By SEAN RAPOSA
There is no denying that Nov. 4, 2008, will go down as a monumental day in U.S. history. The election of Barack Obama as the first African-American president instilled a renewed sense of pride in U.S. citizens of all races, age groups and social classes, and underlined a collective determination to bring about change. However, as “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone so eloquently parodied, merely running around screaming “Change!” isn’t going to fix anything. We need to start altering our perspectives, deciding what’s important to us and finding ways to bring about the change we seek.
Like many of you, I’ve had to make sacrifices in these tough economic times - including a break from cable and internet to save some dough. Of course, with pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training and our National Pastime site getting back into swing of things, this was no longer an option. Upon my return to the world of mass media I found, to my disgust (but not my surprise), all the same old stories. Even before the A-Roid bombshell, all the usual suspects were dominating my megapixels: Marbury, PacMan, Clemens, Bonds, etc. Sports television has turned into tabloid news, littered with all the same invasive and embarrassing details. You can’t even relax and watch a ballgame anymore without the ever-present devil that is the “bottom line” reminding us of all our favorite athletes’ indiscretions.
All of this got me thinking: Do we really believe in Obama? Or maybe the better question is, do we really believe in ourselves and in each other, and that we can effect real change in this country?
If we can learn anything from the coverage of the A-Rod scandal, it’s that we’ve fallen into an ever-repeating cycle of spouting hate and casting blame onto others to elevate our own self-righteousness. I believe in the energy dynamics of our world, and I know that when people project love, happiness and even harsh truth upon others we bring about a better community. It’s about time we stop plastering Paris Hilton, A-Rod, Michael Phelps’ bong and the like on every TV, website and newspaper in this country. Perhaps instead of gossiping about celebrities for their ill-advised and embarrassing but ultimately unimportant in the grand scheme of things indiscretions, ESPN should be bombarding kids with the tragic story of Ken Caminiti, who fell as hard as one can to the Steroid Era and died of an apparent heart attack in October 2004. I understand that stats and records are important - particularly in baseball - and that when their integrity is threatened it’s worthy of discussion, but the dialogue needs to be put in the proper perspective. I love sports as much as anyone, but a game is never more important than a life.
As Puff Daddy’s character said to Biggie’s in the new movie “Notorious,” “We can’t change the world until we change ourselves first.” The A-Rod steroid revelation has presented us with a golden opportunity to bring about real change, however small in scope, if this truly is our desire. We can provide comfort and forgiveness to those persecuted by this 21st century witch hunt. Even as a die-hard Red Sox fan, I can appreciate what A-Rod has done in coming clean and opening the door to admission and redemption to others. Hopefully, as the names of the guilty trickle out as they inevitably will, they will follow his lead and we can help them turn a new page in their lives - and teach young people a valuable lesson in the process. Let’s stop playing dumb - I’m talking to you, Bud Selig - and acknowledge that all sports for the past 30 years or so have been tainted by the effect of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs so we can move forward. That quite possibly the biggest shoe has now dropped can only help in this endeavor.
I’m not saying we should let these cheaters off the hook. In fact, I advocate “Loo-sey! Goo-sey!” as the chant of choice for all confirmed perpetrators this summer, as well as the asterisking of any affected records going forward. To some, the doors of the Hall of Fame will always remain closed, and they should. And we need to continue to seek out the truth, not for any personal advancement or simply to tear down others, but for the greater good, for social progress and increased understanding. “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time,” President Obama has said. “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
Sean Raposa is a frequent contributor to National Pastime. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.