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ISSUE 119 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/14/2006

Inside the Lines: Take back your game

By Matt Tiano
Sports Editor

Friday, April 14, 2006

The time will surely come when Barry Bonds smacks home run number 716 to surpass Babe Ruth for second place on the all-time list (Bonds currently has 708). You, as a fan, may feel the need to make a personal decision to applaud Bonds' achievement or to leave the applauding to Bonds himself.

In order to get the most out of this year's Major League Baseball season, do yourself a favor and do neither. Bonds will be Bonds, carrying all the baggage his steroid-inflated muscles can handle. The point is, the game will still have those poetic moments: the beauty of an inning-ending double play, a pitching masterpiece, or a pinch-hit, bottom of the ninth walk-off homer.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves, however. The game in 2006 will be different than any year before, even though the steroid issue has been out in the open for six years now.

Regarding Bonds, he will "officially" pass Ruth, but "unofficially," he will not.

This era of baseball history will always have an ideological asterisk marring its accomplishments, with Bonds being the leading torchbearer.

Even though the record books may indicate otherwise, the "asterisk" will be present there as well. The chance of commissioner Bud Selig entirely eradicating records set during the steroid era, proven or unproven, is not likely, no matter what kind of investigation Selig puts forth.

Any self-respecting baseball fan will understand the concept of the "asterisk," despite reluctance to explicitly place one.

As fans, we feel cheated. In some regards, the race to catch The Babe has turned into a mockery, and so it seems, an embarrassment to our once proud National Pastime.

Two weeks ago, Selig began his first full-fledged investigation, in which he sent former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell of Maine to uncover the truth behind the allegations of rampant steroid use in professional baseball.

Since Selig unveiled his plans, we have heard, from ESPN pundits to the players themselves, that this is a case of "too little, too late." They argue that this is a just public relations stunt from the commissioner.

I wholeheartedly disagree.

Just because the upper echelons of baseball ignored the seemingly obvious signs of steroid use in recent years, does not mean that these signs must be ignored forever.

Why would Selig and Mitchell put their credibility and reputation on the line if they believed the investigation would go nowhere?

The steroid issue will linger in 2006, making the crisis the single-most visible subject in the game. No doubt, the controversy will often take on greater importance on media desks than the competition on the field. The unfortunate part of this is that the steroid crisis will take precedent over the beauty of the national pastime.

You as the fan have the power to make this season what you wish it to be. We will be lucky enough to witness the next generation of baseball greats, who will carry on the tradition of the Pastime. Integrity will be restored eventually, but in the meantime, understand that baseball is more than just records or investigations.

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