In Pittsburgh, the rich and famous are taking the stand, one after another, confessing their sins and naming all the rich and famous fellows they've sinned with. Then, after all the pictures are taken and the names are named, they walk outside, get into a limo, go to an airport, fly to a different city, drive to a ballpark, put on a uniform and walk onto a field as if nothing has happened.
And has it?
Has anything happened?
We know from the court testimony so far that Lonnie Smith, Keith Hernandez, Enos Cabell, Dale Berra, Dave Parker and Jeff Leonard all are admitted cocaine users. These players have named other players they said were cocaine users, including Gary Matthews, Lee Lacy, Rod Scurry, Al Holland, Lary Sorenson and Joaquin Andujar. Prior to this trial, we learned from court testimony and personal admission that accomplished professional athletes including Willie Wilson, Chuck Muncie, Steve Howe, Micheal Ray Richardson, David Thompson, George Rogers, Tony Peters, John Lucas, Vida Blue, Tim Raines and Alan Wiggins have used, and abused, cocaine.
How many people am I leaving out? More than 10? More than 50? More than 500? And I haven't mentioned any drug but cocaine. How many more names would we be listing if this trial were about marijuana, or amphetamines, or those terrifying and commonplace mystery drugs, steroids, or that pervasive drug, alcohol, which, in one form or another, is the Daddy Big Bucks of sports?
It might be easier to ask: who isn't using something?
Yet by and large, the reaction to this most painful testimony of the young, the rich and the restless, is a cocked eyebrow. It seems the general public is no longer shocked by drug use in sports. The laundry list of names in this ugly witch-hunt of a trial just confirms the obvious: anyone who thinks athletes are on a higher moral plane than the general population is foolish. What is the big deal, they ask; enough already, let the games resume.
These players, with their immunity, just walk back onto the field, and more often than not get a standing ovation from their home fans. And meanwhile, back in Pittsburgh, some porcine slab of a caterer named Curtis Strong, who, by the way, is the defendant in this thing, and the one facing jail, sits and watches a parade of baseball players -- American heroes to many, and not just to a pack of kids, either -- confess their eagerness and willingness to purchase illegal drugs, and to take their inflated salaries and stick them up their noses. Then, he watches them go out the door and reads the next day that they singled in the winning run, and that their teammates, their managers, their owners and clearly their fans have pronounced this whole unfortunate thing as history. Done. Gone. Forget it.
It shouldn't work that way. You, me, we have a right to be disappointed in these people, these young, gifted people with so much cash to spend and so much time to kill. You, me, we have a right to be angry with them.
Like it or not, they are looked up to. They do have a public responsibility to set a better example than this. They're adults. They damn well ought to know right from wrong. That they act as if they don't is shameful.
Drugs are a highwayman waiting in the shadows, using the promise of romance to lure you within striking range. They are illegal. They are corruptive. They are destructive.
We're not talking about people who are occasional, recreational users. The testimony in this trial has made it perfectly clear that some of these baseball players were drug dependent. Hernandez spoke of how the use of cocaine produces "an insatiable desire for more." You might ask why an athlete, someone making a living on the strength of his body, ever would risk that body by messing around with drugs. But an athlete will do anything to gain a competitive edge over his rivals, which is why steroid use is so prevalent. Did you read what Berra said? He said cocaine made him "feel euphoric, it sharpened my senses . . . made me feel good," and said an amphetamine "makes you much more alert and alleviates pain; it makes your body feel stronger." What more could an athlete ask?
One of the root problems here is that athletes are coddled, taught from the very beginning of their prowess that they are exempt from the common rules, and immune from the common punishments. But even if you take the stance that such a public humiliation as this is punishment enough, as Cabell did, arguing, "I'm up here and embarrassing myself before everybody else in the world," you can still be angry with what they might have done to the games.
How many pennants, how many playoff games, how many championships have been decided because of drugs? Who was too stoned to sink the jumper, steal the base or make the interception? As a bettor, you may have been cheated. As a fan, you surely were. At Tulane, players fixed games to get drugs and money. In the pros where they already have drugs and money, why wouldn't they want more?