Who Got the Juice?

Tupac mural. Photo: REUTERS/Nacho Doce

Q: “Bishop, you’re crazy!”
Bishop: “You know what? Last time you said that, I was kinda trippin’, right? But now, you’re right. I am crazy!”

Why am I quoting Tupac Shakur from the 1992 film Juice? Is it because Ernest Dickerson’s film was a not-so-subtle premonition of baseball’s impending steroid crisis with the inner city drug trade serving as a stand-in for the quest to get big? Not at all.

But Bishop’s thought process recently mirrored mine when it came to the steroid controversy (I’ll stick to ‘steroids’ as a catch-all phrase. PEDs just ain’t doing it for me.) When the A-Rod stuff came out, my friends and I had a running conversation via email about the whole performance-enhancing scuttlebutt. At one point in this email chain, I sort of joked, ‘Hey, at least these guys are trying.’

After further introspection I found my inner Bishop and was like ‘Yo. These mothafuckas are trying.’ Maybe we’re all discombobulated about this thing. There are millionaires who are sticking needles in their asses, so in essence they can be the best that they can be. When they play their best, the whole team wins. Not just one person. Why are we calling them cheaters? The only thing they are cheating is the law. Can we give them some credit for breaking the law, just so they can be better?

I have a problem with calling them cheaters anyway. Pete Rose cheated the game. He deliberately broke a rule that was posted in the clubhouse of every team. So we can get a better perspective on what steroid users did, let’s look at the dictionary definitions of ‘cheat’:

to violate rules or regulations

Before 2003, there were no MLB rules and regulations to violate. No urine to smuggle into a test. Marvin Miller, Curt Flood, Donald Fehr, Orza, et al., made sure of that.

to practice fraud or deceit

This is the only one where players might have done wrong. They broke the sacred covenant with the fan in regards to fair play. But as they were breaking the ‘fair play’ doctrine, they were simultaneously honoring the ‘give it your all’ manifesto, by doing everything they could for their team to win.

A cynic would argue that all the steroid/HGH use was driven by a desire for more money. More RBIs and HRs means a bigger contract. I can’t argue with that. But since when did gaudy offensive stats hurt a team’s record? Their greed, for a lack of a better word, worked.

As more and more layers from this onion get peeled back and we start to find out how pervasive steroid usage was(and still may be), it might actually become easier for those who love baseball. If it comes out that at its height, 80% of players were sticking themselves with some sort of fish fertilizer, we won’t have to worry about a level playing field. I’ll quote Tom Cruise from The Color of Money: “Maybe this game is just for bangers. But the thing is…even if it is just for bangers, everybody’s doing it. If everybody’s doing it…there’s a lot of guys doing it. But only one guy can be the best.”

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