No, this is not a blog about the commercials seen on the SuperBowl telecast. Nuff-said, about those. Let us just review a little of what sports gave us, revealed to us, in 2012 and 2013. This is about the asterisk. Its' above the 8 on your keyboard. Most of what can be said about athletes and their sports, lately, comes with an *asterisk and I don't mean for wind-aided performances. Unfortunately, we can't seem to talk about super athletic achievement without that asterisk for those performance-enhancing drugs.
I digress. My childhood hero, Stan Musial, died just few weeks ago. And during the day, I reflected on those years when I'd race home to check the box scores in the newspapers to see what Stan 'The Man' did in yesterday's games. Musial's name sat loftily among the greats of the era: Willie Mays, Duke Snider, Maris and Mantle, and Williams, Hank Aaron, Eddie Matthews, Koufax and Newcomb. The list is long, and I could go on and on. Arguably, anything we ingest, and digest, is performance-enhancing. This is true for all of us mortals, it simply happens, necessarily, at a faster rate for athletes. My old-time heros lived in a different time. Back-in-the-day, the media didn't sit down at their breakfast and dinner tables, didn't check their medical records, their sex lives, didn't go into the gym with them, or to the GNC store. We can only speculate on "some" of the things they ingested. Hearty steaks and potatoes, and milk we know for sure. And, we do know that many of them smoked and drank like superheroes. Hey, what's a couple of martinis to a relief pitcher? A catcher? A first baseman? Ever wonder where the "double-header" got its name?
Suffice to say, there were carousers and womanizers in ample supply, in all sports, then and now. It's part of the myth and lore of a sport's celebrity. At some point in my teens, Dodger pitcher Bo Bilinsky's lifestyle suddenly appealed to me(don't ask). Male behavior transcends all facets of organized sports, and life for that matter. It then becomes an issue of opportunity and the proximity of the press.
The latest: deer antler spray. C'mon! Really? Deer antler spray? Golfers and football players using this banned substance. For what? Mating? What about the poor deer? Sexually seducing this vulnerable animal, during his most sexually-vulnerable time? I'm sorry, but we need the asterisk* once again on any so-called record catch by some super hunter who bags a twelve-point big one. It's only fair. There oughtta be a law.
So, let's get back to good-ole steroids. Lance Armstrong finally came clean(pun intended). After years of flat-out denial, in probably the most tainted sport on the planet, the super-athlete, superhero of seven Tours de France, admitted to juicing his achievements with banned substances, or by blood-packing, or with HGH human-growth hormone. Yes, surprise-surprise, our own homones, turned back on us in certain dosages, can be performance enhancing. Yankee, Alex Rodriguez suddenly seems to be embroiled in his own usage. I think just dating Madonna has got to be performance enhancing. What's his problem? He wants homeruns, too?
Baseball's good-ole-days now harken back to the relative innocence of the Jose Canseco confessions. (And we thought, Jim Bouton was telling juicy ball-four tales). Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa cards soon lost their lustre to scandal, and seasonal home-run totals have returned to normal human sub-Ruth feats. The jury is still out on Roger Clemens. Odd, that the word 'jury' and 'congressional hearings' are now routinely associated with sports. Marion Jones notwithstanding, Track & Field, and the Olympic ideal, has been under the microscope for years for its alleged abuses. The football field is looking ever smaller these days as the mastodons who adorn the line of scrimmage get ever larger. With more and more pro football players looking like 300-pound pro wrestlers, commissioner Roger Goodell is trying to rein-in enhancing drugs in the beef, and beefcake, industry.
So, the 47th Superbowl, XLVII, will have an asterisk, because the lights went out in the indoor stadium for more than half-an-hour, stopping play. But clearly, the lights are on all sports and all athletes, watching their every super, record-setting, awe-inspiring performances. It leaves us to ask: what do we really want to see in an athletic performance? A Mickey Mantle, a Tom Brady, or an asterisk? Do we care if the performance is juiced? Will it matter in the future? To whom? It's only sport, right?
And they laugh in my house when I sit down to watch Figure Skating.