Peter Gammons is one of my heroes in sports journalism. During my formative years he brought baseball to me in a real and personable way. I learned a lot from Gammons and he was the introductory course into serious baseball discussion with the masses.
He made an unfortunate comparison the other day which he has since apologized for profusely. He made a mistake, admitted it and then apologized for it.
Gammons will spend the next week or so apologizing and paying penance for his mistake, but I don't want to focus on Gammons here. I want to focus on why he made the comparison in the first place.
Here at World Series Dreaming we have a fairly active Facebook page that gives us a lot of insight on how the common/casual Cubs fan thinks about baseball and baseball related topics. We try to run the gamut there as we put forth a slew of conversation starters that people can freely discuss. It gets ugly at times but for the most part people enjoy the freedom they have in voicing their opinions.
Sammy Sosa and steroids comes up every so often for various reasons.
We've had discussions on whether the Cubs should retire Sammy Sosa's number, whether suspected steroid users should be banned from baseball and banned from the Hall of Fame and we've even had some amateur discussions on what the differences are between using "greenies" and "The Clear". Generally these topics tend to spin out of control as there is one faction that believes cheating in baseball is the ultimate sin.
I've had several discussions and seen enough polls to understand that this isn't unique to just Cubs fans who feel jaded about the whole Sammy Sosa era. There are plenty of voices who lend their support to the "dirty Red Sox titles" theory because both Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz were found to have used performance enhancing drugs during their careers. Ryan Braun got it real good in 2013 when he was suspended for using steroids. Alex Rodriguez has become a pariah of baseball because of all the steroid allegations swirling around him.
And that's the interesting one, isn't it? Alex Rodriguez?
A generation of fan clung to him as their savior, the last clean player who could best Barry Bonds' career home run record and return baseball to it's previous status as "clean white saintly game".
It hurts when you perceive that your heroes have cheated you out of something, but I find that the proportion of hate and vitriol directed at baseball players is a little out of proportion. It all culminated with Gammons comparing Alex Rodriguez to the Boston Marathon bombers.
You see, the public perception of steroid users as terrorists in any capacity is problematic. I believe that it roots itself in the belief that cheating in baseball is the ultimate sin any player can commit. Drunk driving, hitting your wife, rape, none of these register like using steroids. It's a bit out of whack. Personally, I don't think steroids is baseball's ultimate sin. I still think it's gambling and yet there's a whole slew of people who are ready to induct Pete Rose into the Hall of Fame because he bet on his own team.
Fan logic is often illogical, brash, short sighted and completely impractical. Sometimes it can be dangerous and in this case it's just unfortunate. We've developed a culture within the baseball community that will constantly feed itself the same line about steroids in baseball. This type of closed circuit thinking is what leads to dumb comparisons like the one Gammons made or this gem right here.
I don't ascribe to any of that thinking, although I'm less extreme than Rice is in that regard. To me, the game should strive to be clean, Sosa doesn't necessarily deserve to have his number retired (but I won't protest if it was), and steroids in baseball is a crime against baseball. But it's far from being the ultimate sin in our society.