Saturday, February 07, 2009

A Fraudulent Response

Disclaimer: This post is not entirely rational, nor is it backed up by the normal statistics readers of this infrequently updated blog have come to expect. This post is a direct response to this one, by fellow Yankee fan and poster on Bronx Banter, Chyll Will. My previous feelings on the subject can be viewed right here.

I understand the anger. Well, strike that- what I understand is that someone else could have a different reaction than I do to the A-Rod steroid news, and that the reaction may include anger. To be honest, my reaction does include anger, but not at the player or the media. My anger is with the fans who enable the latter to apply uneven standards to the former without repercussion. Those fans then feign their own anger while conveniently ignoring parts of the issue that don't fit into a nice tidy box.

Look, we knew that Alex Rodriguez did ungodly things to his body. He is a professional athlete performing at the highest level of a generation, rising above his peers on the strength of.... something. We (speaking metaphorically as the collection of baseball fans, who apparently voted behind my back to oppose steroid use) were perfectly fine when that something was working out 14 hours a day, with protein shakes or herbal supplements or vitamin cocktails or creatine or monosodium glutamate. Before today, we knew that Alex Rodriguez was doing everything he possibly could to enhance his performance. But now, because there was a chemical that entered his body that was on a list only sort of implicitly banned by baseball at the time, suddenly he is dishonorable for trying to enhance his performance?

An analogy: A leading oncologist at a major research university knows she is on the verge of a breakthrough in cancer treatment, but just can't seem to figure out the last piece of the puzzle. Let's also say there's a chemical that improves focus and mental ability by 300%, but it was implicitly banned by the American Medical Association in a vague statement ten years ago. There are random drug tests, but zero consequences for failing that test. She decides to take the drug and with an improved focus has one of the best years an oncologist has ever had. Her new treatment makes a lot of people feel better. Six years later, the results of her random drug test are made public, and angry cancer patients start showing up at the hospital to boo the poor doctor all day.

Now, replace all the medical terms with baseball terms. Personally, I see absolutely no difference. I think that many sports fans realize the hypocrisy and choose to ingore it. We even practice hypocricy within the world of sports: when was the last time a football player was hauled in front of Congress, lied about steroid use, had their career ruined, and made Congress angry enough to waste millions of taxpayer dollars on a perjury trial during an economic depression?

I am not a parent yet either. But when I am, the message to my children will be this: We are not slaves to our genetics. Depending on our environment, our talents can either be destroyed or enhanced, and we are the engineers of that decision. So if there is something at which you have talent, something at which you want to be the best you can, by all means make your environment an enhancing one. Having a few sports "heroes" allegedly "cheating" in order to entertain us is not a dangerous message to our children. We want, and in some cases need to live vicariously by, their doing whatever is necessary to be the best that they can be. The far more damaging lesson is this: "we are a nation of innocence before guilt, of treating people equally. Except of course, when it comes to home run hitters. Then, what any reporter spews is direct evidence of guilt, but only if a player is sorta disliked anyway."

In conclusion, my thoughts restated in more easily accessible bullet form:

  • Why does enhancement of performance through some chemicals count as "cheating," while using other kinds of chemicals counts as "training"?
  • If it's simply a legality issue: Many of the supposed Performance Enhancing Drugs (such as HGH) have never been proven to have an impact on muscle growth or performance, enhancemet or otherwise. Why, then, are they on the banned list?
  • If it's the "do anything to get ahead, unfair advantage" issue that is dishonorable: why don't we as fans collectively look down upon players who use herbal supplements or hyperbaric chambers to try and get ahead? To make this argument look even more ridiculous, what about players who pray to God for a better performance? I think Congress needs to waste taxpayer money investigating whether God is indeed enhancing the performance of faithful athletes.
  • Shouldn't players who took innefectual drugs be treated differently, like a dumbass teenager who smokes a dime bag of oregano?
  • For those "worried about the message to children": Why are people worked up about baseball players who are on steroids, but continue to tolerate/celebrate football players who are known steroid users, such as Shawn Merriman?
  • Players who are caught breaking the steroid rules all face the same official penalty from the league. However, this fairness is not extended to the "court of public opinion" whose instincts are guilt before innocence. For some reason, particular players return to good opinion among fans while others wallow in collective loathing from fans. Shouldn't all suspected steroid users face the same public opinion?
  • And finally, to those who whine about the integrity of the game, or about the sanctity of statistics: clearly, you have no knowledge about the history of baseball.

1 comment:

Chyll Will said...

Very astute analysis, and no I don't take it personally. I should have mentioned the fan (non)reaction myself, but I think I was really trying to grapple with the concept of honor in society versus what it really means to compete in society.

Concepts like fairness and ethics really mean nothing when the object is to win or to collect as much as you possibly can, but what is with the principle that if you don't participate in that line of thinking, you are either a "loser" or some object of derision, or worse a target for not conforming? Thanks for defining that a lot further for me >;)