With last week’s suspension of Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun for taking performance-enhancing drugs, talking heads are again falling over themselves to deplore the example Major League Baseball is setting for American society. But they have it twisted.
Baseball’s inability to escape the so-called Steroid Era, which Commissioner Bud Selig declared dead three years ago, is due to what’s going on outside sports. If you’re not taking a performance enhancer of some sort, you’re being urged to. That reality was especially apparent during the Mike & Mike sports-talk show on ESPN radio and television July 23.
After a frenzied discussion of Braun’s sin of using drugs to gain an advantage, hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic broke for a commercial. On the screen appeared Bo Jackson, the former football and baseball star, selling 5-Hour Energy drinks.
“It gives me everything I need to get me over the hump,” he said. “I tried it right before going out golfing with some buddies. We only played 18 holes, but I could have played 36 that day.”
In a country where we buy 5-Hour Energy for a boost and ZzzQuil to rest, it’s not just baseball players’ doping that should worry us. Drug advertisements have become so ubiquitous, why wouldn’t kids who grow up to be ballplayers think nothing of taking a performance enhancer?
That doesn’t excuse Braun or any other athlete who broke the rules. But don’t blame them for our drug-dependent culture. What they did, unfortunately, fits right in.