter:
I'm just going to go on record that I find it a hypocrisy that sports writers who spent years reporting and cheering for the Home Runs and expanded stats of The Roid Era (even when it was not-too-unclear that there was some steroid abuse or something... going on) and now it appears they can't seem to find anybody worthy from The Roid Era for the Hall Of Fame.
The key word in that paragraph? Cheering. And that's what I think we need to remember. Here's a little taste of the conventional wisdom of 1998:
McGwire and Sosa gave America a summer that won't be forgotten: a summer of stroke and counterstroke, of packed houses and curtain calls, of rivals embracing and gloves in the bleachers and adults turned into kids -- the Summer of Long Balls and Love. It wasn't just the lengths they went to with bats in their hands. It was also that they went to such lengths to conduct the great home run race with dignity and sportsmanship, with a sense of joy and openness. Never have two men chased legends and each other that hard and that long or invited so much of America onto their backs for the ride.
That's Gary Smith of Sports Illustrated, explaining why Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were both named Sportsman of the Year for 1998. The cover is a riot, too:

Can't even see the back acne
I don't mean to pick on Smith -- there was a lot of this sort of purple prose back then. And when it all turned out to be a facade, that really angered a lot of people. There's a tendency in sports writing, and sports writers, to either hype or deflate. It's baked in, going all the way back to Grantland Rice:
"Outlined against a blue, gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again.

"In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering panorama spread out upon the green plain below." 
In other words, we've been dealing with fanboys since at least 1922. And when you let fanboys run your club, emotions can rule the day.

We're not close to sussing out the real meaning of the Steroid Era yet, because we are still way too close to it. It's going to take another 10-20 years before we have sufficient perspective. I would guess that, at some point, we'll have to take what happened in the 1990s and early 2000s and assign it a context of strangeness, just as baseball historians have come to understand that baseball in the 1920s was a significantly different game than it was in the 1960s.

5 comments:

R.A. Crankbait said...

Are you not entertained?

Mr. D said...

Crankbait wins the thread!

R.A. Crankbait said...

Oh, great. Now I suppose I'll have to submit to a drug test or risk being stripped of the title.

Mr. D said...

Oh, great. Now I suppose I'll have to submit to a drug test or risk being stripped of the title.

Don't worry about it. We all know you're on the juice.

Gino said...

its not cheating if everybody is doing it.