by Abby Margolis Newman
Well, the New York Yankees are going to the World Series again -- and boy, am I relieved. My youngest son, Henry (age 10) is a passionate and loyal Yankee fan, and frankly, I feared the emotional consequences if the Yanks had lost the ALCS to the Angels. Two years ago, when the Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs, Henry cried as if his heart were broken. (I was a die-hard New York Knicks fan when I was his age and used to cry whenever the Knicks lost, so he comes by his feelings honestly.)
A few weeks ago, when the L.A. Dodgers were still competing for the National League Championship against the Phillies, I overheard a conversation between Henry and his oldest brother, Jonah (age 16, an ardent Red Sox fan), which went something like this:
Jonah (referring to current Dodgers player and ex-Red Sox Manny Ramirez): Manny's not doing that well this year.
Henry: That's because he's not on the "juice" anymore.
Jonah: A-Rod took steroids too!
Henry: Yeah, but that was in 2004.
Ever since the Barry Bonds scandal (which hit us hard here in the San Francisco Bay Area) and the 2007 George Mitchell report on the usage of steroids in baseball, there's been a lot of discussion in our home about who is and who is not on "the juice." When it was reported earlier this year that A-Rod (Yankees player Alex Rodriguez, one of the team's stars) admitted taking steroids, Henry wept once again. He was shattered by this news.
The worst part about this whole thing is that, while the boys were upset about Bonds, the Mitchell Report, and the news about A-Rod, they were not particularly surprised. As long as they have been paying attention to baseball, steroids have been part of the story. Rumors of players taking performance-enhancing illegal drugs have been around almost as long as the boys have been alive. They see it as just another part of baseball: some players cheat.
This brings to mind the 1919 World Series, when several Chicago White Sox players, including "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, conspired with gamblers to throw several games. This had a seismic effect on American baseball fans. There was utter disbelief, shock, horror--people simply could not comprehend that their heroes, these baseball players whom adults admired and boys wanted to emulate, could possibly be so dishonest, could dishonor the game in this way.