The year 2001 saw Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs, Roger Clemens go 20–3 and win the Cy Young Award, Enron CEO Kenneth Lay insist “there are no accounting issues” at the company, and Howard Gardner, a Harvard ethics professor, identify the decline of professional and academic integrity in his book Good Work.
Upon interviewing hundreds of students, Gardner and three researchers discovered a troubling trend. The students wanted to do good work and be successful, but they feared being disadvantaged because their peers were cutting corners. And so, as Gardner said, the prevailing attitude was, “We’ll be damned if we’ll lose out to them … Let us cut corners now and one day, when we have achieved fame and fortune, we’ll be good workers and set a good example.”
So concerned was the professor that he started reflection sessions on ethics at elite colleges. Students were thoughtful, he said, “Yet over and over again, we have also found hollowness at the core.”
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports; Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports
Sound familiar, baseball fans and Hall of Fame voters? This era of atrophied ethics sums up the Steroid Era in baseball. Taking comfort in the company of rogues, ballplayers cut corners, though knowing the ethical breach most dared not admit it. They made money, broke records and cared not about the collateral damage they caused: the never-were and might-have-been careers of those who played cleanly.
(If you still cling to the absurd notions that “everybody was doing it,” “nobody was harmed,” or “steroids don’t make the player,” please read my 2012 story, “To Cheat or Not to Cheat,” on The Four Miracles, to understand how steroids made and broke careers and created an uneven playing field.)
Hall of Fame voting is one reckoning of the Steroid Era and the culture of “fame and fortune by any means.” With the Class of ’22 results announced Tuesday, a streak that began in 2007 with Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco on the ballot is expected to remain intact: No known steroid user has been elected to the Hall.
Bonds, Clemens and Sammy Sosa are expected to end their 10-year run on the writers’ ballot without getting elected. Toss in McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Gary Sheffield, Andy Pettitte, Manny Ramírez and Alex Rodriguez, …….