The Super Bowl is over. The NHL is locked out. The Hoya Five are off for the week. Pitchers and catchers don’t report for another 10 days.

As my roommate JoJo says, “I’d rather die than watch an entire regular-season professional basketball game.” By the way, the Bucks just dropped 78 on the Celtics. In the first half.

So this is what I’m reduced to. I’m sitting in my apartment, watching a recap of the 1989 World Cup qualifying match between the U.S. and Trinidad on ESPN2.

The most interesting part of the telecast is noticing that every member of the 1989 U.S. national soccer team sported a rattail. Come to think of it, most of the kids in my kindergarten class in 1989 had rattails as well. Maybe it was just the era.

Back in 1989, I and the other boys in my class would pass our time – when we weren’t napping or hitting each other over the head with building blocks – arguing about baseball. We talked about the Red Sox some, but, ashamed as I am to say it now, most of our arguments centered on a group of players across the country, far away from the hometown team.

Very few, if any, of us had ESPN at the time. We couldn’t watch important baseball games from across the country – not to mention World Cup qualifying matches. Most of us had bedtimes that came earlier than the end of your average nine-inning game.

But we all knew about the A’s. Every one of the boys, and probably some of the girls, in Ms. Gotkin’s kindergarten class could name the Oakland Athletics’ starting lineup from one to nine. (This is where I admit that I am the proud owner of well over ten Walt Weiss rookie cards.)

As much as everyone liked Dennis Eckersley, Dave Stewart and Rickey Henderson, there were really only ever two players we loved: the Bash Brothers, Jose Canseco and Mark McGuire.

It’s easy to look back now after Big Mac has made his mark on baseball history with his 70-homerun season and Canseco’s career has petered out amidst scandal and wonder how the two could have ever been lumped together. But back in the day, at least among their younger fans, they were lumped together, and Jose’s name usually came first.

Consider, for instance, the 1988 season in which Jose Canseco hit 42 home runs with 124 RBI and a batting average of .307. cGuire, no slouch either, hit 32 home runs with 99 RBI and a .260 average. This was back in a time when hitting more than 25 home runs in a season actually meant something.

The A’s went to the World Series three years in a row, from 1988 to 1990, and they won the championship in a memorable cross-Bay series in ’89.

When the Red Sox eventually picked up the Eck again and then signed Rickey Henderson a couple of years ago, though they were both well past their primes, I was ecstatic. When we got Jose himself, who was well into the “twilight of his career,” I could hardly contain myself. To me, those A’s teams were the definition of greatness. And Jose Canseco was the face of greatness.

There’s no point in my going into a diatribe about how steroids ruin the game of baseball. Enough has been said already. Whether or not Barry Bonds and Mark McGuire and – I suppose it’s impossible to deny now – Jose Canseco juiced in order to gain their size, the game has always been exciting.

What’s been lost, as corny and cliched as it might sound, is the purity of the game.

Bonds’ and McGuire’s legacies will live on. Both will almost definitely enter the Hall of Fame.

Canseco’s legacy will be different. Sadly, “The Chemist,” as he calls himself in his new book, will forever be the face of baseball’s dirty side.

Back in 1989, the U.S. national soccer team could wear rattails and not worry about anyone noticing, and little boys could root for their favorite ball players without worrying about cheating. Happily, rattails are a thing of the past. Hopefully, boys’ love for baseball doesn’t have to be.

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