Above All, Discretion

Posted on March 5, 2005 by Robert Ringer


There’s no question that some fans felt cheated when they found out that major league baseball players have been using performance-enhancing substances for years.  It appears, however, that they are in the minority and that most fans don’t really care all that much about steroid usage.

At the very least, they’re willing to forgive and forget.  I think my teenage son’s attitude is typical:  “I don’t care if players use steroids.  I just like seeing home runs.”

It kind of reminds me of a newspaper article I read back in the late 1970s when rational adults were concerned about the double-digit inflation that was driving real estate prices through the roof.  The article mentioned an eighteen-year-old kid in Los Angeles who was making buckets of money buying and selling properties.

It even quoted this prodigal investment “genius” as saying, “I don’t think inflation is a bad thing.  I think it’s a good thing.  I don’t want inflation brought under control.”  (Though I can’t confirm it, I heard a rumor that after the Southern California real estate collapse in the early eighties, he declared bankruptcy, got a job at McDonald’s salting French fries, then — later, of course — was invited to be a guest lecturer on economics at UC Berkeley.)

Yet, Major League Baseball’s steroid problem does present some interesting issues.  The foremost question, of course, is the illegality of using steroids in sports.  As usual, the government is involved.  And, as usual, I don’t see why it’s any of the government’s business.

But Major League Baseball’s involvement is another story.  Baseball is a business, and if it wants to allow players to use performance-enhancing substances, it certainly has a right to do so.  Whether it will hurt attendance over the long term remains to be seen.

If fans don’t believe that what they’re witnessing is an athlete’s true ability, they might begin to think of baseball in much the same light as pro wrestling.  Or perhaps as a freak show, sort of like baseball’s version of “Ripley’s Believe It or Not.”

The second issue is whether an athlete should be considered sane if he is willing to risk his long-term health in order to compile mega-statistics.  This kind of thinking is foreign to me, because I can’t imagine voluntarily putting anything into my body that has the potential to cause damage.

Third is the issue of out-and-out cheating.  Rather than looking the other way all those years, Major League Baseball would have been better off if it had just made steroids legal.  Then fans and sports reporters wouldn’t be faced with the question of whether or not asterisks should be placed next to modern-day records — and, if so, which records?

But to me, the most important issue is the question of integrity.  Integrity is adherence to one’s code of moral values.  A person who consistently acts in accordance with a generally accepted moral code is ethical.  Someone who preaches a high standard of morality but selectively acts otherwise is hypocritical.

Violating the rules of any game is unethical.  Deceiving people who are paying money to see you perform is unethical.  But even more unethical is when a person divulges confidential information about a friend, especially if it’s done for financial gain.

For example, while even Democrats agree that Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct and lying were beyond the pale, that didn’t give Linda Tripp a moral justification to record intimate conversations with her supposed friend, Monica Lewinsky.

Tripp’s sob story that she only did it to protect herself didn’t even come close to passing the giggle test.  Can you imagine a “good friend” taping your conversation when you’re telling her the most intimate details of your life?

Unfortunately, it goes on all the time.  Remember when Doug Wead, a long-time, close friend of George W. Bush, revealed that he had taped telephone conversations with the president?  He said the reason he recorded their conversations was that he “viewed Bush as a historic figure.”  Sure, Doug.

Which brings me to Jose Canseco, the former baseball superstar who wrote a tell-all book about drug use in Major League Baseball.  Even if most of what Canseco said in his book were true, what was his point?  Did he really feel a choirboy’s moral obligation to step forward with the truth and clean up the sport that he now says he wants nothing to do with?

I would have been much more impressed had he spoken up during the height of his career — when he had a lot on the line financially — because he had a sincere conviction that it was wrong for players to deceive fans.  If he had just admitted that he wrote his book for money, I might have respected him for at least being honest.

In any event, like most fans, I can’t get too excited about steroid usage in sports.  After all, poll after poll has shown that many people in our society not only lie and cheat, but see nothing wrong with it.  And since I don’t have the power to change how others think or act, I would rather focus on the more important point — being discreet about what you say and who you say it to.

In that regard, a good motto to live by is:  Live every moment as though the whole world were watching and listening.  This is especially true when it comes telephone conversations and sending e-mails!  Even Microsoft had its e-mails used against it by the Justice Department in that agency’s antitrust suit against the company.  With that in mind, one should be ever vigilant about saying anything on the telephone or putting anything in an e-mail that could come back to haunt him.

Above all, remember that friends have an amazing capacity to morph into enemies at the worst possible times.  And if and when that happens, if your phone calls and e-mails are “clean,” you won’t have to worry if a Linda Tripp or Jose Canseco happens to be on the other end of any of them.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.