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04-17-2005, 10:41 PM #1
The Jester's Quart: Survey Says...Steroids Don't Matter
The Jester's Quart: Survey Says...Steroids Don't Matter
Greg Wyshynski | Columnist
Friday, April 15, 2005
A month ago, you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a newspaper headline or a talking head on cable television elucidating the abomination that is steroid use in Major League Baseball.
So what happened? The media has moved on. Congress has moved on. And according one poll, so have the fans.
At the beginning of April, the Associated Press and AOL Sports conducted a telephone poll of 1,001 adults from the contiguous 48 states. (Because, evidently, Alaska and Hawaii might as well be Neptune and Pluto.)
The results are interesting, if not startling. In fact, the biggest surprise may be in the first question they asked:
1. Are you a fan of professional baseball or not?
-- Yes, 35 percent
-- No, 60 percent
-- Somewhat (volunteered), 5 percent
Let's assume, for a moment, that the respondents did not think they were being asked whether or not they're paid to follow baseball.
"Are you a fan of professional baseball or not?" Sixty percent of the people polled said "no." That's astounding, and quite embarrassing for a sport that has somehow convinced the fans and sportswriters who were penning its eulogy a decade ago that it has reclaimed its place as America's sporting lifeblood.
What do you think a similar question about professional football or basketball would reveal? I'm guess a little heavier on the "yes" side.
From then on, the questions shifted to steroids and performance enhancing drugs in baseball. Such as this question (keep in mind that baseball fans -- those proud 35 percent -- are represented in parenthesis):
2. In your view, which one statement represents the biggest problem in Major League Baseball?
-- The players make too much money, 33 percent (34)
-- Players use steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs, 27 percent (30)
-- It costs too much to attend a game, 22 percent (25)
-- The games are too long, 8 percent (5)
-- Other, 6 percent (4)
-- Not sure, 4 percent (1)
Did I miss that Congressional hearing on Richie Sexson's base salary?
Granted, the lure of that most utopian of fan desires -- fiscal sanity -- may have been too much for those responding. But 27 percent of those surveyed and 30 percent of baseball fans are hardly indicators that the uproar over performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball is a populist movement. There's only a five-percent difference between baseball fans who think steroids are ruining the game and those who think it's all going to hell because their soda costs $5.
Once again: Did I miss that Congressional hearing on why my cheese fries cost more than a Buick?
3. How much do you care if professional baseball players use steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs? Do you care ...
-- A lot, 55 percent (63)
-- A little, 23 percent (21)
-- Not at all, 22 percent (15)
To me, this is more an indication of curiosity than any anger towards steroid users. I'd love to know who's juicing and who isn't; in other words, I care a lot. But it doesn't mean I think they should be banned from baseball. Which brings us to this question, asked to half of the sample:
4a. If a baseball player was found to have used steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs, should he be allowed into baseball's Hall of Fame or not?
-- Yes, 26 percent (36)
-- No, 70 percent (62)
-- Not sure, 4 percent (2)
What's interesting here is the disconnect between non-fans and baseball fans: A 10-percent variance between those that answered "yes." Once again, it's clear that baseball fans have a different view of performance-enhancing drugs' "legality" when it comes to their sport.
Meanwhile, the other half of the sample was asked:
4b. If a baseball player was found to have used steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs, but only before baseball enacted rules against those drugs in 2002, should he be allowed into baseball's Hall of Fame or not?
-- Yes, 32 percent (45)
-- No, 62 percent (52)
-- Not sure, 6 percent (3)
Or, "Should Mark McGwire be allowed in baseball's Hall of Fame?"
I guess for 45-percent of fans, it isn't cheating if you're popping pills and taking shots of performance enhancing substances that are banned in nearly every other sport on the planet. If baseball doesn't ban it, then it must be A-OK!
Nevermind the fact that during his historic career, the only cream Babe Ruth rubbed into his arms fell off the top of a hot fudge sundae...
There's one more question I wanted to highlight, which was asked only of baseball fans:
7. If you had to choose, what kind of baseball game would you prefer to watch?
-- A close game with a lot of runs scored, 56 percent
-- A pitcher's duel, 42 percent
-- Not sure, 2 percent
So the majority of fans want runs, runs and more runs.
Is it any wonder they're so apathetic to the Steroid Armageddon that's been perpetrated by Congress and the media?
I'm not denying that some fans are legitimately upset and angry at baseball for allowing performance-enhancing drugs to remain in the game, for not implement draconian testing measures years before Jose Canseco and his $300,000 book advance. I'm not trying to downplay the fact that fans -- of, shall we say, a slightly more "experienced" demographic than mine -- feel as though this "cheating" has tarnished the last two decades of baseball to the point where they should forever be labeled as "The Steroid Era."
But where are these protesters now? This season, we've seen what seemed to be impossible a few years ago: Two Major League players, and dozens of minor leaguers, being publicly identified as steroid abusers and suffering suspensions for their actions. Yet none of this seems to have stoked the fires of discontent we saw during Canseco's book fallout and Congress's hearings on baseball.
Why hasn't it? Ask Jorge Piedra and Alex Sanchez. Those were the two players who have been suspended thus far by Major League Baseball for testing positive for steroids. Most baseball fans wouldn't know these guys if they ran up to them and punched them in the nuts. They're like the really tiny fish that the small fish in the pond eat.
That doesn't mean they aren't cheaters; that they aren't, in the minds of thousands of fans, sullying the reputation of baseball through their nefarious actions.
It just means they aren't famous cheaters. And judging from the reaction to their suspensions, and the reaction of fans in that recent poll, the steroid scandal in baseball is less about the sanctity of the game and much, much more about what famous people are doing to their bodies.
Who knew Barry Bonds had so much in common with Lindsey Lohan's breasts?
Published on the web since 1997, "The Jester's Quart" is a weekly satirical look at sports, pop culture and why NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is a jackass. Columnist Greg Wyshynski is the Features Editor for SportsFan Magazine in Washington DC, and the Senior Sports Editor for The Connection Newspapers of Northern Virginia. Email Wyshynski at email@example.comI'm Motown W. Guy and I approve this message...