Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

Give Us The Real Deal!

“To my way of thinking the use of performance enhancing drugs, compounds that enlarge, and/or strengthen, an athlete’s body, merely produces a counterfeit specimen. And, like all counterfeits, ought to be discarded.”

Barry Bonds is no hero. If anything he is the anti-hero. What is his accomplishment in breaking and surpassing Hank Aaron’s lifetime 755 homerun record if he accomplished any part of it on anabolic steroids? It says something about our changing values, and our culture as it has evolved over recent decades that we even
consider ranking Bonds’ ‘achievement,’ albeit with an asterisk, on the same page with that of Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth. Ruth’s record of 714 homeruns lifetime stood for several decades before Aaron, without the benefit of performance-enhancing, muscle-building drugs broke it, and surpassed it.

Babe Ruth was a true hero, at least in the world of baseball. Sure he was overweight, ate, drank, and smoked cigars like a sailor, but he hit 714 homeruns with a baseball many claim was not as lively as today’s, and in
ballparks most of which, including Yankee Stadium, had deeper outfields than today. Hank Aaron played in many of those same ballparks.

I am old enough to remember, as a little kid, hearing that Babe Ruth had died. He was all of 53. In fact, he died, 59 years ago today, August 16, 1948. I was 7 ½, and accompanied my Dad and several of his friends who
joined tens of thousands of mourners a few days later at Yankee Stadium, The House That Ruth Built. In my South Bronx neighborhood the Babe was so highly regarded, that his passing was an event comparable to the
death of President Roosevelt, a few years earlier.

I was small for my age, but very athletic, and fast, at thirteen, when in Give Us The Real Deal! May of 1954 an English track star, Roger Bannister, accomplished something nobody had ever achieved before, breaking the four-minute-mile barrier. I went on to James Monroe High School the following year, and, inspired by Bannister’s achievement, joined the track team. As it happened, I was a sprinter, like a quarter horse, very fast over a short distance, a hundred yards in under eleven seconds.

My freshman teammate Bruce Wasserman would run for miles, but my limit at any sort of a clip was a half mile. Bruce was like the Slowik brothers on our team, one a junior, the other a senior, both of whom were definitely
inspired by Bannister. My hero was another teammate, Billy Morganroth, a sprinter like myself, a muscular, well developed senior however, who also played varsity football; unstoppable from the line of scrimmage. But I
digress.

To my way of thinking, the use of performance enhancing drugs, compounds that enlarge, and/or strengthen, an
athlete’s body, merely produces a counterfeit specimen. And, like all counterfeits, ought to be discarded. If Major League Baseball, and the San Francisco Giants Organization have no problem accepting Bonds’ overgrown hulk, and swollen head, so typical of anabolic steroid use, given all the cash he brings through the turnstiles, so be it. As for me, and many like me, who grew up admiring and following natural, uncontaminated, real athletes, GIVE US THE REAL DEAL!

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