The news of Manny Ramirez’s positive drug test hit the sports community today like a Roger Clemens fastball: up and in and right under the chin. So, while we’re collecting ourselves for the next pitch from an ever wilder collection of professional athletes, we should take a moment to review the current position.
“These guys [Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens] are going to have a hard time getting into the hall,” said Tim Kurkjian on ESPN News tonight. Manny now finds himself in that esteemed group of guys who got caught. A day ago it might have been a compliment to have your name lumped in with Manny, but no longer. He’s received the mark of shame. But does he deserve it? Do any of these “enhanced” atheletes deserve that?
At this point I’d like to briefly review some of the sentimental arguments.
1. If stars use, kids will start to use. (The let’s-protect-our-children argument)
2. Users have an unfair advantage. (The cheating argument)
3. Users don’t have a respect for the game. (A variation of the cheater argument)
4. Users hurt their bodies for the sake of performance. (The it’s-sad-they’re-so-stupid-as-to-end-up-with-man-b0obs-and-shrunk-junk-just-to-work-out-more argument)
Now that we’ve reviewed, let’s ignore those arguments and for goodness sake please, let’s stop acting like performance enhancing drugs are a problem. People don’t watch sports to see ho-hum, every day, quotidien unfeats of strength, agility, and speed. We don’t tune in to Sports Center to catch up on all the amazing stuff that almost happened. We participate in the religion of sports because we l0ve super-human feats. We love watching the impossible. Look no further than the NBA theme: “Where Amazing Happens.”
The entire life of an athelete is devoted to performance enhancing. Whether its watching tape, shooting free-throws, icing joints, receiving cortozone injections during halftime so that they can play through the pain, the entire sports industry is one big performance enhancing endeavor. So let’s stop pretending that we care whether or not Manny is taking hCG to regain testosterone after a steroid cycle. Let’s stop getting our dander up over Barry’s cream, or Clemens’ beer can, or Jose’s juice.
There is no reason that locker rooms all around America shouldn’t doping up their players to get 150% out of them. That’s what we pay to see. We show up to watch amazing. We wait in line to see records broken, visitors go home broken-hearted, and freakish atheletes with inhuman abilities perform in our presence.
So please, stop telling me that we should suspend players who dope. Stop crying about cleaning up the game. Shut up about integrity. And please, most of all, give up on the the sentimental arguments. Steroids don’t give you the ability to hit a 95 mph fastball 400 ft. They don’t make you fast enough to run a 4.2 40. They don’t make you catch a ball, help you understand the game, or give you the mental capacity to handle the pressure of stardom.
They do help you recover faster, increase your endurance, and give you a pretty good shot of prolonging your career. That way the fans only get to see more amazing feats from their favorite player. Of course there’s risk invovled. But that comes with the territory. Ask the vast majority of offensive linemen who can barely walk by the age of forty, or the basket ball players whose ankles and back are so shot that they live in pain the rest of their life. Athelete’s take a pounding for their paycheck.
Sports is one of the most physically destructive constructs of our society, but that doesn’t bother us. We don’t care if boxers die at 50 from aneurysms. We don’t care that football players die of kidney failure from the copious ammounts of anti-inflammatories that have been pumped through their bodies. But for some reason we do seem to care about steroids. For some reason we have decided that there is just something wrong with this kind of performance enhancement. It’s just unfair.
In reality, what is truly unfair is our judgment of performance enhancing drugs. These atheletes are giving us exactly what we’ve been asking for: bigger, better, faster, more. And when we find out how hard they’ve worked to deliver what we’ve asked for? We call them cheaters. We threaten to keep them out of the hall of fame. We want them thrown out of the game. It’s shameful. We’re disgracing the game with our hypocrisy.
The player’s associations and the coaches and the owners need to put their heads together and finally get this straight. Legalize PEDs. The system will balance itself out. These guys want to play as long as possible to make as much as possible and to be loved for as long as possible. Only a few are stupid enough to actually damage their bodies with dangerous performance enhancers. The vast majority are simply delivering the highest quality product that they possibly can for as long as they can. Come on folks! This is America. Aren’t we supposed to applaud that?
So, I believe it’s time to answer this barrage of performance enhancing drug news with a performance enhancing shrug. Shut up and play ball.