December 13, 2007

George Mitchell and the Juice Report

Like you, I have spent several minutes thinking about the steroids report on major league baseball put together by former senator, judge and current certifiable stuffed-shirt George Mitchell. Perhaps unlike you, I have thought about a reasoned response to this tattle-tale document, which names some of the brightest lights in the Bigs as juicers and needlefreaks. We have to come to terms with the idea that it's all over now. There's no sense kidding ourselves. Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte (I think his last name sprouted all those "t's" because of human growth hormone), Albert Pujols, Garry Sheffield, Jason Giambi, Eric Gagne, and of course, the King of Performance Enhancement Hisself, Barry Bonds, who needs a size 12 crown. And, naturally, we know about Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, the Bash Brothers, and as for Sammy Sosa...the asterisks are as the stars in the firmament. One player in the history of major league baseball hit more than 60 home runs in a season without mainlining anabolics, and that was more than 40 years ago.

Americans are by nature addicted to fantasies. For the average baseball fan, the players are just local kids who grew up and kept playing a game they loved and which they happened to be very good at. There's no need to think about the obscene contracts and the obscene ticket prices, the disdain which the players feel for the fans, the transient nature of a player's tenure on the "home" team, the hotel room life, the womanizing, the fist fights in the bars. No, these guys are the local "heroes" of our culture, and for the 3 or 4 years which a player might spend in your city wearing your city's uniform, drawing a $12 million salary and renting a villa right near your home town where he spends nights between home games before going to his real home in the off-season, the golf course hacienda in Florida or Texas where he lives with his third wife, former supermodel Tiffany Krystal, he is absolutely essential to our quality of life.

I think, however, that Reality Therapy has much to say for it. As Thoreau advised, one should "front the essential facts of life" in the most direct way possible. And the truth is, as we have found through such chemical innovators as BALCO and Victor Conte, he of the pencil-moustache and elusive drugs, that the juicers are likely always to be one step ahead of the testers. Thus, the "clear" and other breakthroughs of organic chemistry. Thus, I propose Major Steroids League Baseball (MSLB). The ambivalence of that "major" as a qualifier is, of course, deliberate. I leave nothing to chance, except my life in general. In MSLB ball there will be no testing whatsoever. Players can show up for spring training with bodies that appear to have been formed from molten titanium poured into lost-wax molds. Their feet perhaps have grown four sizes in the off-season and their scrota have disappeared altogether. No matter. The fans will get their money's worth. The power hitters will average over 100 homers a year even though they face pumped-up fireballers throwing 120 mph pitches. As an outlet for all the 'roid rage, the players will carry firearms and those spiked balls on a stick thingies, maces, I think they're called, so that "bench-clearing" brawls will result in body counts like Baghdad suicide bombs.

The fans will love it. Any player entering the league will know that to compete he will have to deal with some of the downsides pointed out in the Mitchell report, like insanity, liver damage and complete disappearance of the gonads. C'est la vie. Attendance at games will skyrocket; MSLB may become a cultural substitute for foreign wars, solving many problems at once. For the traditional athlete who simply wants to play the game, a kind of super-AAA league could be established where drug testing would be used, probably successfully, since the league won't draw flies and salaries will be pathetic. Thus, non-juiced players could be recruited from college, spend a few years in a bucolic pastime, then leave and lead an adult life from that point forward. The freaks in the MSLB, on the other hand, could devote their entire lives, in every sense of the word, to the sport that rewards them so handsomely.

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