What’s up Sport? From Whom the Testosterone Tweets

Another installment of the Review’s semi-weekly column on everything strange and lovely in the world of athletics.

Quinn Hull, Sports Editor

Jose Canseco was rebuffed by and then banned from the Mexican Baseball League earlier this week for refusing to get tested for elevated testosterone levels. It ended a dream for Canseco, who at 47 still refuses give up the game that made him famous, the game that made him big, so to speak.

In the ’80s and ’90s, Canseco lit up the professional baseball circuit, winning four Silver Slugger awards and making six All-Star appearances during his major league career. After he retired, however, it came to light that there was something more to the success behind his story: namely, steroids. In 2005, he authored Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big, which for the first time shed floodlights on the incessant abuse of steroids in baseball. He told the tale of his own illicit baseball escapades and tattled on a few others, opening the gates on higher-profile cases against juiced-up baseball superstars, such as all-time homerun record-holder Barry Bonds.

The thing about later cheaters, like Bonds, is that after getting caught doping they tended to quit with their winnings, both from the sport and from the steroids. There’s no real need to continue injecting testosterone into your body if, instead of swingin’ for the fences, you’re sittin’ on your ass with millions in mullah, like most of these early-retirees.

Canseco is an exception. His is another classic example of sport’s irony: spill the beans, and then keep eating them. Not that Canseco will ever admit to continued use of steroids.

“All I am on is prescription medication for low testosterone which has boosted my natural hormone levels,” Canseco tweeted on Wednesday March 7, after the Mexican League president broke the news of his indictment. He also called testosterone use “legal and very important to my health.”

In some ways, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Canseco, whose reputation, like those of other steroid-abusers (at least, those that get caught) in the sports realm, suffered an irreparable blow. And there are those “regrettable” side effects to steroids.

For example, Bonds’ head grew (literally expanded in size!) over an inch in circumference — a consequence, of course, of having that extra manliness floating around in his system for all those years.

Bonds has since faded from public view, both the man and his melon not big enough to keep the attention of baseball. But for Canseco, something much larger than a head looms in the mind’s eye of fans—Twitter.

Canseco’s tweets read like a teenager entering puberty — at one moment childish, the next needy, sometimes inspirational, and then others just bizarre. The posts serve as constant reminders — around thirty a day, actually — to Jose’s 400,000 adoring fans that he is just as juiced up, even as he nears the half-century mark in years lived, as he ever was.

Thursday, March 8, at 11:18 a.m., the day after getting kicked out of Mexican baseball: “Do you believe in bigfoot of the loch Ness monster.”

Eleven hours earlier, at 3:17 a.m.: “hug for u.”

A day before finding out about his expulsion from the league: “Still havnt made the team I need a hug.”

And a day before that: “wont be able to sleep i am bubble boy.”

I love the relationship athletes have established with Twitter, even those that aren’t on testosterone overload like Canseco. The medium has enabled, in general, fresher and closer interactions between athlete and fan than were previously possible, at least on a superficial level. Now, pro athletes, should they desire, can expose themselves in earnest, 144-character doses. Who needs lengthy articles written by journalists, or publisher-censored autobiographies to tell about our athletic idols’ greatness when Twitter can do that for us?

Take this one by the New England Patriot’s receiver, formerly known as Chad Johnson, who changed his surname to Ocho Cinco: “This is so awesome, I just caught a roach and I refuse to kill him. Haven‘t seen one this size since 1992. Goodnight y’all be good, Love ya.”

Thank goodness you’re merciful, Chad! I’d trust you with my kids!

It’s little tweets like this one that remind us why we fall for athletes, which serve as evidence that our constant and incessant idolizing of those especially fast, strong and tall men and women among us actually are all that.