13 December 2007

The Ides of Baseball

I'm not going to read the Mitchell Report and look forward to it like I would a colonoscopy. The Mitchell Report is not about baseball, and it is not about "performance-enhancing durgs" (whatever they are). It is about a nation obsessed with non-issues, it is about politics and posturing, and it is about punishing rich, famous athletes for their failure to be our heroes. In other words, it is about us. Athletes are not heroes. They are athletes. Some of them may be heroic individuals, much like housewives or teachers or carpenters might be heroes. Just because some person gets a lot of money for entertaining us does not mean that we can 1) take away their rights, privacy or dignity and 2) hold them to a higher standard of conduct than anyone else. Baseball is a business, a six billion dollar business. Young men put their bodies on the line for fame, glory, and yes, money. Flesh--the bodies of athletes--is the currency of professional sports. Young men trade this currency--theirs, their very own flesh--for money. Specifically, a shot, a chance, at a big payoff. The real crime is NOT that the cut-throat competition for the very few spots on a big-league roster encourages the use of chemical supplements, the real crime is that many thousands of youngsters fail to make the pros, and no one gives a shit that many of them sacrificed their bodies, their schooling, and their youth on a broken dream. Professional athletes are just that: professional. They don't have to be told how to run their professional lives. If they can take HGH to help them recover from an injury and give their employers and fans what is expected of them, then what is the problem? If we really care, I mean REALLY CARE about an athlete's health, then why don't we set up a panel of experts? Scientists, doctors, nutritionists, exercise physiologists, psychologists and the like could make recommendations to the sports world on the proper care and feeding of an athletic body (and mind). What drugs can be used safely and in what doses, what kinds of expectations about injury and recovery are realistic, and, most important, what does it take to be healthy upon retirement. Take a look at middle-aged football players: too many of them are basket cases who can barely walk and talk. Do fans and owners care? Hardly. The national hysteria about steroids is a lot of nonsense. Code words like "the integrity of the game" are thrown around by media types and politicos who happily consume a packaged product that hides all its true warts, and fans suck on the same stupid crack pipe of ignorance, pretending that their "heroes" are pure and beautiful because they can't or won't find real heroes in their lives. If anyone thinks that drug testing will "clean up" sports and "restore the game," I've got some Enron stock you might want to invest in.

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