What words can you possibly say about a guy who just hit his 600th home run (against his former team, the Chicago Cubs) and has now joined the elite ranks of a chosen baseball few like Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Barry Bonds?
Well, like Sammy Sosa at a Congressional hearing on steroids himself, the words “no hablo inglés” quickly come to mind.
I find it stomach-churning that a self-serving showboat like Sammy Sosa can be as skinny as Olive Oyl one day – and puffed out like one of Jerry Seinfeld’s pirate shirts the next. But, hey, I bought into this pre-BALCO mess like the rest of the country back in the roaring '90s when we were oh-so-hungry for the excitement of home run hitters again.
We, the American sports fans, wanted to believe in baseball again – and what better way to rid yourself of agonizing memories of a baseball strike (or Kurt Cobain blowing his brains out, for that gray matter) than immersing yourself into the national pastime, huh?
My enthusiasm for baseball was certainly rejuvenated back in 1998 when “the home run race” for the must-have magic number of homers (now “70”) in a single season was won by GNC mega-man, Mark McGwire (before appearing like a mumbling, bumbling, Incredible Hulk himself at his own Congressional hearing – and testifying like an amnesia victim left over from Day of Our Lives).
And hey, to be fair, I used some over-the-counter “supplements” of my own over the years in the wacky world of quasi-sports-journalism. So I hope the “Pulitzer Surprise committee” will forgive me when I tell you I needed to get “a leg-up” on Timmy (or any advantage I could get) who was quickly overshadowing my quirky headline-making abilities down at the college newspaper. And to this day – and in my defense - I SWEAR all that Miller Genuine Draft found in my office desk was for “medicinal purposes.”
But whether GNC or MGD is involved, I guess the biggest difference is that the rest of America doesn’t look to me as “a hero” to hang their national pride – and hat – on, whereas Mark McGwire was (partly) in charge of preserving (and helping to rebuild) the sanctity of our country’s pastime to the best of his (actual) ability.
When I was a kid, my mom used to point to Popeye to get me to eat my spinach. Sadly, after consuming several cans of the slimy stuff, I was seldom able to beat the snot out of the neighborhood bully – I had to turn to journalism to do that.
I used to think that if I ingested a “magical combination” of Pop Rocks and Diet Crystal Pepsi that it would alter my DNA enough to give me the ability to “spontaneously combust” – and fly off my roof like “Superman” or “The Human Torch.” That idea fizzled faster than a dead kid on the front of a “Life” cereal box.
It’s hard to get excited about someone like Sammy Sosa (who has been found guilty of nothing in the way of using enhancements, by the way) when you see someone like Cleveland Indians' outfielder, Grady Sizemore, utilizing his talents the old fashioned way: HE’S EARNED IT.
And (speaking of seeing Red about overlooked raw natural talent) Ken Griffey Jr.: Where have you (going, going) gone?
I’ll put that trademark asterisk (*) after all their names: Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, AND Mark McGwire in the history books (just in case the “politically correct police” want to argue the point that Bonds or Sosa are being treated unfairly in the public eye because they are minorities. Now, just like “The Taffy Factory Phantoms” from Scooby-Doo, we have one of every color in the bunch). Unfortunately, I don’t think any of the so-called “monsters” of the BALCO investigation are going to get unmasked anytime soon (unless Jason Giambi sings like a canary …about a certain St. Louis Cardinal).
But common sense has to tell you that these three men had to use some sort of artificial “supplements” to enhance their God-given talents – and that’s cheating. The damage is done, the records will be broken, and the rest, as they say, is history*.
But that certainly does not mean I will give any sort of respect or admiration of mine to Sosa and his “synthetic” cohorts. Like a sign in the crowd at the ballpark read: “Babe Ruth did it with hot dogs and beer.”
Some will say that Sammy Sosa deserves the benefit of the doubt because there has never been any “substantial proof” that he used steroids (or cheated) during his pro baseball career. Some fans will say what’s done is done and we should just look the other way and move on – for the good of baseball. “Common sense” can never replace actual phantom physical evidence in the world of professional sports, some fans might say.
Fair enough. But either way baseball has been tarnished and, to them, I simply say this when it concerns the history of Sammy Sosa: Put a cork in it.