Well, Mark McGwire just admitted to taking steroids for much of his career. And in other news, infield grass is green.
His admission reminds us all that there was a dark period of baseball's history that will always be known as the Steroids Era. It was a time marked not only by the fact that several players juiced, but also by the fact that almost everyone stayed quiet about it.
There had to be players in the locker room who knew that their peers were injecting themselves with drugs. How can you miss something like that? There also had to be executives that heard whispers or knew firsthand that it was going on. Yet none had the courage to say anything, much less investigate.
Baseballs were flying out of the yard and we were loving it. Muscles were growing, heads were expanding, and the bleachers were full. And now, we can't trust a single thing that happened during that time.
For me, the Steroid Era was less about the presence of drugs and more about the absence of courage. The integrity of an entire institution was being jeopardized, and there was deafening silence.
Let's be honest - baseball is doing okay. The Steroids Era didn't kill the sport, but it was certainly damaged. The public trust with baseball is very feeble and fragile. Another strike or big scandal could cast a fatal blow. Football has surpassed baseball as America's pastime, and fans have been lost forever.
Are there lessons we can learn from the Steroids Era?
The first and easiest lesson is that you reap what you sow. McGwire and others like him enjoyed a short burst of fame, but are now loathed. The decisions we make in life - including our undergraduate years in the fraternity - have consequences on our character. Integrity is not replenished easily and those who lie or cheat live with it every day.
The second, and more difficult lesson, is that protecting sacred institutions sometimes requires blowing a whistle.
Years ago, we lived through the "Animal House" era. Our collective inability to confront and call attention to damaging behaviors left a void of trust with the public that we have yet to overcome. By the way, the movie Animal House was a reflection of the era, not the cause of it.
As an undergraduate, I thought that ignoring dangerous behavior was enough. I didn't participate in certain practices, and so I thought I was in the clear. I knew that we and other chapters were doing things that jeopardized the fraternity system, and my only response was to participate in the whispers and gossip.
The result of my indifference was that a few years later, my chapter stood on the brink. I won't say more out of respect to those working hard on its behalf today. My silence over 10 years ago hasn't made that work an easier.
I admire those who can slam their fist on the table, push back their chairs, stand and yell out "enough!" Because, I couldn't. Can you?
I learned much from my undergraduate years in the fraternity. The lesson that weighs heaviest is that willful ignorance is never bliss. In fact, it's the stuff of cowards.
Big news! Many most-read and beloved posts from this blog have been compiled into a book, Forever Fraternity: Essays to Challenge, Celebrate and Advance the College Fraternity. Discussion questions have been added in order to make the book an educational tool as well.
Order your copy off of Amazon or Barnes and Noble. If you wish to order a quantity of 20 or more to use for a program or Greek leadership class, contact John Shertzer at firstname.lastname@example.org for a discount.