I’m not sure why I’m surprised when the media soft-pedals the NFL’s problems, but here I am again: confounded as to why this story isn’t getting more play. Here’s what Terry Bradshaw had to say recently on Dan Patrick’s radio show:
“We did steroids to get away the aches and the speed of healing. My use of steroids from a doctor was to speed up injury, and thought nothing of it. … It was to speed up the healing process, that was it. It wasn’t to get bigger and stronger and faster.”
In and of itself, this isn’t shocking. After all, the Steelers of the 1970s were a veritable Medellin Cartel in the locker room. In fact, in recent years seven former Steelers have died of heart failure, all before the age of 60.
Now, blaming all those deaths on steroid use would be confusing correlation with causation, but it’s still a noteworthy coincidence.
Actually, what I find most interesting about this is that you’ve got Bradshaw, quarterback of a team that won four Super Bowls, admitting that he was among the many Steelers using steroids. Imagine, if you will, similar revelations about one of baseball’s signature dynasties. In that instance, the bloviating that followed could be heard from space. Yet because it’s the NFL, it’s somehow infinitely less troublesome. Why?
Football is a sport that depends, to a great extent, upon raw muscular strength, which distinguishes it from baseball. Baseball is more about hand-eye coordination, fast-twitch reactions, and muscular control. Sure, brute strength plays a role but not to the extent that it does in football. So it’s no great leap to assume that football players benefit more significantly from the anabolic (i.e., muscle-building) properties of steroids than baseball players do. As well, I also have trouble believing that anything in baseball–even during its reputed “opium den” days of the 1990s–could compare to what was going on in the NFL in the 70s and 80s.
I acknowledge and appreciate that baseball is more vital to the American narrative than football is, and it’s true that baseball records have a patina of sanctity that football records lack. As well, people likely suffer the NFL’s iniquities because, well, you can’t blame these gladiators for doing what they must do to in order to survive the workaday terrors of the sport. That’s all well and good, but the practical concerns carry the day. To wit, if the use of steroids in football affects competitive integrity (it does), and if it creates coercive pressures on other players to use (it does), then football is owed at least as much righteous indignation as baseball.
If I could go to Vegas and place a prop bet on that never happening …