I hate that I've devoted as much thought as I have -- and am likely to continue along this vein for some time -- to the steroids controversy. I really do. I've already said my piece concerning where I stand on the MLB steroids witchhunt, and if being able to enjoy baseball without the rodent-like countenance of Henry Waxman looming in my consciousness means I watch every damn game on mute this season, then that's what I shall do.
My consistent scorn for the Mitchell report and its aftermath notwithstanding, however, I do feel the urge to take issue with Hank Steinbrenner's recent comments that professional football has a far greater steroid problem than MLB. Perhaps (in fact, probably) I'm just hating because he's a Steinbrenner, but I find Hank's assertions to be poorly informed and deliberately, frustratingly shy of the point. Never mind the fact that the NFL has had a steroids policy that is at least consistent, if perhaps not maximally efficient, in place for nearly two decades. The fact is, athletes' bodies are subject to a vastly greater number of x-factors in football than they are in baseball. Taking steroids in the NFL may lead to a few games' worth of inflated performance, and perhaps even an outstanding season that no one will ever know the true cause of. But just as there are plenty of players in the NFL (and in MLB) that accomplish jaw-dropping feats of athleticism without performance enhancers, there are also no doubt dozens of PED abusers whose transgressions never come to light because said abusers are hampered by injury, by being part of a lousy team, or even by the fact that they may play at a position that simply doesn't draw a great deal of attention or scrutiny. The issue in baseball is, and has been for years, that, across the board, it is the truly outstanding players that generally appear to have been guilty of chemically cheating. Mark McGwire. Barry Bonds. Roger Clemens. Sammy Sosa. That's what made the whole Jason Grimsley affair so sad -- that a journeyman pitcher of such modest standing would seemingly deign to place himself in the same category as the other, better players he brought down with him. In football, yes, steroids may make the difference between a Shawn Merriman and an Andre Frazier, but more often than not they are merely going to make the difference between an extra sack or two in a November matchup before the offending player gets injured anyway. In baseball, though, steroid abuse has proven that it can make the difference between the Home Run King and an arrogant, disproportionate mutant topping the charts of our most hallowed records; between people feuding over an asterisk given for a few extra games played in a season and a single-season home run record no one will ever take seriously (and whose owner will never see the inside of Cooperstown as anything other than a visitor). Of course there's steroid abuse in the NFL. There's probably steroid abuse in curling. But sorry, Hank, there's no way you're going to look anybody (other than perhaps your raving, senile father) in the face and tell them that steroids are a bigger problem in football than in baseball.
You know who DIDN'T take steroids? The Devil Toad. He didn't NEED steroids, dammit. You don't mess with the Devil Toad.
In other news: the Patriots sign yet another very old linebacker in Zach Thomas; Dallas gets even better as the crappy-Eastern-conference-team-to-already-ridiculously-good-
Western-conference-team exodus continues with Jason Kidd's trade; tomorrow is the official deadline for position players to report to Spring Training so there are sure to be plenty of Rick pictures for me to post. Yay!