What ever happened to the days when a coach would call you into his office, look you in the eye and just ask, “I heard there were (insert team name here, I inserted Petersburg) players at a party last weekend. Were you there?”
And the coach knew you well enough that any misinformation would be obvious.
If you knew anything, you had better be truthful.
If you were at fault, you had to go out and run around the old dump.
Our old dump had black bears that had become habituated to eating garbage and watching team rule-breakers run in circles.
Depending on the offense, you got kicked off the team but you still would have to go run, because there was always next year... if you straightened up.
My take on the whole steroids, performance-enhancing, needle-injecting, pill-popping, puff-but-don’t-inhale, apply-and-lubricate-liberally, stick-this-somewhere-it-can-dissolve era?
If they are not going to let Pete Rose into the Hall of Fame because he bet on baseball, then no way should someone who uses banned substances that improve performance be allowed in.
I mean, Rose wasn’t even good at betting. He lost money. He didn’t throw games. If he bet on himself, he bet to win.
And he got a LIFETIME ban. And he admitted to betting.
Sports are about ethics, fair play and a level playing field. Rose broke the ethics part. Performance-enhancers break all the parts.
Yesterday, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voted and said, simply, ‘No Hall of Fame for you misters Bonds, Clemens and Sosa.’ No hall for baseball’s career home run leader, greatest pitcher and flamboyant slugger.
And rightly so.
Election rules to get into the HOF are: player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.
Performance-enhancing drugs break more of these stipulations than betting. I will lay odds on that, in Vegas, in the sports betting bars where that act is legal.
Unfortunately, there were some others on the ballot who were guilty by association, so to speak. Their numbers were overlooked as the controversies swirled.
It is like being at the high school party and not partaking...
“Oh yeah, sure, but you shouldn’t have been there in the first place,” coach says. “Go run around the old dump and make sure you don’t slow down, there are bears out.”
Others on the Hall of Fame ballot lost just enough votes to the cheaters that their chances dropped a few percentage points.
Hey, I partied.
Quite a few youths did in the ‘70s (I know, news flash).
I attended parties at Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, Wrangell... not Haines (it was too cold to try and sneak out of my housing) and Prince Rupert.
Sometimes with other teams’ players, sometimes not. Sometimes we partook, sometimes we did not.
If we cheated and got caught, we did not become liars. Luckily, we did not have Facebook and cell phones.
And luckily, steroids were not in the picture.
Today, young athletes have not just the drug and alcohol pressure, the social pressure and peer pressure, but steroids pressure as well.
Google steroids and millions of opportunities pop up to buy anabolic steroids. Many of which probably make you feel like running around a dump with bears.
Today’s high school administrators and coaches not only discuss with parents grade-point averages, eligibility, rules of conduct, tardiness and absences. But some now have athletes sign pledges stating they will not use anabolic steroids.
I can’t pretend it wouldn’t feel nice to fly through the air and throw a basketball against a rim so hard the backboard rumbles and you look like Thor as you hang above the opposition.
I don’t think that is worth cancer, jaundice, high blood pressure, kidney tumors, severe acne, trembling, shrinking of the testicles, male breast development and for females, facial hair, a deepened voice, menstrual changes and premature halt of teenage growth (according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse).
I achieved two clean dunks in my life. Maybe with steroids I would have had four.
I, however, am proud mine came with a lot of natural lifting and plyometrics.
One of my high school coaches played at Boston College.
He taught me how to use my undersized body to collect rebounds from some oversized opponents. It involved a lot of hard work, technique and knowing that I would be playing against Juneau, Ketchikan and hopefully an Anchorage team at the end of the season.
Another of my coaches was from the mountain states. I almost hit him with an arrow during gym class and my all-state status made no difference on the punishment. He taught a boy on the verge of being a “jock,” humility and, incidentally, is now a bear hunting guide.
One of my college coaches was an ex-Marine. One suffers, we all suffer, enough said.
These coaches kicked a few of my fellow Vikings, Lumberjacks and Titans off those respective teams.
The most memorable was the ‘I am not going to kick you off, but I am not going to play you anymore’ decision.
This involved a player who cheated, coach suspected, and who did not admit.
And in the Southeast Championship game, against JDHS no less, as I was shooting a free throw, I looked up to see that teammate had donned his street clothes, left the bench and was rooting from the baseline under the basket. He had told the coach he did it. That price of weeks of non-played games took the toll on him, on us, and the title.
I know today there is more at stake for the professional athlete, and more at stake for our young athletes that read about them.
I know that testing is expensive.
Am I proud of my cheating? Nope. Am I proud of the times I was caught? I am now.
If Bonds, Clemens and Sosa were called into any of my coaches’ offices, it might have gone like this.
“Um, Barry, I heard you injected at practice yesterday,” the coach might say. “Who gave you the needle? I am going to have to sit you down. Now, go outside and run around the old dump. And don’t slow down, I saw bears there this morning.”
And he would run.