The League

Doug Farrar

Doug Farrar

A staff writer

Perception is Reality


While Major League Baseball would like to pretend that the steroid problem was dropped on the planet by aliens just a few weeks ago (Bud Selig and Gene Orza had no knowledge! Really!), the history of PEDs in football is a bit more complicated. It's fairly common knowledge that as far back as the 1970s, players were downing steroids of various types like they were Gummi Bears. In fact, there's proof of juiced players in pro football going back to the 1963 San Diego Chargers. In 1963, baseball's biggest drug problem had to do with the amphetamines later written about by Jim Bouton in the classic book, "Ball Four". Generally speaking, you're not penalized for taking performance-enhancers in football. There's a hint of suspension, maybe you miss the Pro Bowl, and life goes on.

It's my belief that the disconnect between perceptions in baseball and football have to do with the nature of the games. Baseball is an individual-centered, stat-driven sport in which every player is fighting the ghosts of the past and trying to stay a step ahead. Football is a team enterprise that encourages the hail fellow well met, and the concept of doing whatever it takes for the good of the collective. While baseball players who cheat with PEDs are seen as interlopers who are trying to take legacies illegally, football's transgressors have generally been seen as victims of a culture in which near-bionic strength and speed are mere starting points.

When it comes to the Hall of Fame in any sport, perception is reality. We don't want the juicers in Cooperstown because they muddy the supposedly pure waters. We care less if they're inducted in Canton because we're dealing with a swamp in the first place. Basically, the NFL knows that the genie can't be put back in the bottle, while the lords of baseball are still in the same state of denial that allowed their sport to be overtaken by PEDs in the first place.

By Doug Farrar  |  July 31, 2009; 8:48 AM ET  | Category:  Steroids Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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