In the history of fictional characters, there’s never been someone I identified with more than Peter Gibbons from Office Space. It’s not something I’m proud of, but I’m real with myself. I’d rather shove red ants up my dickhole than sit in a cubicle all day.
In another honest bit of self-analysis, I'm very bad about thinking ahead. In high school and college when friends were figuring out what they wanted to do, I was keeping thoughts of the "real world" delusionally buried in the back of my skull. That's the type of shit that can hit you like a locomotive when you graduate. I bring this up because it would be great to go back to my senior year of high school knowing what I know now.
At least in theory.
To be honest, I'm still unsure of what career path I would've chosen and spent 40 years pretending to give a crap about. But I was on the high school baseball team, and knowing what I know now I would've absolutely taken steroids if I thought it would've given me even a one percent chance of playing the game professionally.
That's obviously all hypothetical. I don't think it would've given me a one percent chance. In fact, I have no freakin' idea what I would've been like on steroids. My guess is that I would've been significantly better and/or dead from renal failure. Unless you've done them you don't know. What I do know is that I forced myself to read Jose Canseco's Juiced to have some idea of what I'm talking about when it comes to the relationship between performance on the field and steroids.
Some people argue PEDs don't help you, and that if you deny that you're denying empirical evidence. On that, I call bullshit. The home run totals of the '90s and early 2000s were already incredibly convincing empirical evidence. Google Luis Gonzalez, Bret Boone, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, et. al. Look at traditional career arcs. Better yet, just use some common sense. Steroids aren't placebos.
Jose Canseco, as much of a doofus as he is, has been an honest voice in a discussion nobody wanted to have. Major League Baseball cheered on the "steroid era." Writers and fans were complicit. The media who covered the game were there to give them free P.R. Few of them did anything to question the Jonah Hill circa 2006-like bloatedness of that era's home run totals.
During 1998, in the midst of a home run chase that put baseball at the forefront of the sports world, Mark McGwire was caught with Androstenedione in his locker and (from what I can tell) only one writer questioned it. That guy, AP veteran Steve Wilstein, was then vilified by his own. Instead of asking, you know, like, a question or something, the press didn't even bother to research the bottle containing a substance they'd never heard of. But, hey, as journalists it's not like you'd think they'd be curious or anything, right? It would've taken one visit to a local pharmacy. Instead they compared it to aspirin.
Google Luis Gonzalez, Bret Boone, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, eT. Al. Look at traditional career arcs. Better yet, just use some common sense. Steroids aren't placebos.
The story blew over and nobody batted an eye when Big Mac hit his 70th home run. Fucking 70. His total was so absurd that no one could blame future generations for wondering how, in 1998, we were as gullible as the dipshits in charge of the Salem Witch Trials. Less deadly, sure. But still willingly blind. After initially denying using "Andro," McGwire copped to it and said "Everybody that I know in the game of baseball uses the same stuff I use." This is significant because it meant unless you were a freakish talent (see: Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey Jr., etc.) you had to use 'roids to keep your job. Otherwise boom! you're Peter from Office Space. Maybe worse, since sports give you few (if any) practical skills.
As a former teammate and "bash brother," Canseco knew that McGwire's PED usage didn't end with "Andro." He posited (or snitched, if you prefer) that McGwire let his "Andro" stash be seen to throw off anyone thinking he was doing something stronger. This is a very common trick amongst bodybuilders.
When Canseco said Mark McGwire was using something more potent than Androstenedione (which, contrary to shitty '98 baseball coverage, is a steroid) people scoffed. When he said Manny Ramirez was on steroids, people didn't listen. Most importantly for this write-up, when he said Alex Rodriguez was juicing, he was almost unanimously ignored. There's a definite pattern here and that pattern is: The guy who shot off his finger cleaning a gun, before pretending to sell it on eBay, might be a dude we should listen to on this subject. He's the adult in the room.
Of those previously mentioned players, Alex Rodriguez is the only one still playing. "Playing" in this sense, of course, is a relative term as he's just returning from a year-long suspension. The Yankees would love to cut him, but they can't. Even for them it'd be too expensive. Instead he's forced into their lineup due to his own lies and New York's front office incompetence. Somehow that front office incompetence gets overlooked in every A-Rod contract narrative. A-Rod is the sole villain; the culture that provided him a nine-figure incentive is let off the hook.
Still, in a sport that's being largely rejected by younger fans in favor of the NFL and NBA, A-Rod is one of the few interesting storylines due to the drama he brings to the most hallowed organization in American sports. Whether you (a) like him or (b) hate him (probably b) he's a very interesting character. He's rich, he's famous. It's very reasonable to believe that had he never done PEDs he'd be neither.
It’s impossible to pinpoint with 100 percent accuracy whether Alex Rodriguez used steroids between his sophomore and junior years of high school. All I can do is outline a couple of facts and allow you to come to your own conclusion(s): (1) A-Rod put on 25 lbs in that single school year. That could be attributed to a growth spurt. Okay, fine. I get that. (2) Jose Canseco, who I just tried to establish as being credible on this (and only this) subject, says he worked out with an 18-year-old A-Rod and believed he was on steroids. Canseco's been right about a lot of this shit, but still, that’s speculation. It's not proof. Okay, fine. (3) in a six month period in high school, Rodriguez’s bench press skyrocketed from 100 to 310 lbs. That could be attributed to....um.....yeah, okay, there's nothing I can pull out of my ass for that one. Those are some serious gains.
His massive physical change led to an equally massive transformation as an athlete. He went from a traditional slap-hitting, defensively-minded shortstop to a consensus No. 1 overall pick who instantly evolved the position. It’s very possible that without steroids Alex Rodriguez, the greatest player of all-time (which could’ve been realistically argued anywhere from 1998-2007) would’ve been Alex Rodriguez, manager of some crappy small-town Denny’s. None of us would’ve heard of him. He wouldn’t have 654 home runs. He wouldn't have a World Series championship. He wouldn’t have been hand-fed popcorn by Cameron Diaz at the Super Bowl. Most importantly, he wouldn’t have over a half-a-billion dollars in baseball contracts, alone. Could you realistically say that you have so much integrity that you wouldn’t make that trade-off? He’s a villain in the sports world which is a lot different from being an actual villain.
He’s made statements to his lawyers that he doesn’t believe he can play without steroids. That should not only make any Yankees fan expecting anything out of him this season, shit their pants, but it should also give you some idea of just how much better PEDs can make your game.
Jose Canseco himself said in Juiced that he doesn't believe he would've been a Major League player without steroids. That’s pretty telling because Jose Canseco wasn’t some rinky-dink fringe Major Leaguer. He was a six-time All-Star, a two-time World Series and Home Run champ, a Rookie of the Year, an MVP, and just so happened to record 40 steals and 40 homers in the same season—the first guy to ever do that in over 100 years of the sport.
Reading both of those nothing-to-star accounts has to seriously make you question what a magical pill (or, more likely, a magical ass injection) could've done for you. Me wondering is what propelled the idea behind this essay.
Interestingly enough, I'm against PEDs as a sports fan. I want achievement to be authentic. Every four years I wait to see which Olympians will be exposed. I question which baseball players are doping, and hope they don't get signed by the team I root for. Even though Hall of Fame voters are sanctimonious, I don't mind them keeping users out of Cooperstown. I don't view Lance Armstrong as a tragic hero. To me he's just a cheater. I wait for the days when steroid users are more thoroughly vetted in both pro football and basketball.
This is what anybody with an eighth grade or above vocabulary would call a "paradox." Or maybe "hypocrisy." I don't really know/care. If there was a dotted line for me to sign to get paid to play a game, I wouldn't balk over minor technicalities like "integrity" and "honor." Those are just words. A Shelby Cobra GT, or an Olympic-sized pool? Now those are actual things. Things I could buy, if only I could just hit Major League free agency.
Besides, even if I were going to get caught, I have a feeling that every fan knows the "evils" of steroid users are relative. I do. Drunk driving is more directly harmful to society, is it not? There's lot of drunk drivers in the Big Four leagues; nobody holds up signs and boos them mercilessly. If you're simply expected to reject millions out of fear of being a (very low-scale) pariah, who cares? If the only recourse is holding you out of the Hall of Fame (and you weren't going anyway) who gives a shit? If the only recourse is public shaming, but you wouldn’t be a public figure without it, who gives a shit?
Would anyone have any clue who Marion Jones is if she didn't dope? She won three gold medals in Sydney back in 2000. Then, in 2007, she had to give them back. The question to you is: Is it better to have a gold medal and have it taken away, than to never have a gold medal at all? I don't know what your answer is, but replace "gold medals" with millions of dollars and then imagine that it can't be taken away. If you still say "no" (assuming you did the first time, as well) then I'm not going to call you a "chump," but I'm definitely going to think it.
So to keep it much more concise than I did: Why do steroids? Money, fame, and I don't need a third option because either of those alone is enough. Spend some years in the real world. Look out the window from your office on a beautiful sunny day and say, "Fuck this," quietly under your breath. In three years, A-Rod will settle into forced retirement, free to do whatever the hell he wants with the millions he didn't spend on legal reps. Until then, he simply has to be booed, and be a "villain," and deal with people who wonder how he could possibly disrespect the game. The same game Ty Cobb respected by beating the shit out of umpires after games (while his kids watched). The same game Babe Ruth respected by playing drunk. The same game generations of pitchers respect by whipping fastballs at hitters' heads for violating unwritten (and extremely unclear) rules.
Ultimately, all of this can be summed up with one question: If Alex Rodriguez had a chance to do it all over again, knowing that he'd have to take the public humility that is the final third of his career with the record breaking (and amazingly lucrative) first two-thirds, would he still do it?
But the better question is (and trust me, this is deep): Would you?
I'm just going to assume the answer is yes.
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