How Baseball’s Steroid Scandal Is Like the War in Iraq

Barry Bonds now owns the home-run record, much to the chagrin of Hank Aaron and most non-Bay-Area baseball fans. It’s pretty clear that Bonds took steroids, whereas Aaron got those amazing wrists carrying large blocks of ice as a boy. Who wouldn’t prefer the non-drug-aided hero?
But when the role of steroids in baseball first became clear, pointing it out seemed like negative thinking. When Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were chasing Roger Maris in 1998, it felt like Christmas in July. When androstenedione was found in McGwire’s locker that year, most people decided that because this testosterone precursor was legal in Major League Baseball, it was hardly worth worrying about. There was reason to worry about steroids, too, with both McGwire and Sosa, but it seemed churlish to dwell on the possibility. Much more fun to watch those baseballs fly out of the park.

Likewise with Iraq. As George W. Bush made his big push to invade, most Americans supported him. Saddam Hussein was a bad man, and the U.S. military is strong; it seemed churlish to point out that Hussein was far from an imminent threat to the United States, or that Iraq was a sovereign nation, or that removing him was likely to bring chaos. Many people did point these things out, but they were not listened to, even those who worked in the State Department; they seemed like negative thinkers.

Now the crowd, the great slow-moving mass, has moved on both issues. After McGwire’s evasive performance in Congress on March 17, 2005, no one could feel safe anymore with the idea that baseball remained pure. And nearly 4 1/2 years after invading Iraq, most Americans now feel uneasy with the whole idea.

It’s not that we have more information now. But the information we had before, which seemed excessively negative, has spread. It no longer looks like negativity. It looks like reality. But in both cases the damage has been done. Obviously, the damage in Iraq is incalculably worse. Horrific civilian casualties — tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis killed for our mistake, and thousands of American soldiers killed long after we thought we’d “won.”

Eventually the majority catches up to reality. But sometimes it catches up too late.

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