The realities of professional sports don’t even come close to the realities of reality. Really.
Melky Cabrera, who up until this past season was a marginal player at best, got caught — and admitted to — taking steroids. He was served up a 50-game suspension and was kept off the World Series champion San Francisco Giants post-season roster. Cabrera went so far as to create a fake website to try to convince people that instead of taking steroids on purpose, he bought this magic cream off the Internet and that’s what showed up in his drug test. He made $6 million last year. You’d think his career, let alone his reputation would be over. But this is baseball, and anything can happen in baseball.
The Toronto Blue Jays, days after negotiating a star-studded deal in which they all of a sudden become a contender in the A.L. East, signed Cabrera to a two-year contract at $16 million. Instead of being a forgotten name in baseball, Cabrera was awarded a second chance at $8 million per season.
Second chances are necessary in life; we all make boneheaded mistakes. But why do we give such leniency in sport? What makes sports more valuable to our society than other professions? If you got caught cheating and/or lying and/or making stuff up at your workplace, would you be rewarded with a second chance — and make more money from someone willing to hire you? I think we all know the answer to that.
Let’s say I decided to lift a whole passage from another writer into one of my articles and got caught, what do you think would happen to me? First, I’d get fired. Then, I’d have people scouring the Web looking for content that I stole and called my own. And I wish me luck finding a journalism job after all this, because that’s not going to happen.
Better writers — and famous ones, to boot — have been caught plagiarizing and have had their journalism/writing careers ended. They got caught trying to enhance their performance. While it’s not injecting hormones in their bodies to write better, they used a little nudge from someone else to make their articles better — or just invented things out of thin air. Jonah Lehrer, Jayson Blair are the poster boys for this. And while others have been caught lifting isolated paragraphs and sentences here and there — Maureen Dowd, Fareed Zakeria — if you’re a journalist and plagiarize, your career is pretty much over.
But not in baseball. You cheat, you get rewarded with a multi-million dollar contract. It would seem the only thing that gets you banned from baseball is an off-the field error: gambling. Baseball’s reality takes weird twists and turns, particularly on the steroid issue. Testifying in front of Congress? Have an investigation headed up by a former Senate Majority Leader? Pretty sure no plagiarizer has had to deal with that. (And clearly, none of the finger pointing and testifying eradicated the use of steroids in baseball.)
From an unstable home environment (as athletes are on the road all the time) to the enormous salaries, most of us can’t fathom what it’s like to be a ball player. Baseball — and other sports — is its own reality, a non-standard way of life where consequences don’t really exist. Must be nice.