As Major League Baseball (MLB) is in the midst of its latest attempt at eradicating performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) from its sport, I couldn't help but notice the seismic size of the public outcry. Words like disgrace, cheater or fraud are being thrown towards the likes of New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and other MLB players caught once more with their hand in the Human Growth Hormone jar.
You are probably starting to wonder whether you have mistakenly found yourself on MLB.com. Fret not, I write about football and I'm here to tell you about Washington Redskins linebacker Rob Jackson, Saint Louis Rams offensive guard Rokevious Martin, Chicago Bears tight end Gabe Miller and Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, among others.
Uh oh, I've seen that perplexed look before. Right about now, you're probably asking yourself a very common one word question: who?
Alright, let me try this again with names you may recognize more easily: Bruce Irvin, defensive end with the Seattle Seahawks, Daryl Washington, Arizona Cardinals linebacker, Justin Blackmon, wide receiver for the Jacksonville Jaguars or Asa Jackson, cornerback with the Baltimore Ravens.
What do all these football players have in common? They have all violated the National Football League substance abuse policy or been caught taking PEDs this year and they have all been suspended for doing so.
What is fascinating, however, when talking about PEDs in the NFL compared to MLB, is how no one seems to pay a great deal of attention to disgraced, fraudulent cheaters as long as they're wearing a football helmet. Unsurprisingly, even less attention is paid if said helmet is of the color of their favorite team.
There are several theories that have been developed to explain this discrepancy. One of them is the claim that unlike football, baseball cares much more about records, such as the number of career hits or career homeruns.
While football fans are not enthralled with statistics to the level of baseball sabermetrics experts, the fanfare created around some of the NFL's most notable records that have fallen in recent years shows they do care about historic landmarks. A clear example of that is the hoopla that surrounded New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees breaking Dan Marino's hallowed 27-year old record of 5,084 passing yards in a season, in 2011.
Another attempt to explain the lack of uproar with PEDs in the NFL is to argue that football players are less recognizable due to their wearing a helmet on game days. This notion falls just as short as the precedent. Nowadays, football is America's favorite past-time, not baseball. Additionally, we see many more NFL stars in commercials on television than we do MLB players (more Peyton Manning driving a Buick anyone?).
Could it be the fact that there hasn't been any major superstar in the NFL (read: franchise quarterback) caught doping yet? If that were to happen, would it change the flexible nature of our morals when it comes to what is deemed cheating or would we simply worry more about our fantasy football team potentially missing the playoffs?
In a day and age where being famous and popular seems to mean everything (see: trending on Twitter for 15 minutes and feeling fulfilled in life), is the NFL just "PED scandal-proof" because of its unprecedented run of success? One thing is clear: Americans care much more about touchdowns than homeruns and they don't give a bunt about how said touchdowns are scored.
Personally, I think all PEDs should be legalized under strict medical supervision. Controlling performance-enhancing substances intake by athletes, in my opinion, would greatly reduce the incidence of players trying to cheat the system. It would also decrease the number of players turning to so-called practitioners that load them up with steroid horse pills that lead to severe health issues later in their life.
Not everyone is ready for such a drastic approach, as we've all been raised under the notion that PEDs are dark potions cooked in the backroom's kitchen. We believe that our athletes, our modern-days gladiators, should be pure and exhibit their prowess in the arena without dishonoring and cheating the very spirit of the games.
Interestingly, despite sitting on that high horse as a society, we are for the most part willfully turning a blind eye to a drug culture that is alive and well in our favorite sport. There are PEDs in the NFL, we simply do not care.