Almost forgotten this weekend is the annual Baseball Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y. It is a pastoral postcard of a hamlet in upstate New York somehow still called “Baseball’s Spiritual Home.” Amid clubhouses full of lost souls, a better moniker might be “Graveyard to the Grand Old Game.”
For the first time in almost 50 years, the new inductees are all dead. The players eligible for induction — Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, only the greatest power hitter and pitcher of their generation — are widely considered disgraced drug cheats who, in the end, needed lawyers more than Hall of Fame votes.
Ryan Braun isn’t getting into Cooperstown, either, but not because he merely used performance-enhancing drugs. No, before admitting his guilt and accepting Major League Baseball’s 65-game, rest-of-the-season ban, he committed a more cardinal sin: He kept lying, only more belligerently. Going after the people who caught him lying and cheating, he became the National League MVP who knew no bottom.
Braun followed the Bondsian deny-till-you-die credo, attacking the people who caught him, swearing his innocence on everything — including, comically in retrospect, his actual life. A week of ugly backlash showed Braun there is a harder-to-forgive crime than using steroids to steal money and fame from your peers: being a bad guy.
Alex Rodriguez, who admitted he once used PEDs, is flirting with expulsion from baseball because he too didn’t learn the lesson of the PED era: Fess up when the truth catches up to you and move on. [Note: he was suspended thru 2014]
These 2 guys, sadly, followed the Lance Armstrong strategy: deny, Deny, DENY, and attack, Attack, ATTACK, until their pack of lies ultimately crumbled like a house of cards.
I learned long ago that bad news never improves with age, so it's best to deal with stuff head on and early. You're going to face some pain, sure, but nothing compared to the escalated pain that will have compounded if you wait. Just sayin'.
So, the lies turn out to be worse than the original sin. Back to Mike Wise:
Bonds, Clemens, Braun and Rodriguez are all cautionary tales in what should be the thesis of the Lance Armstrong School of Ethics: The public will forgive a guy for using PEDs.
What they’re less likely to forgive is lying about it afterward and then trashing and attacking the accusers. People understand the temptation to cheat. But if and when you get caught, don’t be a jerk. It makes you look irredeemable.
Oh, and the connection to Ultrarunning? It's entirely likely that some of our elite Ultrarunners do use performance-enhancing drugs to do better, although on the other hand the financial incentives to do so just aren't there (endurance running is NOT a big-money sport, duh).
But overall I truly believe that our sport is mostly clean, just based upon the kind of people I know who gravitate to it.