It is the question of our age, and the philosophical dilemma that has defined how my generation of baseball fans have come of age: how do you feel about steroids?
Well, it’s official. I, Ted Walker, no longer care about performance enhancing drugs, steroid or any other.
I don’t have any new knowledge about the debate, or any cutting insight that will change the way that you perceive the issue. Nothing has changed today that makes the facts or the suspicions different from yesterday. I just made a decision. It was spurred on by a viewing of the mediocre documentary Bigger Faster Stronger, which follows some dudes who are into getting big and try to be pro wrestlers and whatnot. They juiced and lifted, obsessed about strength and bodybuilding, and there were a few attempts to shed some doubt on the idea that steroids are universally bad, which I buy to some degree. The film spent a lot of time discussing steroid-jockies Ah-nold and Hulk Hogan, and the American dreams that they sold to kids which–Spoiler Alert!–proved fleeting and deceptive in the end. (The film failed to note the oddity and awkwardness of caring about pro wrestling past age 10.)
The film revealed to me, more than anything, that I do not enjoy thinking, talking, hearing about, or learning about the folks that are into steroids, or weight-lifting, or working out, or bodybuilding, or any of that business. I just don’t care about them, and frankly it all makes me queasy. It’s off my list of subject matter I want to discuss or pursue.
What I do like is baseball, and if I am to enjoy baseball, it can no longer involve conversation about steroids.
What enables me to just ignore PEDs and all talk related to them is that their goal is to enhance the chances of success. Steroid use could even be perceived as a noble pursuit, navigating, as all sports do, the narrow strait between personal desire and the communal experience.
I’ve accepted that professional athletes are willing to take physical excellence to places that I find distasteful or awe-inspiring in order to play their sport extra-well, and that the lengths that they go to to do so are not connected to my enjoyment of the game. And frankly, even the perfectly legal and acceptable buckets of Creatine and Muscle Milk and other such products that all these guys guzzle are as creepy to me as steroids, which doesn’t mean that pro ballplayers should stop using them, too. I don’t have to consume that melange of weirdness to enjoy baseball, and I don’t have to like the people who choose to use them.
I’m not somehow in favor of steroid use. I think it’s a strange and obsessive undertaking that probably isn’t so good for you. I would prefer that they didn’t exist. But I’ve also accepted the complexity of the situation, and judged that against my enjoyment of the sport. My self-analysis has led to the conclusion that my life is better if I don’t care. I am happy to appreciate the wonders of the sport, juice or no juice. Barry Bonds was an amazing baseball player, and he should be in the Hall of Fame. Mark Mcgwire should be, too, and Rafael Palmeiro, and Roger Clemens. They did amazing things on a baseball field, that triggered widespread euphoria among baseball fans. They created wonder out of nothing.
And Jeff Bagwell. Regardless of whatever juice he was on, Jeff Bagwell brought me great joy. He became famous, ie. filled with fame, by making me feel great about watching him play. Therefore he should be enshrined in a place that acknowledges fame, like some sort of entryway, for example, or a celebratory hall.
The steroid conversation requires that I pass judgment on the person. I choose to pass judgment on the game.