Be careful how you embrace the game

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 14, 2007

There are a handful of things I’ve come to accept as basic truths.

First, people in general will drift toward doing the wrong thing until they are either caught or it stops working in their favor, whichever comes first.

Second, a single dark spot ruins a white linen cloth. Which means it doesn’t take much effort or many people to make an entire group look bad.

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And third, after years of considering myself a baseball purist I no longer have that luxury. As a matter of fact, I feel downright dumb that my blind fascination with the game lasted so long.

Don’t get me wrong, baseball is still first in my heart and nothing else is even a distant second. But I tossed my rose-colored glasses right along with my worn out socks.

So with all that in mind, I have to say this: Every single baseball player is guilty of tainting the game.

This isn’t a legal proceeding. There is no innocent until

This is a matter of principle. It’s the same as when none of your brothers and sisters fessed up to breaking the lamp, so everyone got punished.

The entire game of baseball is being punished, and I have to ask myself: Is that the worst thing in the world?

Back in the 1970s, androstenedione and rub-on steroids didn’t exist, but amphetamines did.

In the 80s, people knew about steroids, but players wouldn’t rat on other players and owners were too busy focusing on all the money they were making.

In the 90s, the player strike almost killed an already struggling game. But mammoth men chasing home run records made casual fans forget about all their worries for at least nine innings per day.

Now Barry Bonds is less than a dozen swings shy of breaking Hank Aaron’s all-time home run mark of 755. People want to criticize Bonds because he supposedly played a good portion of his career while using performance-enhancing drugs.

People want to criticize Aaron because it seems that by not being present when &045; not if &045; the record is broken, he’s punishing Bonds for something no one can prove he’s done.

Well, Aaron is guilty, too. He’s guilty because Major League Baseball was too lazy to create any measure to make sure players weren’t destroying their bodies while trying to compile numbers.

And if Aaron is guilty, then Cal Ripken Jr. is guilty. And if he’s guilty, then Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens are guilty.

And if they’re guilty, then every 25th man on a major league roster is guilty. Because the truth of the matter is, it’s not the superstars that really need to juice up. It’s the players that are barely scraping by and trying desperately to keep a job in the big leagues.

A quarter century of unfortunate events and shortsighted people have painted every player, clean or unclean, with the same brush.

But, hey, it’s still okay to embrace the game. Just be cautious about the way you do it.

George L. Jones is sports editor of The Selma Times-Journal. He can be reached at (334) 410-1744 or .