As a society in general, we're often suckers. We often are innocent in our beliefs that our athletes couldn't lie too us. They couldn't say they were clean, they didn't cheat, and then go out and cheat. Mostly though, it's because we don't want to accept that maybe they did. We don't want to accept that these athletes we cheer for, admire, and love to watch, could do something like that. Lance Armstrong often will be case and point. No one wanted to think Lance Armstrong doped. We all wanted to believe, and for the longest time I did believe, that he beat cancer, he came back, and in a sport riddled with doping and high profile doping riders like Jan Ullrich, Marco Pantani, and on, did it clean. No matter how flawed his argument seemed, no matter how obvious it seemed that Lance Armstrong doped, we didn't want to believe it. We let our innocence cloud our judgement. But then we'll have that innocence clouded. Our perceptions changed. These leads us into my next point on Ryan Braun.
Ryan Braun stood up in front of a crowd, defended himself, defended baseball, told what seemed a convincing story and sold everyone of his love for the game, and how he could never disrespect the game in that manner. He made people look bad, he was a bully. He lied. Ryan Braun cheated baseball when it finally seemed like baseball was on it's way back up. His story was so convincing that despite how our judgments were clouded, we believed him. We saw good. And then Biogenesis happens. And our worst nightmare occurs. He wasn't clean. Someone who seemed like he could lead baseball into a brighter future, had gone down that same dark past of many players prior. Now our judgment is clouded. Same heroes we now admire we raise an eyebrow. Chris Davis. Miguel Cabrera. These guys are clean. But are they? We want to live in an age of innocence. And trust these athletes. But so often, our judgments, perceptions, and thoughts are clouded. And it doesn't just hurt us. It hurts the athletes who are hard working, clean, and devoted and do love the game and would never disrespect it in that manner. That's what is most wrong here.
Chris Froome just won the Tour De France. In dominant fashion. Winning by 4+ minutes over his nearest challenger. On the way to that triumph, Froome put in one of the more brilliant athletic performances. He climbed Mont Ventoux. 6,273 feet elevation. Froome climbed up a hellacious mountain in dominant fashion. Well ahead of all his rivals. He shattered the field. Yet it drew comparisons. Comparisons to one Lance Armstrong and how he shattered the whole field en route to a 2nd placed finish on top of Ventoux in 2000. Chris Froome has been adamant. He's been defiant. His team manager, David Brailsford of Team Sky has been adamant. Chris Froome is clean. Yet to so many, his performance couldn't be clean. It was so superhuman in the mold of Armstrong, cycling's great fraud, that for many days after and for many days more he'll face the questions. "Are you blood doping?" "Are you on performance enhancing drugs?". He says his win will stand the test of time. We want it too. That's where the innocence kicks in. We want to believe. We want to admire. So many times though, we've had that taken away from us. So we question. Right or wrong, we question whether we can and should believe. Is it fair? No. But in this PED era, no athlete is ever fully treated fair. And that's where the great tragedy comes in.
Chicks dig the long ball. Baseball digs the long ball. Baseball often can be synonymous with the home run. Babe Ruth, Micky Mantle, Lou Gehrig and those Yankees teams made the long ball a thing in baseball. Something special. Then Roger Maris took it to new heights. 61 home runs in 1961. A record. It stood until 1998. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa lit up baseball. Enthralled fans everywhere with the "Home run chase". Could they break 61? And who will first? It was a brilliant moment for baseball when McGwire did it. And then Sosa did too. No one had suspicion of PED's. No one had ever thought this great moment and this great chase could ever be......tainted. But it set the precedent for years on. When someone's hitting that baseball and sending it well over the outfield wall, and hitting 45, 50, 55 home runs. Is it clean? Barry Bonds hit 73. He broke Hank Aaron's HR record. Everyone wanted to admire. And we did. Once again though, we got bitten. BALCO. Rumor after rumor and the entire lead-up to Bonds passing Aaron was "Is he clean?". A chance for baseball to enjoy a great moment in it's history, forever will be thought of with the words fraud and a cheater. Barry Bonds though didn't just take away moments and fans appreciation, he took away the 100% belief those fans can have in new players coming along and coming close to hitting 60 or more. Eyebrows will be raised by some no matter how stupid it may sound. This is Chris Davis' story.
Chris Davis is having a monster year. 37 home runs just a few games past the All-Star break, 97 RBI's. He's on pace for 61. The chance to tie or equal Maris. In many people's eyes, he if he gets to 62, is the HR king. All logic suggests Chris Davis is clean. Chris Davis is what you want in baseball. Hard-working, clean, smiling, good natured player with a lot of talent. No ounce of banned substances in his body. You could make an iron clad case that Chris Davis is clean. But the innocence that we could have in believing Chris Davis is clean, has that semblance of doubt. That creeps into our minds and makes us wonder, what if he isn't? I fully believe Chris Davis is clean. His numbers will stand the test of time. For a long time though, that doubt may always creep in. Because we're always going to have days like yesterday. Where that innocence is taken away. And our judgment clouded. Days that prompt athletes like Chris Davis to be asked "Are you on PED's?" It isn't fair. He doesn't deserve it. But this is the sports world we've come to live in. Where someone clean like Chris Davis is asked if he's cheating. If he's a fraud. He isn't. But people will have that doubt because of how the innocence we all want to have has been clouded. The perceptions we all want to have have been clouded. How it's all been taken away.
That's the real tragedy. It's sad for sports. It's sad for the fans. That someone could lie, and be a fraud and cheat the system and the sport. My opinions on Lance Armstrong may be different to some, but he's cheated cyclists to come after him and he's cheated the legacy of the sport. That someone like Chris Froome has to answer those questions. Ryan Braun lied. Ryan Braun was a bully. He tested our fate, brought us in, and duped us. Now he's going to prompt Chris Davis to be asked "are you cheating?" to have people wonder "Is he really clean?". Ryan Braun, Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds. Frauds. Never to be spoken of the same again. But who they've really cheated, is the athletes we need to admire. And the athletes we most want too admire. That's who they've cheated. And that's the tragic story in this tale. Chris Froome and Chris Davis are clean. But they'll always have to answer to the questions of if they are clean. Because it's the sports world we live in. Where our innocence is taken. No matter how much we want to live in it.