The “Forgotten” Era

Photo courtesy of The Chicago Tribune

To baseball heads around the world, the Steroid Era is one that will forever be cloaked in darkness and infamy. McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, Clemens A-Rod, Palmeiro, Clemens — the list goes on and on and on, and yet, baseball still has a hard time talking about these infamous years of their sport.

For a casual fan, the Steroid Era was the best era of baseball.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. What did he just say?

Hear me out on this one, folks.

As a basketball enthusiast first and foremost and a college football and Bengals die hard, baseball is at the bottom of the totem pole. I grew up playing, so I enjoy the intricacies of the sport and I do really like baseball, but it is not one of my favorites these days.

With the exception of last year’s World Series story line, the sport is more of a pastime for me, except for the days that baseball has tried to forget. Let me take you back:

It’s 1998.

Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa are on top of the sport as the league’s biggest stars. I remember my dad bought tickets right behind the dugout (the closest I’ve sat before or since) for a Reds, Cardinals game late in the season. The house was packed. Were the fans there to see the dominating Cincinnati Reds?

Ehhhh. Not quite.

Adults, teens and young’ns alike were there to witness the greatest hitter in the MLB at the time, Mark McGwire. Looking back on it, I never really thought about how massive another human being was as a child. I suppose I did because I idolized these guys and wanted to be like them some day, but I never really noticed how much bigger McGwire and Sosa were comparative to normal human beings. They were frickin’ giants, man!

McGwire:

Photo courtesy of Si.com

Sosa:

Photo courtesy of CBS Sports

Eeeek! You kiddin’ me? Especially McGwire. My goodness.

That said, who really cares?

Baseball purists, yes.

Hank Aaron. Okay.

Players who built their legends and records. True.

Okay, I get it. A lot of people do care. I guess I just don’t.

In the National Football League, steroids are treated as a slap on the wrist; a mere 4-game suspension. According to ESPN, players can receive a 4-game ban for steroids or HGH, 6 games for trying to manipulate test results, 10 games for a 2nd offense, and a minimum 2-year ban for 3rd offense. This doesn’t even touch baseball.

Let’s look at it.

According to USA Today, players can be suspended for 80 games after a first offense violation and an entire 162-game season for a second offense, with no salary to boot. After a 3rd offense? Players are suspended for life.

A little different from the NFL, no?

It wasn’t always this way. For years, baseball went about their business as guys shattered home run records and head sizes grew to disproportionate sizes. Again, who really cares? Well, things took a turn back in 2005 when the MLB decided to get the government involved in their personal affairs.

Why?

I still don’t have a frickin’ clue, and I’m not sure that I ever will. Was this the Unofficially-Official bridge between sports and politics that we are currently immersed in? I have never thought of it that way until writing this, but it just might be. Are steroids illegal in the U.S.? Yes, they are — without a prescription. The selling and possession of this controlled substance is against the law and is punishable for up to a year in prison, so that does make sense.

But, shouldn’t the MLB have just handled it internally? It seems like the government wasted a lot of money worrying about something so asinine as steroid use in baseball.

After Mark McGwire plead the fifth (yikes) and Rafael Palmeiro and Roger Clemens called out the world, I’m pretty sure baseball would like to take this one back…

Once again, yikes.

No wonder we are unable to turn on a sports network without a politically-charged conversation on display. I’m upset I didn’t connect this a bit earlier — sure, there are other reasons with the influx of media coverage and social media and such, but I nearly forgot that the MLB and U.S. Government went head-to-head for the entire world to see, twelve years ago next month. It makes a lot more sense to me now.

So, where do we leave “The Forgotten Era” of baseball? Has baseball moved on? Should they? Does it even matter anymore?

Are these guys the same person? Serious question.

Ummmmmmmm

Did Roger Clemens ruin his career and reputation?

Did Andy Pettitte make the smartest PR move of all-time?

Is anybody listening to me?

Luckily, in this media-driven world, we (the consumer and fan) forget most of the things that happen on a daily basis. We remember segments of major events, clusters of information, and fragments of memories in a world we once knew. We are living through one major eye-witness account filled with faulty information and jumbled thoughts, and it is only going to continue that way.

With the influx of young talent, a Cubs World Series win for the ages and some intriguing players and story lines, baseball’s future is extremely bright. I just needed to jump back a little to remember where we came from, in order to fully appreciate where we are going.

The rest will be history.

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