Monday, September 10, 2007

Hypocrisy

I was watching the Cowboys-Giants game last night and saw the Nike ad with Shawne Merriman numerous times last night. The same Shawne Merriman who was suspended last season for taking steroids. He was suspended for only four games and in fact came in third in the voting for defensive player of the year. Seeing the light punishment and how little it appears to have affected his image got me thinking about one of me favorite topics, Barry Bonds.

If you've been a regular reader of this blog, you'll know that I am far from being one of Barry's fans or apologists. In my opinion it is very clear that Barry did something outside of the rules (either written or unwritten) to improve his performance. He has been punished by the fans and writers for a long time and is used as the poster boy for all things wrong with sports. However, is his offense really any worse than Merriman's? Remember that for all the supposed evidence against Bonds, he has never been caught with anything. He has never tested positive for anything (except some stimulants, but that was a long standing tradition in baseball locker rooms that was just recently outlawed), so why has he been consistentloy persecuted while Merriman has seemed to suffer no backlash from the fans or the media?

There is clearly a double standard at play. For some reason, Football players are not veiwed in the same way as baseball players. Baseball is veiwed through rose colored glasses, while Football is viewed as a sport played by larger than life men who are forgiven for stepping over the line every once in a while. There have been numerous incidents in which Football players have been caught using illegal drugs, been a party to or helped cover up violent crimes, abused their spouses and it all seems to be okay in the eyes of the fans and the press. Michael Vick has been the one exception, but his crimes were against animals (which apparently are unforgiveable as opposed to beating your wife or kids, or helping cover up a murder OF A HUMAN BEING). Because of the violent nature of Football it seems the press and fans are willing to put up with their athletes being somewhat sub-human. If they step over the line occassionally, it's forgiven because they are supposed to brutes.

Baseball is our national pastime and as such is percieved in a totally different light. Baseball players are seen as regular people. They are like the guy who lives next door (I personally have met a few Major Leaguers and trust me they do not look like the guy who lives next door to me). Because the public and the press view them this way, they are held to a higher standard. Would you want a drug abuser living next door to you? Of course not and they don't want one playing Baseball either. Even a Football player who is not one of the supposed "brutes" is forgiven for crossing the line. Brett Favre had a substance abuse problem, but all was forgiven because he's an all-american boy who happens to play Football and it's a violent sport and so what if he had to take some pills, he's being hit by neanderthals repeatedly.

I have no sympathy for Barry Bonds because he did everything that he did willingly. No ne forced him to allegedly take steroids. He wasn't concerned with the consequences and therefore he deserves what he got (the home run record and the public scorn). I'm just pointing out that if one drug abuser and law breaker is viewed that way, then why aren't they all viewed that way? Being contrite in public and making an effort to change can get you a second chance with the public and press, but clearly they are more willing to forgive some and not others. Most athletes who are caught taking performance enhancing drugs seemingly always blame it on a tainted legal supplement that they were taking or on a teammate or trainer who gave them something without their knowledge. Football players are forgiven, Baseball players are raked over the coals. The recent revelation that Rick Ankiel, who was the feel good story of the season (and probably would have been named comeback player of the year), took a shipment of HGH before it was officially banned by Baseball, will be a good barometer of the difference between the treatment given to players in the two sports. Ankiel will forever be marked as a player who took performance enhancing drugs, while Merriman will probably go on to be named the defensive player of the year in the NFL.

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