Until now, I have dealt with the steroid era by way of omission. Just like papers at the bottom of a “to do” pile, I have filed all the issues that revolve around baseball and the steroid years in the back of my mind. Over the weekend, as I was reading through Roger Clemens indictment, the simple court stamp, AUG 19 2010, changed everything.
The issue of steroids and everything that comes barreling along with it is no longer just fuel for discussions, it’s real life. One in which Roger Clemens will appear today before the federal government on a six-count indictment in connection with his testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Some may say, this sounds ridiculously simple for what is to be an analysis on the Clemens arraignment, but it’s the simplicity that has cleared a very complicated issue for me.
You see, my childhood memories revolve around all those who played in the steroid era. I’m one of the kids who grew up watching steroid* players. In my backyard my brothers would try to pitch like Roger Clemens. We would all hope to blast a home run over the back fence of the ballpark and into the adjoining Pizza Hut lot, just like Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. Some of my most beloved memories are from family times together in Busch Stadium during McGwire’s record breaking* year.
Say all you want to about the things we’ve learned about not making athletes our heroes, but at the time these guys—Clemens, McGwire, Bonds, and so on—they were my heroes. Those of us who are kids of the steroid era watched baseball because we were young, loved the game and wanted to someday be like those giants. Call all our dreams, dreams of the steroid boomers, but as silly as it may sound now, so many of us made choices in life because we wanted what they had.
I don’t write about baseball because I want a whole bunch of people to link to my posts. I don’t write about baseball because I want to make a bunch of money from it (thank goodness for that). I’m passionate about baseball now, because of great memories from my past, and I hope in some small way, to keep the game alive and well for the next generation.
The problem for me with what’s happening in a courtroom today is that regardless of what the ruling may end up being, and in spite of the fact so many are to blame for baseball being wrong for many years, is what am I to do with those baseball memories? They have made me much of who I am today, but this baseball-loving part of myself has been made by something that’s probably not quite real, something akin to shadows on a cave wall.
My dad can say to me, to his grandkids, “Kids, to think I saw Willie Mays play. Just think, I watched Stan Musial. We waited for his every at bat to see what he would do at the plate.” What am I going to say? “Kids, just think! I saw baseball players who were on steroids when I was young.”
We might be able to put an asterisk in record books, on Hall of Fame credentials, and everything else that surrounds the steroid era, but I can’t put an asterisk next to my childhood memories about baseball.
If what I love to do (and so many talented others) is to write about baseball, and if it’s really about keeping the game alive and well, then children who are playing baseball in their backyards today, with bright hopes of a future tomorrow, need to be told the story of the steroid era…..
A story where we all wonder today,
“how could things end up this way?”
A story that starts with a ballplayer born in nineteen sixty-two,
of greatness and gods and superheroes too.
Children need to know, many remember is precisely,
because his career started off rather nicely.
Quickly he earned an MVP, no other pitcher has since achieved—
my anything is possible if you believe.
All the hope we had, his award, the fame; it all started piling in,
we didn’t want to see a hidden sin.
Children everywhere wanted to be like this hero,
and no one asked if his integrity could be zero.
his career finished strong,
with very little that went wrong.
We grew up wanting all that he had,
without realizing his end might be sad.
When we were young just like you playing here,
we didn’t know the truth was so near—
hero or not, we all have something to fear.
And while this story is still unfolding,
you today have much in your hand you’re holding.
You have choices to make, keep a clean slate,
for someday they will affect your fate.
Work hard in all that you do,
without worrying about who’s looking at you.
Whether it’s a dream within sight, or one that seems far,
be who you are.
For pretending to be something you’re not,
is the sure way to become something everyone forgot.
You’ll be left all alone in a horrible place,
starring right into all you’d never face.
Regardless of what can be proven or not, today is a day, to remember with me,
the best path to travel is one where you’re free.