My staggering depression last week erased from my memory a little blurb on steroid abuse I saw on either ESPN or MLB.com. It was an interactive poll which asked the fans "who is responsible for the steroid scandal in baseball?" The options were something like (I hate that I didn't write this on the day):
A. The players who took the steroids.
B. MLB management
C. The players who knew about the steroid abuse but didn't say anything
And some fourth option I can't remember, but I can tell you what the fourth option WASN'T. It wasn't "the fans." Now, I know neither MLB nor ESPN would attack sports fans on their sites, so the absence of this option isn't surprising. However, the fans are the number one reason steroid abuse is so rampant in Major League Baseball, not to mention professional wrestling, other major sports, and the film industry (the FILM INDUSTRY??? Yeah, stupid, the film industry). Regular folk want to see the big plays, the monster homeruns, the impossible feats. The subtle intricacies of ALL popular entertainment are victims of the crowd's thirst for extraordinary experiences. No one wants to see a well placed sacrifice bunt anymore. They want to see the long ball.
I read an article somewhere about up-and-coming ballplayers in the Dominican Republic, and each of the guys interviewed confirmed that the popular consensus on making it in the big leagues is that one MUST hit homeruns. MUST. Because you will not be asked to join the majors otherwise. Sure, that's what team owners and GMs are looking for, but they're in search of power because that's what the fans want. That's the marketable commodity.
Fans are impossibly jaded and have always harbored an oppressive hero worship. The pressure on the player is this: do the impossible or go home. That effect on the players isn't just about steroids, either. Baseball professionals are ten times more muscular than they used to be even 15 years ago. And that's not all substance abuse, it's strenuous exercise routines and fitness regimens. So, in an environment when every guy in the clubhouse is the size of a barn, why wouldn't you look for alternate means to get that edge?
It may have been lost along the way, but the fans asked for this shit. The same beery dildo who calls in to sports talk shows complaining about "cheaters" like A-Rod is the same obnoxious shithead who jiggles delightedly at each homer Jeter hits. It's more "natural," he figures. Is it?