Slugger Barry Bonds, whom I first covered when he was with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1980s, was voted onto the All-Star team by fans in his hometown San Francisco. However, he withdrew from the Home Run Derby, saying that at age 43, he's quite simply too old for the rigors of what essentially amounts to taking batting practice as a thrill for the fans. Bonds' refusal to participate was a blow to those who have stood by him in the face of ongoing scrutiny about his use of illegal steroids. While he has been booed and vilified on the road, the Giants' faithful have been loyal -- only to be snubbed by his lack of participation in last night's event.
(AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Sadly, when Bonds breaks Henry Aaron's all-time home run record, all will be forgiven and excused by some fans -- even his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs. Steroids are rampant in sports, and we have heard much about them lately, from the murder-suicide case of WWE wrestler Chris Benoit to Floyd Landis' battle to hang onto his Tour de France title.
Steroids are not only a form of cheating, but they can also be dangerous -- even deadly -- as evidenced by the early deaths of some athletes who have used them. And yet from organized sports (on both a professional and amateur level) and fans alike, there has been no collective outcry to get rid of the drugs.
Why not? Because there is huge money at stake, as well as gold medals and a winning-at-all-costs mentality when it comes to the home team. Perhaps as parents and fans, we need to stop before cheering for a player accused of using steroids or buying their jersey, and think about what that says not only about our own values, but also the message we are giving our kids. With steroid use on the rise among high school athletes, clearly the message that drugs have no place in sports is not getting across. The temptation to win, earn that scholarship, or make big bucks is quite simply too much.
Believe me, I find it difficult to tell my own children that some of their favorite athletes are winning by cheating, but it's a discussion that needs to be had. Our kids have to understand that winning and titles and trophies do not come from a syringe, but from hard work and heart.