I felt some weird obligation to get all worked up about the Mitchell Report (just go here, start at the top and keep reading down for all you need to know) , but I found myself just shaking my head sadly. It’s hard to build up outrage and shock when you’re really not surprised at the news blaring from your tv.
I slowly grew sick of baseball over the past few years. I’ve been a fan since I was a little kid. The New York Yankees were something my mother and I shared a passion for; later on, in those tumultuous teen years, baseball was the bond that kept our relationship from deep freeze. I loved baseball enough to choose a college major that involved sports and actually worked for the Yankees for one amazing summer. I even became a huge Atlanta Braves fan in the 80′s (that awesome team with Murphy, Horner, Ramirez…) so I could have a team to root for in both leagues. So I was never a casual fan of the game. I loved it. I lived it. I bled pinstripe blue.
I think it was right around the time of the 2002 All-Star game fiasco that my love of the game started to wane. I can’t really put my finger on a specific instance, but if I had to point to something in baseball that made me question the sanctity of the game, that was it. Or maybe it was when they started scheduling playoff games around ad revenue, forsaking all the kids who couldn’t stay up that late to watch their heroes. Maybe I was a little naive all those years to believe that baseball cared about the fans. The older I got, the more I saw that money rules.
There were other things. Greedy players charging ridiculous amounts of money to sign autographs for kids. The games becoming longer and longer as the league tried to stuff as many ads as possible into televised games. No more local games on free tv. Players more interested in celebrity than baseball. I used to see baseball as a boy’s game played by men; now it was a business staffed with publicity machines. The heroes of the game seemed different. They weren’t rugged, they weren’t down-home kind of guys. They were polished and spit-shined and spoke in crafted cliches in prepared statements. There was no hanging out after a game in search of an autograph or photo. There were long lines at scheduled appearances where you better bring your Visa. Players behaved like little boys with too much money and too much ego. The game lacked class (see, ’86 Mets, recent Yankees). The soul was gone. The passion was gone. Baseball was a corporate machine and, while you can’t fault a business for acting like one, the lack of passion in the sport made my passion for the sport die. It wasn’t like one day I woke up and said “I hate baseball.” It was a long, slow goodbye, like a breakup that takes place over a long time. One day you wake up and look at each other and say “When did we fall out of love?” And you get up, pack your bags and move on.
I stopped following the league as a whole and just kept tabs on the Yankees. I no longer knew the rosters of every team. I spent several years playing in one of those fantasy leagues where you lived and died by the stats you memorized; now I couldn’t even tell you the batting order of my favorite team. I stopped watching games and would just rely on my kids to tell me the score. I stopped loading up newyorkyankees.com first thing in the morning. My disdain for A-Rod was no longer a topic of conversation at family dinners. Still, I let my attachment to the game linger just a little, maybe hoping for a spark that would get it going again, or maybe just waiting for something else to happen that would break the camel’s back and let me turn my back on the game forever without feeling guilty about it. Breakups are so complicated.
On May 30, 2007, the Yankees reacquired Roger Clemens and that pretty much sealed the deal. It was over. I dropped that last tenuous string that kept me tethered to baseball and walked away.
Maybe I am a little outraged over the steroids investigation. I feel bad for all the little kids who looked up to these guys and are now disappointed and disillusioned. I feel worse for the kids who may take a message from this that cheating is how you get famous. I feel cheated myself for all the times I cheered the play of each of these guys (yes, I know they are allegations), if the plays they made and the home runs they hit and the pitches they threw were not born of their own talents, but feats manufactured by drugs and deceit. And even though I loathe Roger Clemens with the heat of a thousand fiery suns, I feel no vindication in his being named (or in the talk that he is the one who got Andy Pettite to get juiced). I just feel pity for him, and sad for all the kids who hero worship him.
There are some players on the steroids list that surprise me (Matt Williams, Matt Franco) but more that don’t. And that’s pretty telling.