What do Michael Vick and Barry Bonds have in common?
The answer is, not too much.
Michael Vick has been convicted of harming defenseless animals. Barry Bonds has been accused of harming the legacy of baseball.
Michael Vick has gone to prison for his crimes. Barry Bonds has not.
But when it comes down to it, Barry Bonds is probably more hated by the common sports fan than Michael Vick.
Why? Because we think he cheated.
Let's think about that for a moment. First of all, we only think he cheated. We don't know for sure, but let's table that for now.
There are dozens of convicted felons in professional sports. If you can name a crime, there's an athlete who's committed it. Twenty-seven NFL players were arrested over the last offseason. In December, a convicted murderer caught a touchdown pass on Monday Night Football.
Most young fans remember Mike Tyson more for his appearance in The Hangover than his boxing career, much less his stint in jail for rape.
Yet, the group of athletes our society seems to spend the most time vilifying are the ones who took steroids. We can get over animal cruelty, rape and even murder, but cheating? That's too far.
We've attached a completely unfair purity to sports when in reality it's just another business. All the owners care about is the bottom line, and what helps the bottom line the most? The best possible athletes.
That's where steroids come in. Athletes aren't above civilians; they're just like the rest of us. They have families to feed. They want to do whatever they can to be the best possible employees so that they can make as much money as possible.
Would you care if a doctor took drugs to make himself a better doctor? Or a lawyer?
Of course not. Because in the end it's better for everyone. You get a better doctor to treat your illness and that doctor gets paid more for doing it. If you were on trial for murder and your lawyer wasn't doing anything in his power to win your case, you'd probably fire him for someone that was.
That's what steroids do. They give us the best possible product and allow the players to maximize their earning potential. And honestly, I could not care less if it hurts their long-term health.
We've clearly established that these guys are just gladiators to us.
Why is it suddenly irresponsible of us to ignore the health risks of steroids when we so blatantly ignore the societal risk many of these men pose simply by being on the streets? Is it acceptable for them to risk the lives of others but not themselves?
If an athlete wants to take steroids, that's their decision. There are pros and cons to it just like any other decision. Athletes who stay clean will live longer; athletes who take steroids will play better.
When it comes down to it, the athlete has to decide which path they prefer. It is not our job as fans to judge.
Which brings us to Lance Armstrong. On Thursday, he will presumably admit to doping in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. And you know what? I really couldn't care less.
Armstrong has done more good for the world than everyone who will read this article combined. His Livestrong foundation has raised over $470 million for cancer research. He has inspired millions of people to overcome whatever obstacles they face. He pretty much single-handedly saved the sport of cycling.
By the way, that entire sport should be ashamed of the hypocrisy they've displayed throughout this ordeal. Without Armstrong most Americans wouldn't even know what the Tour de France is. For several years it was one of the biggest summer sporting events in the country.
And their plan as a sport is to turn him into a villain? Really?
If Armstrong never took steroids, we'd be $470 million further away from a cure for cancer, cycling would still mean nothing to Americans as a sport and cancer survivors would lose their biggest celebrity role model.
And that's the thing: Armstrong is a role model. Not because he's an athlete or because he's a celebrity, but because he's used his platform to make the world a better place.
You know who hasn't done that? Plaxico Burress, Allen Iverson, Ugueth Urbina and the hundreds of other criminals we let play professional sports.
If parents want to know how they can let their kids look up to athletes who cheated, my response would be better that they aren't doing a good enough job of parenting if they can't find better role models for their children.
Role models are people like Lance Armstrong, people who have made the world better by their presence. If we have to live in a world where athletes are seen as the pinnacle of human achievement instead of people like doctors and lawyers, we should at least choose the right ones to worship.
Lance Armstrong is one of those right ones. I could not care less if he cheated. It may have made him a better athlete, but it certainly didn't make him a better man. He did that on his own. That's how we should judge athletes, not by what they're injecting into their veins.
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