When I was a kid, there was a minor league baseball organization in our part of North Carolina. It was named The Tobacco State League, a confederation of small town teams made up of players who would never make it to the show, but they were hometown heroes and the Wilmington Pirates were celebrities to every young boy who owned a baseball glove and frequented the sand lot baseball fields around town.
Hoggy Davis was our homerun king and every boy's inspiration, we expected him to loft one over the fence every time he came to the plate. Johnny Eden was our pitching ace and the Sanford Spinners with their big slugger Hank Nestlerod was our archenemy.
I remember going to those games at Legion Stadium and listening to them on the radio and the Pirates players meant just as much to us as Mickey Mantle ever meant to a kid in New York or Stan Musial to a kid in St. Louis.
They were our heroes and we looked up to them, emulated them and would have been crestfallen had any of them been involved in a drug scandal. A kid who truly loved a sport and looked up their favorite players didn't equate them with things like drugs and sex crimes and all the other sordid behavior professional athletes involve themselves in these days.
Of course those days of naivety for sports and so many other things have hustled away with a vengeance and now even the highest paid and most revered athletes of the era have fallen off their pedestals proving that even the adoration of millions of fans and the luxury of millions of dollars a year won't prevent them from being just as human as the rest of us.
I personally think professional sports, especially baseball, turned a blind eye to the use of performance enhancing drugs for selfish reasons. The old records were being shattered and the guys were knocking the fences down to the delight of the fans and owners alike, as the bleachers filled up, and the money was rolling in.
The condition Lyle Alzado ended up in should have motivated the NFL to enforce more stringent policing of their players, and I can't believe the international cycling community could not have known about the wide spread doping going on with Lance Armstrong and company.
In the case of many of today's professional athletes, they were punks when they were drafted and remain punks throughout their playing days getting into serious trouble and letting their teams down at crucial times when they're needed most.
Recruitment at the college level has reached a fever pitch and I wonder if the standards haven't fallen in direct proportion. And sometimes the best players are signed - even though they are potential trouble makers - and they're allowed to get by with a lot more than they should just to keep them on the active roster, until the players finally do something that can't be sugar coated or covered for and the whole thing breaks wide open revealing a pattern of bad behavior that has been all but ignored.
Hank Aaron is my all time favorite baseball hero and somehow it just doesn't seem fair that this great and honorable man should see his hard earned home run record fall to someone who knowingly broke the rules and used an unfair advantage.
In my humble opinion the professional leagues should set the bar and serve the notice that no amount of illegal substance will be tolerated, that even once is over the line and if you dope, you're barred for life.
What do you think?
Pray for our troops and the peace of Jerusalem.
God Bless America