With a Name Like “Oil Can,” How Can You Be Surprised?: Drugs, Sports and Our Society

Recently, it was released that Oil Can Boyd (real name Dennis Boyd) liberally used cocaine during his baseball career.  As quoted in this article from SI.com, Boyd states:

Some of the best games that I’ve ever, ever pitched in the major leagues, I stayed up all night [doing cocaine]. I’d say two-thirds of them . . . [I] wasn’t doing anything that hundreds of ballplayers weren’t doing at the time, because that’s how I learned it and I just caught the deep end of it.

He goes on to note that he was never drug tested, but told to clean it up.

Now, I grew up knowing of Oil Can; his baseball card was my favorite because of his nickname.  It has always stuck with me and every time that I hear his name, I immediately think of his baseball card.

So, when I first heard his name the other day, my mind went to that card.  But when I heard that he admitted to probably pitching 67 percent of his games high on cocaine (and actually using it during games), my thought went to one word……….And?

I mean, does this really surprise anyone?  And, it is not just that it is Oil Can, although with a name like that how could you not figure that he was probably juiced up (and I don’t mean on HGH)?  But why are we surprised when it turns out that an athlete in any sport does drugs, or god forbid perform their sport high or hungover.  Don’t be so self-righteous and hypocritical!

How many times have you (or at least someone you have known, if you want to be naive) gone to work with a hangover?  Essentially, that is what Oil Can is stating would happen.  Most of the time, he’d stay up all night with his friend cocaine, and the next day go out and pitch.  The effects have not fully worn off and thus, he is pitching “hungover” off of cocaine.  And certainly, he admitted to using during games as well.  But how is it any different than any of you going to work hungover from alcohol?

Or going to work high.  Hell, growing up I know people who would take a “bathroom” break just to smoke up.  Are you telling me that “common people” can do that, but athletes cannot?  Well, you should not do drugs anyway (our PSA/cover our ass statement), but the problem is we demonize athletes for pitching while high or playing while stoned, while at the same time brushing off people working under such conditions [unless, of course, an accident happens resulting in injury or death].  So, do not be hypocritical.

But also, do not be so naive as to not heed Oil Can’s words that it was rampant.  One only needs to look into the annals of baseball history to find the most infamous no-hitter as evidence of drug use while playing.  In 1970, Dock Ellis decided to enjoy some LSD on his off-day.  However, he soon realized that it was not an off-day and he, in fact, was scheduled to start!  Allegedly still feeling the effects of the drug, Ellis went out and threw a no-hitter…while walking eight batters.  Again, he did not take the drug while playing, but took it prior and was still “hungover” from it.

And, let us not forget the recent stories about the drinking sessions in the Boston Red Sox clubhouse.

So, why the shock?  Why the big news?  I mean, I would not be surprised it baseball players were snorting lines off of baseball bats.  Or that football players were growing ‘shrooms in their helmets.  Or basketball players had a heat lamp in their locker that aided the growth of marijuana.  In other words, this is not surprising.  In the paraphrase Clark W. Griswald, I would have been more surprised “if I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet.”

It is not that there is a drug/alcohol problem in sports (although, it does seem to be confined to baseball; but, athletes from all sports have been busted for DUI and drug possession).  But sports reflect society.  Sure, we hold athletes to higher standards because of their visible position and salaries.  But they are still human.  And they are still a part of society that also has individuals that use drugs or drinks alcohol.

This in no way condones the actions of Oil Can Boyd.  If anything, he was being irresponsible.  But, we as humans sometimes make irresponsible decisions.  To paint this only as a sports thing is to ignore that similar actions are conducted by “common people.”  And this ignorance is done purposely because it turns the light away from our own mistakes and towards those individuals that we place on higher pedestals.

Athletes are still human.  They are still part of our society.  Their status simply brings more attention to their actions, whether it is drug use, or alcoholism, or promiscuous activity.  But it is not any different than what happens in the everyday lives of millions of U.S.ians.

Again, I am not condoning that activity.  Nor am I suggestion that everyone uses drugs, or consumes alcohol, or sleeps around.  But, stop pretending that athletes are no different (in terms of lifestyles) than regular folks.

Stop being surprised!


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