With the recent confession of Alex Rodriguez regarding his steroid use from 2001-2003, the whole performance enhancing drug issue was given a shot in the arm (pun definitely intended even though steroids are injected in the butt. And my puns are always intended on this blog). The media loves steroid stories and they simply refuse to let the whole issue shrivel up (another intended pun, a common side-effect of steroid use is shriveled testicles).
Why all the fuss? Why are we subjected to hours and days and years of coverage? Why is it an issue at all if athletes are supposed to be big and strong?
Money is the answer to all of these questions.
Take Alex Rodriguez as an example. From 1994 to 2000 (when A-Rod was supposedly clean and drug free), Rodriguez earned $12 million with an average salary of a little more than $1.7 million per year. Very nice indeed. It’s the type of salary that can buy a nice house (maybe two), a couple of nice cars, and a weird item or two (athletes always buy weird items. Mike Tyson has a ridiculously large pigeon collection and Ivan Rodriguez has a life-size statue of himself in his backyard. Gilbert Arenas has pure oxygen pumped into his house to expand his lung capacity, but I digress).
Staying with the A-Rod example, Rodriguez earned $186.4 million from 2001-2008 with an average salary of $23.3 million per year. Wow. What a difference! That salary can buy a neighborhood, a car dealership, and more weird items than Pee Wee Herman or Boy George.
Why can steroid use help ballplayers earn more money? Because while everyone knows that chicks dig home runs, team owners dig the long ball even more. During his steroid years, A-Rod averaged 52 homers per year. He averaged 39 homers when he was “clean.” He earned his first huge payday when he was supposedly clean. But his 10-year $280 million contract he received in 2007 was due in large part to steroid use.
Imagine an aging Hollywood starlet who got some terrific roles in the past, but has since been relegated to playing the crazy aunt on TV sitcoms. Tired of being the supporting actress and desperate for a couple more big roles as a hot love interest, she gets some work done, and is now noticeably perkier. She gets the roles and the big paychecks come flooding in.
Is that fair to the actress who gets passed over because she refuses to get plastic surgery? It is a simplistic example, but A-Rod’s steroid use not only inflated his muscles and wallet, but also his statistics. He is a phenomenal player with or without steroids, but mediocre players who take steroids are taking a clean player’s spot on the roster because of their inflated performances. Their steroid use is not only cheating against the other team, but also cheating the honest, hardworking guys who refuse to take performance enhancing drugs and only bust their butts in the weight room.
That’s why steroid use is such a big deal. And that’s why every player who has ever taken an illegal substance deserves to be punished. They took an honest player’s position and got rich on inflated ability.
PS. This blog post took a serious turn, didn’t it? Here is a video that will lighten the mood and explain the phrase, “Chicks dig the long ball.” And Mark McGwire (big strong dude wearing red and belting homers) could not deny his steroid use at a Congressional hearing.