A couple of decades ago, when drunken-driving deaths in America were mounting at a terrifying rate but little public outcry was heard, a group of mothers organized and began pressuring legislatures, law-enforcement bodies, corporations and the mass media.
In the 25 years since Mothers Against Drunk Driving drew a line and went to war, alcohol-related traffic deaths have dropped by more than 40%, and since 1990 teen drunken-driving accidents have diminished by nearly 60%. The mothers did it by stigmatizing the behavior.
I head home. I go to the phone. I start calling fathers.
I CALL A phenom's father. Nearly every day, if it's not too cold or wet or dark outside, Dr. Greg Scott gets off work at 7 p.m. and does what John Giambi, Jason and Jeremy's dad, used to do. He goes to work with his 13-year-old son, Jonathan, on a ball field. Sometimes even when it is too cold or wet or dark; once even in the snow. The kid's already 5'9", 180 pounds. Four years ago, when the homers started flying out, his teammates in Montgomery, N.J., started calling him Little Bonds.
Dr. Scott's a cardiac surgeon. Does he ever stop to think that every batting practice pitch he throws, every improvement that Jonathan makes, takes him one step closer to a world where his son may be forced to make a choice: to cash in his dream and all these hours they've spent together ... or take a drug that could ravage his heart, kidneys and liver, cause impotence, high blood pressure and mood swings so severe that they could induce him to do what the sons of those parents at last week's hearings did? To press a gun to his head and kill himself, as 19-year-old Efrain Marrero of Vacaville, Calif., did in September, or to hang himself in his bedroom, as 17-year-old Taylor Hooton, the cousin of former major league pitcher Burt Hooton, did in July 2003 in Plano, Texas?
"Yes, it worries me," says Dr. Scott. "What if the only ones who can dream are the ones willing to pump themselves full of juice? There's such an emphasis on size now. Jonathan says he won't do it, but this is a guy who hasn't gone on a date yet. I would never condone it, but I understand it. Make the Show, and your life is made. I see my son's and his teammates' faces when they see Giambi getting a custom-made $120,000 car.
"The cheating part doesn't ring a bell with them. They consider it no more of an unfair edge than having a better calculator than the kid next to you in math class. I asked if they think it's cheating, and they said, 'No, it's just trying to get ahead.' The integrity of the game, the old records--that's a non sequitur to these kids. So I tell my son, 'Your balls will shrink, you'll get acne. Don't do it, because we don't know what it'll do to you.' And I bought the Canseco book to show them. All they said when they looked at it was, 'Wow, look at the change in Canseco's size!'"
So what'll happen at the Scotts' house when number 756 starts to rise?
"I'll be up cheering," says Dr. Scott. "Because I still say hitting a 90-plus-mile-an-hour fastball 340-plus feet 756 times is a great feat. And let me ask you a question. Suppose Bonds was a nice guy. Do you think there would be such a furor? How do we know Cal Ripken Jr. wasn't on something? What about Randy Johnson's using oxygen between innings? What about the amphetamines that so many players use before games? What about Lasix surgery that lets you see 20/10?"
O.K., O.K. My turn again. What does he think John Giambi is feeling today? Dr. Scott doesn't hesitate. "Guilt," he says. "He's thinking, I pushed them so hard they felt they had to use steroids in order not to fail in my eyes."