Anyone who watched the story 60 Minutes did on Alex Rodriguez last night and loves baseball, probably had a lot of the same emotions I did (here is the link to a story about the interview with Tony Bosch http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/cubs/chi-anthony-bosch-alex-rodriguez-60-minutes-20140112,0,7102754.story). The first thing that struck me was the incredible lengths they went through to cheat. I understand that taking steroids most likely does improve athletic performance, and for an aging athlete who is not used to failure, this may be an appealing option of maintaining or returning to their previous level of performance.
What I do not understand is how someone like Alex Rodriguez can feel good about the accomplishments they achieve under such dishonest pretenses. If I find a Nobel Peace Prize on the street, take it home, and put it on my trophy case, I cannot feel any kind of positive emotional attachment to that award because I know I didn’t earn it. In fact, I would feel shame, because I know that the person who did earn it, doesn’t have it.
If a player’s only goal is to make more money, perhaps they can get over the fact that their accomplishments are not their own. If they literally have no remorse because the only thing that matters to them is money, then the accomplishments are only a means to making more money. If a player has feelings what so ever about his actual accomplishments, cheating to achieve them cannot give one a true sense of satisfaction.
With that being said, it must be incredibly difficult to be a clean player in professional sports (this problem is not specific to baseball) to sit back and watch players who you know are using illegal drugs pass you up for roster spots, get large contracts, and win championships. I shutter to think about the number of clean players who missed out on generational wealth because someone who was using PEDs got that large, multi-year contract, and they didn’t.
They are the ones who should be commended, but we will never know many of their names. The decision to do it clean is a commendable one, and while they may not have as much success and money as if they had used, they still have their dignity, their honor, and my respect.
I know I cannot control what Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, or Roger Clemens do, but I can help influence the way my players perceive them. I firmly believe it is the responsibility of youth, high school, and travel coaches to have conversations with their players about these topics.
If we say nothing to our athletes, they see Barry Bonds’ 762 career home runs, Mark McGuire hitting number 62, they see Melky Cabrera signing a multi year deal after being suspended for PEDs. There appears to be no down side until we talk about the lack of character, integrity, the shame and ridicule it can bring to you and your family.
We may have no control over what happens in professional sports, but we can teach integrity, character, and fair play to our own players, while letting them know the dangers of PEDs. The reality is almost every kid we coach will never cash a pay check for playing baseball. Those other life lessons are what will really influence the rest of their lives. Education about such issues is a great strategy to deter athletes from trying such things and it starts with their coaches and parents.
Be part of the solution.
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