Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Hall of Fame & The Steroids Era

Should major league baseball care about the drinking and drug habits of its players?  

What is the significance, or importance, of "image" in relation to the Great American Game?

People have been drinking and smoking for hundreds of years.  Doping and juicing have been widely acknowledged in horse- and dog-racing, and among "Olympic" event contestants, as well as in professional football and basketball, and baseball, for many decades.  This has all gone on with the full knowledge of administrators and owners and players, as well as by media insiders.

Over the last decade, major league baseball has instituted a public relations campaign, posing, in false indignation, as the moral arbiter of substance abuse among its contracted players.  The commissioner's office, not to speak of the owners of respective teams are "shocked! shocked!!" that some major league players, even some big name stars, have been secretly taking steroids and other banned substances to enhance their performance!  Even the Little Lady from Dubuque must have heard about it, by now!

Tainted records!  Tarnished images!  

Were the owners of teams worried about the effect these drugs might have on the health and careers of their players?  You can bet they weren't!

Do you think these owners were ignorant of what was taking place in their clubhouses, of what these "personal trainers" were actually doing in there?  You can bet they weren't!

The circle-jerk of hypocrisy involves virtually every part of the sport, and brings into question the moral standard of all who pretended to look the other way.  

Should Americans be concerned about doping in professional sports?  Does it really matter, for instance, whether or not half, or three-quarters of the players you see cavorting on the green are "high" or "low" or somewhere in between?  

Perhaps we need to conduct a public burning of the effigies of drug abusers among famous sports heroes, as an exercise in ritual self-immolation.  There, does that feel better?  Now we can get back to that can of beer and the recliner in front of the TV.

Meanwhile, back at the courtroom, Barry Bonds is being tried for perjury in refusing to acknowledge his steroid use.  No one doubts that Barry used "the Clear" or that he probably benefited from its use in his performance.  It's sort of like convicting Al Capone for tax evasion. Can't convict him of illegal substance abuse, so we'll get him for lying under oath about it.  Why not go after Alex Rodriguez--is it because Alex is such a nice guy?  

I think the whole drug scandal scandal is a scandal manufactured for public consumption.  Sic. How about we leave the sex habits of Presidents and the legal pharmaceutical usage of individuals to the privacy they deserve?




Kirby Olson said...

Your attitude shocks me. If it becomes ok to use steroids, then everybody will have to do it, to keep up. Steroids are at least as hard on the body as Tasers. You might argue that Tasers are inflicted by others, while steroids are self-inflicted, but it wouldn't quite be true. Your argument is based on the public/private distinction that J.S. Mill trotted out in order to excuse his disgraceful carrying on with a married woman.

There is public harm when someone hurts themselves. It is not private when someone drugs themselves up, as they can go berserk, and hurt others, too. Also, if someone hurts themselves, their families suffer. It should not be allowed to happen!

Therefore, suicide is illegal. You don't get the electric chair for it, but maybe you should. It's that harmful!

As for the sex life of presidents: I think they matter especially when it comes to betraying spouses.

We don't want a president to betray his spouse, or to harass his or her underlings in their underthings.

Or anybody else. If they do this, the Oval Office chair should be wired up to take care of it, and this should be the law!

We should care when someone is using prostitutes, as Spitzer was, because we shouldn't use other people for sex. If you get involved with someone, you have to marry them, and then live with them until you drop dead.

That's called caring.

People today believe that there is no soul, and so the body should be able to do whatever. But there is a soul, and therefore what bodies do, and what we do to bodies, matters.

I think that even you recognize this in your TASER argument, and even in your Tatiana argument, but here, curiously, you throw it out the window.

How we interact with other bodies matters. How we interact with our own body also matters.

Fat people should get the electric chair for hurting their bodies. So should people who are trying to commit suicide. Worst of all is the ritual abuse that sports stars undergo at the hands of enhancers such as steroids. It throws everything out of whack when people blow up their bodies with drugs, or when they don't pay their taxes. They should all get the chair.

We need more electrocutions to jolt everybody back into a normal frame of reference.

Curtis Faville said...

Drugs aren't the scourge of the modern world.

Crime may be.

When you set irrational limits on human freedom, crime will usually step in to balance the fulcrum.

My point about the drug issue in sports isn't that it's a good thing, or a harmless thing, but that we administer and implement our moral positions in a hypocritical way.

We allow a huge criminal drug network to function in this country, and throughout South America, Asia and elsewhere, knowing full well the consequences of allowing that to occur. Don't tell me the problem is intractable; if we had the will, the drug cartels and their supply lines from abroad would cease within 3 months.

Bill Buckley, a true Conservative if there ever was one, finally came around to the proposition that we need to legalize these drugs, so they would no longer be a magnate for illegal distribution. Intelligent people the world over are coming to that conclusion. In the 19th Century, opium (and laudanum) were not illegal. It was a recreational drug. Yet there were very few "addicts." Why? Because drugs weren't glorified by the media and celebrities; and there was no motivation to sell the stuff.

My point isn't that steroids are harmless, or that we should not regulate them. My point is that no one really cares about the health of these athletes. It's all about money. The owners and the players and the media all know that.

Regarding weight: Half our food economy is designed to make you fat, while the other half preys on overweight people to practice dieting. Do I see a pattern here?

Primitive peoples throughout time have used drugs to accomplish certain things. In Oceania, in South America, tribes have used hallucinogens, stimulants, soporifics, emetics, and a host of vitamin supplements. In Europe and the West, drugs have been produced to control distribution and make profits. That's capitalism, not health.

Barry Bonds was very naive and short-sighted to use steroids, but so was Alex Rodriguez. If you were making 20 million dollars a year, would you admit to a grand jury that you were doping, and risk losing your job and income overnight? Not bloody likely. If Rodriguez was doing it, why isn't he pursued like Bonds? Are we just using Bonds as a whipping boy? A lot of people in the sports business believe just that.

If our government legalized crack and smack, Kirby, there'd be no temptation for pushers to loiter around your kids' high school looking for likely users.

Then your biggest worry would be for your daughters' virginity.

eddie watkins said...

It's a big deal in baseball because of all the old records that are being eclipsed. There has got to be at least as bad a steroid problem in the NFL, yet we don't hear very much about cleaning that sport up. Football just doesn't revolve around statistics and records like baseball does. It's more about head to head warfare week after week, and steroids just make it better.

"Clean" sports are a myth. Amphetamines of one sort or another have been ubiquitous for years, at least until testing became more common.

Bonds is a whipping boy because he broke THE MOST revered record.

A-Rod will become a whipping boy too if he threatens to break Bonds' record.

Craig said...

Babe Ruth hit nearly all of his home runs during Prohibition when consumption of alcoholic beverages was illegal. His pre-game routine usually involved consuming beer in the clubhouse. It took the edge off his nerves and helped him relax and focus his concentration on getting his bat on the ball. It allowed him to forget momentarily about media hype and celebrity status. It may also have added an extra dozen or two pounds to his weight, imparting greater mass to the natural power and leverage of his swing to turn long fly balls into round-trip tickets. It probably shortened his life by at least a decade or two. If Bonds deserves an asterisk, so does Ruth.

Curtis Faville said...

It may be that in the "pre-steroids" era, alcohol and tobacco weren't regarded as drugs. The beverage and tobacco industries were very canny in keeping the bad news from the public for a whole century. For decades, cigarette companies paid hefty subsidies to the movie industry to make sure people constantly smoked on film.

Doping has a long history, as I stated. Alcohol, however, doesn't specifically enhance one's physique, or increase strength, or shorten healing times, or sharpen reflexes. It's a different kind of product.

My purpose in the post is to acknowledge the hypocrisy of professional sports, and the media which fronts for them. Instead of blaming the players--in Bonds' case, threatening him with jail time, and shortening his career by a couple of years--we should be trying to establish a benchmark definition of what is permissible, and applying that standard.

Personally, I have no problem with Bonds' steroid use. I don't think his statistical performances should be abbreviated with an asterisk, any more than Ruth's are. My guess is that he could probably have bulked up through the usual manner (in the gym), and that, bottom line, the degree of advantage the steroids gave him was very small, and may indeed have been simultaneously offset by the harm these substances were causing him.

Bonds is not exactly a sweetheart, but is "the Rocket" (Roger Clemens)? Are we going to punish players because they're being egotistical? Give me a break!

It's altogether likely that many of the superstars in several sports used this stuff, and we don't know about it, because they were never caught.

I'm not advocating a don't ask/don't tell policy. But I'd like to see honesty about drugs, all drugs.

First and foremost, the players' health should be paramount. But that's really an universal need. Everyone should be careful with substances.

Americans are way too focused on drug therapies, not to speak of illicit drugs. We live in a capitalist society, and anything that can be sold for a profit, is an immediate attraction, or threat. If weight-lifters and the man on the street can get steroids and use them freely, why punish professionals for doing it?