A lot of people are tearing at Rodriguez now, raw meat in the lion's cage, but I don't feel anger toward him. I don't feel sorry for him either. I just feel that he's the emblem of his age. Players can give reasons, but I suspect that there is a two-word explanation for the steroid era: human nature. There was no testing. Authority figures winked. Money was flowing, home runs were flying. Many fans were enthralled; media, too.
More names will come out, of course. In a bizarre irony, the players' union—Don Fehr and Gene Orza and the lot—which had fought ferociously against drug testing, failed to ensure that the results from a 2003 survey test remained anonymous. So now there are 103 more names from '03 that, no doubt, will leak out over time. Those players might as well admit they used. Rodriguez has given them cover. There won't be a bigger name on the list than A-Rod.
Now, there's one guy I'd love to find: the clean player of the steroid era. I don't just mean a player who didn't use—I'm sure there were plenty of those. No, I'd love to find the player who was offered chances to use, the player who understood how much more money and playing time and fame he was giving up. And he still said no.
I remember years ago being in a high school accounting class. We had this teacher who let everyone cheat. Nothing subtle about it. Kids would walk up to her desk, copy answers, shout them out for all to hear. She wanted us to cheat—or at the very least did not care—and so it didn't feel like cheating. It felt like what you were supposed to do.
Still, I remember one guy who refused. He kept his head down and worked out the numbers. The guy wasn't brilliant or holier than thou. I used to watch him sometimes and wonder what was going on inside his head. I never asked him. I wish I could now. Because, at the end of the sad day, the fall of A-Rod just shows that the real question isn't why some players cheated. The question is why some others didn't.
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