Didn’t really surprise me. These guys want what they want as badly as, say, Hillary Clinton wanted what she wanted. Most of them will do what they have to do. Ben Roethlisberger played the Super Bowl with broken ribs. Both Jack Youngblood and Bear Bryant famously played entire football games with a broken leg. Cheating in sports is interesting. In some cases, it is treated as being almost charming. The general reaction to Preacher Roe’s confession about how he threw a spitball for the better part of his career was one of amused approval. Fans figured it was a hell of feat to get away with it for that long and, then, it ain’t necessarily easy to throw a spitter. Not everyone can do it.
NASCAR is full of cheaters and Richard Petty, aka “The King,” is supposed to have said, once, that the whole idea is to “cheat neat.”
The drugs, though, provoke qualms among fans because taking them sort of suggests a deal with the devil–a willingness to risk a lot more than getting bounced for a game or fined by a commissioner. You’re gambling with your health. (NFL players will shoot painkiller and play through injuries that are made worse, and ultimately crippling, because they weren’t allowed time to heal.) Players who aren’t willing to risk–oh, testicular cancer–lose playing time, jobs, and games to guys who’ll do, essentially, anything.
I heard an interesting idea once. Have two leagues: One where there are no tests and everything is permitted, and another where testing is constant and relentless. Think of it as a dirty league and a clean league.
It’s sort of like how we should come out of the financial crisis: A wide-open financial system where anything goes and you can lose or win big, and a severely regulated banking system where everything is insured and monitored and inflation plus one percent is considered a good outcome.
–Geoffrey Norman, a frequent sports writer, is editor of vermonttiger.com.