Does the American public have a double standard for when a professional baseball player tests positive for performance-enhancing drugs, as opposed to a professional football player?
Add to Berkman's comments the fact that baseball is a far more statistically-driven game, and it's much easier to connect PEDs use by baseball players to specific on-field feats -- and to the breaking of hallowed records -- than it is in football.
It might also be argued that the difference correlates to the divergent ways in which we view, and compare ourselves to, the men who play the two sports. Professional football players, most kickers and punters aside, are almost inconceivably bigger and/or faster and/or quicker than we are to begin with, and while we can dream about doing what they do on Sundays, few of us believe that we ever might realistically have been one of them.
Professional baseball players, by and large, are different. There is no physical archetype, or set of physical archetypes, that is necessary to being a successful ballplayer. They can be impossibly fat, improbably thin; short, tall; muscle-bound, slack-bellied; even one-handed, or three-fingered. Major leaguers will tell you that two of the most impressive physical specimens among their ranks are
When it was revealed earlier this month that Cushing had tested positive for hCg (a fertility drug that is often taken to mask the use of anabolic steroids), and would as a result be suspended for the first four games of the 2010 regular season, it was telling that the central brouhaha that arose didn't concern Cushing's act itself, but whether the
That the NFL has its own PEDs problem was underscored last week when
So, double standard? Perhaps. Part of it might be that we have simply grown tired of PEDs stories, whether they're in baseball or football or another sport entirely, and are ready to wring our hands about something else. And if an NFL player more on the level of
It seems so very simple. They do it because the potential reward from doing it still far exceeds the risk. The "before" and "after" photos of Cushing that are now everywhere on the web show how, in the span of only a few years, a soft-chested, thin-wristed teen turned into rippling, sweat-drenched beast -- one who is a nationally-known celebrity, and one who, not least, will be paid up to $14 million in the first five years of his career (less, of course, the four games' pay he'll lose this fall). One suspects that Cushing still would have done what he appears to have done, even if he'd known that he might be subjected to some low-level public embarrassment and a dreaded AP revote.
The NFL and Major League Baseball could, if they were bold, attempt to impose the ultimate penalty on their first-time offenders: lifetime bans. Of course, even if they were able to push such a draconian measure past their unions, it would not be in the leagues' best interests, as they'd risk the regular loss of some of their most popular and profit-generating stars, and that risk/reward scenario does not tilt in their favor. And even if they did expel first-time offenders for life (the MLB currently suspends them for 50 games, or slightly less than 1/3 of a season; the NFL for four games, or 1/4 of a season), there would still be plenty of athletes who would use PEDs, if they felt as if the choice was between using them for a shot at even a few seasons, even a few games, of public adulation and paychecks appended with zeroes, or never having any of that at all.