The Purgatory World of the Sports Fan, by Jeff Benjamin, note by Larry Eder

Jeff Benjamin is one of our longest tenured writers at American Track & Field. He has written for for the past several years. Jeff sent this piece to me last week. As you can see, Jeff is quite exasperated with athletic heroes, or former athletic heroes getting busted for drug use, or, as was the case with Lance Armstrong, admitting to deceiving the world. 

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Lance Armstrong, photo by

The Purgatory World of the Sports Fan--- By Jeff Benjamin


Welcome to my world.


Having been a huge fan of Running/Track and Field for over 30 years, it probably is a good time to welcome all of you other sports fans officially to our world of sports purgatory. After all, while not the most popular of sports compared to the big four--MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, -- we track fans have been living with the demons of performance-enhancing drugs and it's spectre on sports a lot longer than most (Remember the East Germans and Ben Johnson?). It's also sadly ironic that it was our sport which has put most of America's sports into this sad predicament. In 2003, a world class track coach  tipped off drug testers of a new designer drug being used, which subsequently led to massive failed drug tests, and the investigation of BALCO and Victor Conte (Illegal steroid use and distribution and mailing them through USPS is illegal by the way).  This led to the Mitchell report, Canseco, Bonds, Giambi, Clemens, Palmiero, Cycling, McNamee, Rusty, Marion Jones, Cooperstown...ENOUGH!


Yes, it can drive a fan insane. But there is hope. After all, the word "fan" is short for "fanatic", and many of us, when it comes to our sport, are passionately crazy already. As a humble representative of track fans everywhere, I will try to the best of my God-given ability (I'm clean, by the way) attempt to show you, the major sports fan, how to survive this mine-laden obstacle course, of balancing our love of our sports with the specter of PED's. Here are the 6 points of  PED's sports fan survival guide:


1) "Ignorance is bliss" -- Cheer on the successes of all of our heroes, and hope like hell that they are clean! But, always be prepared for a scandal later on.


2) Amnesty for the past  -- We Americans tend to be a forgiving bunch..Let it go...after all, it's not more than a game, is it? Sales, ratings and profits of all our sports continue to go through the roof, and we all pay tickets and buy shirts and stuff, right? So what happened in 1998 stays in 1998, OK?


3) "Breakout year suspicion" -  DON'T  suspect the athlete who suddenly has a breakout year, even if you root against them. They could have gotten there by good, honest work, right? (Stinks to be Mike Piazza).


4) Just consider everyone a suspect and move on! Remember that in cycling, Lance Armstrong may or may not be guilty (he admitted to Oprah just about everything), but so are almost all the rest of the Tour de France Champions over the last 20 years as well. The   would love for you to follow this one.


5) Watch the Robert Redford - directed movie "Quiz Show" -- about the fixed- TV game shows of the late 1950s--This will keep your sanity.


6)  Be mad at the Baseball Writers Association! Who are they to judge and uphold the integrity of the Hall of Fame anyway, right? Why should anyone?


Follow these, and you should be good. But you'll still feel like you're stuck between A-Rod and a hard place. Some may question these strategies-- for example--


1)  "If that honest, clean athlete works his butt off to get a chance to play in their dream sport, only to lose that dream to a PED user, that's fair?" -- I guess we say yes, right?


2) "In Olympic sports, if one member of a medal-winning relay team tests positive, the ENTIRE relay team must give up their respective medals. If that certain Baseball World Series Championship Team from 2000 had 8 members listed in the Mitchell Report signifying PED use, did they cheat to win the Series and should the World Series trophy be given to the Mets?" -- Only say yes if you're a Mets fan.


So there you have it. I have tried my best without myself resorting to any performance-enhancing drugs. Welcome to sports purgatory. You are in it with us now. What are you going to do, stop watching/buying/going to your sports?  Don't worry, at least you're not  alone. In a way, we are ALL guilty.


By the way, if Mark Sanchez metamorphasises next year into Peyton Manning, just go with it, OK? You'll be better off--and yes, I'm a Jets Fan too, which is it's own unique land of purgatory!

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