It won’t be because people forget, or even forgive, but because they won’t care anymore. Everybody in every sport will be on some kind of performance-enhancer by then, the way they’re all on “approved” supplements already. That day hasn’t arrived, but you can see it from here.
Everything is out in the open today in a way it wasn’t just a decade ago, when baseball’s supersized era was full-on. Back then, nobody felt sufficient heat to do anything about it. There were suspicions, and outrage, too.
But they were papered over by the profits flowing into baseball’s front offices, or buried on the inside of the sports section.
Just imagine if there had been a photo of that bottle of Androstenedione sitting on the shelf of Mark McGwire’s locker back in 1998 to accompany the story, the way there almost certainly would be these days. The story that hung over baseball like a dark cloud for a decade would have gone through the media wringer in a matter of days, and everybody would have gone off in search of the next thing to argue about. That’s what’s going to happen to the anger that stretched from the top of the Hall of Fame ballot Wednesday all the way down to the bottom.
There’s no question that baseball has been disproportionately punished for a problem that afflicts just about every sport. Maybe that’s because the game was so slow to acknowledge it, and then put in place a program credible enough to do something about it. Whatever the reason, taking another year off to assess where Bonds and Clemens and just about every other great ballplayer from a compromised era fits in the history of the game isn’t that big of a deal. The only real shame in what happened Wednesday is that Craig Biggio and Jack Morris, two guys who strung together long and apparently drug-free careers, couldn’t gather enough votes from a skeptical electorate to get in.
Now we know how performance-enhancers work, along with a sense of how to use them, even if the claims their being “safe” sounds more like a prediction than a guarantee. Yet you can’t watch a game without taking in a host of commercials that promise some pill or other will enable you to do something better.
Athletes might be the last group of people left in our society who can’t bring them to the workplace. That will change in a few years, too. Then Clemens and Bonds and a few of their sidekicks from this year’s class won’t have to spring for a ticket to visit the game-worn jerseys, baseballs and assorted other artifacts they’ve already sneaked past the guardians of the moment.