Let's say you're a Major League Baseball player. (Go ahead, dream a little dream.)
You've worked all your life for one thing, and, hey, you're not that bad. You're actually pretty darn good, in fact. So good that you might be in the running to become an MLB All-Star. An All-Star! You're within an arm's reach of being counted as the best of the best.
Oh, but then suddenly you're not. Why? Other players in the league are using performance enhancing drugs, and with their superhuman strength and inflated numbers they're getting the spots instead.
This is the story of Baltimore Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis. Following this week's long-term suspension of over a dozen MLB players, Markakis spoke with the Baltimore Sun. This year, though a strong contender, Markakis missed out on an All-Star appearance to the Texas Rangers' Nelson Cruz. Cruz is now suspended after being found guilty of doping.
The amazing part? Markakis is disappointed, sure, but mostly for the game, not his own success.
"I’m not ticked off that I didn’t go to the All-Star Game. There are always opportunities later on in life. I’m not necessarily mad about the All-Star Game, but I’m just disappointed in these players," said Markakis, who is in the fifth season of a six-year, $66.1 million extension with the Orioles. "This is a harmless game that has never done anything to anybody except be good to people. And you are going to go out there and cheat a game that is supposedly the national pastime?"
And perhaps the most surprising—and commendable—aspect of Markakis's comments is his position in the game. He's good (as you can see above), but isn't considered a superstar. Rather, he's precisely the type of player that is often overshadowed by players using performance enhancing drugs. He's also generally not the most vocal guy on his own team—preferring to quietly do his job well while teammates like Adam Jones and Chris Davis grab headlines.
The bottom line: Character—and having passion for your work—still matters.
For the others—the cheaters—the apologies will come out, and the media circus will continue, but it's still not enough for Markakis.
"These guys are going to come out and say they are sorry and apologize. But I think for the most part they are apologizing because they got caught," Markakis said. "For you to go out there and disrespect the game is not only a slap in the face of the game, but a slap in the face of everyone that does it the right way."
[Image: Flickr user Mark Armstrong]