'Roids Rejoinder

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Mike Van Winkle, the Armchair Analyst, has written an interesting rejoinder to my non-anti-steroids piece that ran last week at Tech Central Station; go here for Hit & Run comments.

Writes Van Winkle:

What's so bad about rampant steroid use by major league baseball players? According to Nick Gillespie, not much of anything. In his August 11th TCS column he thoroughly debunked the two most common criticisms of steroid use in baseball. No playing field is ever level and prohibition makes steroid use more dangerous. Okay…so maybe he's right about that. Yet, are these arguments, equity and health, really the driving force behind steroid derision?…

Because of the intensely psychological nature of the game, baseball fans, unlike most other sports, see real virtue in their stars…and have tremendous respect for players who exhibit virtue even if they aren't stars. It may be irrational to see virtue in a sport, but it happens nonetheless. This ethical association leads to an almost spiritual reverence for the good players, the guys that never slump for more than a day or two, hitting the field light as a feather no matter what happened the day before. There is virtue in it.

There is virtue in the player of only average ability, spending his off-season playing winter ball. There is virtue in the average player of above average talent finally figuring out what he's doing at the plate (figuring out that an important part of the game is in your head) and becoming a superstar in his ninth season. There's virtue in learning the discipline to lay off that slider low and away. There is virtue in a pitcher rehabbing for a year after an elbow blowout and subsequent Tommy John surgery. There's virtue in it.

What virtue is there in corking a bat? What virtue is there in greasing a ball? What virtue is there in shooting up before the big game? None that I can see….

However irrational it may be, baseball fans don't want the sport to be just like every other sport in which showmanship takes precedence over discipline and work ethic. Yet, most baseball fans also know that this is inevitable…but they're going to fight it every step of the way….

We can qualify the record book by acknowledging that different eras had different regulations: a higher pitcher's mound, a shorter season, a different ball. We can't qualify a record that came on the end of a needle or in a mysterious balm. There'd be no virtue in it.

If you're into baseball, his whole post, which is well worth reading, is online here.

A few quick ripostes of my own: First, I'm as uncomfortable in talking up the "virtue" of professional athletes as I am in talking up the virtue of professional politicians and other entertainers. I side with Sir Charles Barkley on the basic point that such public figures should not be confused with role models. For more on the tenuous relationships between fame, celebrity, and virtue, I recommend Tyler Cowen's study on the subject, handily excerpted a few years ago in…Reason right here.

Which is not to say that athletes don't offer inspiring examples of a great work ethic, triumph over adversity, and more. It's just that I wouldn't want to confuse any of that with being a good person. Who isn't stunned by Lance Armstrong's comeback from cancer and Tour De France victories? But that doesn't mean anything regarding his value as a human being. And let's not get overwrought about work ethic in baseball anyway, for at least two reasons.

First, consider Pete Rose, by his own admission a player of moderate ability but monster ambition and work ethic. And a pill popper (let's not even mention the gambling for the present conversation). We see in Charley Hustle someone who confounds the easy distinction between drug use and "virtue." Using pep pills were part of his work ethic. And he was a damn great player–the main reason, in fact, that the Phillies won a World Series. He was a team leader, a go-getter, a drug-user, and by all accounts a pretty horrible human being.

Second, consider Cal Ripken, the Titanium Horse of baseball. It's hard to believe that this dogged pursuit of a completely dubious record (consecutive games played) that is in some ways the ultimate tribute to work ethic wasn't detrimental to his–and hence his team's play. In the guise of being the ultimate baseball plugger, Ripken may well have sacrificed not only his career stats, but helped undermine his team's overall performance.

One final point: Steroids are not magic. They clearly help most athletes, but they don't turn zeroes into heroes. For them to work, especially over the long haul (and think about what relatively long careers Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, and even Jose Canseco had) they need to used in conjunction with pretty heavy-duty workout routines. It's not simply a question of "shooting up before the big game."

I dig what Van Winkle says about the "irrationality" of baseball fans. I think he's right and I think there's a place for such feelings. But I do think we can quantify changes in records based on changes in technology–and that's what steroids are, a technology.

A final note: I did underscore in my piece that Raffy and the others who have knowingly broken MLB's rules deserve to be sanctioned. Just as track athletes, swimmers, and others who contravene rules deserve to be. What I'm more interested in is why the anti-some-drug rules are there in the first place. I supplied a partial answer here.

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  1. Veblenesque analysis from VanWinkle. Human nature, as always, is something to rise above. We gotta rise above.

  2. Thanks, with all the preaching about “virtue” now I can skip church this week.

  3. Coming to terms with steroid use in professional sports may be inevitable, but it doesn’t change the fact that it cheapens the games. Why should anyone care how well an athlete performs if it is only a testament to their drug -taking regime? Perhaps we should just hand the trophy directly to their pharmacists.
    Keep in mind, I’m not saying that steroids should remain outlawed, just that athletes who live by the credo “Win, by any means necessary” need to be told to fuck off.

  4. The “virtue” he’s talking about isn’t the contemporary American “role model” version, but that of the ancient Greeks, who had quite a bit to say about the relationship between victory, agony, virtue, and proportion.

    “Steroids are not magic…For them to work, especially over the long haul…they need to used in conjunction with pretty heavy-duty workout routines.”

    And they allow the user to get significantly more out of that heavy-duty workout routine than an honest athlete who does the same amount, or even more.

  5. MK:

    and what of the guy who eschews any personal life in liu of incessant physical training, turning himself into a powerhouse?

    you say, “athletes who live by the credo “Win, by any means necessary” need to be told to fuck off.”

    But, those who take roids aren’t trying to win by “any means necessary”. If that was truly the case, wouldn’t they be breaking other rules, like smashing the first baseman in the face with a bat so that he couldn’t catch the ball?

    As Nick noted, Steroids are a technology. I just don’t see how you can draw such a categorical distinction between, say, multivitamins, and steroids. Both are technological advances, both supply the body with an advantageous, “extra-natural” dose of that which will make us stronger and better. So does weight training. What if I just found a new weight-training program that gave me an “unfair” advantage over my competitors? Should I similarly be told to “fuck off”?

    Perhaps we should just hand the trophy directly to their pharmacists.

    Perhaps we should just hand the trophy directly to their personal trainer? No man is an island, and I’ll tell you right now, there are no 100% natural, just-meat-and-potatoes professional athletes. One doesn’t just take steroids and sit there on the couch in order to become the league HR leader. This is not to say that, if someone breaks the rules, they shouldn’t be punished—but I’m just curious why you seem to want to tell roid users to fuck off, but not the guys who take vitamins and spend every waking hour training. Or do they also fall into your “fuck off!” category?

  6. Ummm…talking about “honest” athletes sorta misses the point. It presupposes that steroids are inherently dishonest and makes no clear marking line between them and vitamins and other nutritional supplements. They’re only dishonest if one subgroup takes them and others do not—if everyone takes them, there’s nothing dishonest about them.

  7. “And they allow the user to get significantly more out of that heavy-duty workout routine than an honest athlete who does the same amount, or even more.”

    There are thousands of substances (creatine, multivitamins, BCAA’s, AAKG, nootropics, R-ALA, etc, all of which are legal, socially acceptable, and harmless) that allow the user to get more out of workouts. Hell, even your diet plays a huge part in how much your workouts will benefit you. So, are you willing to submit that someone who takes multivitamins and BCAA’s, and eats a high-protein, complex-carb-heavy, low-fat diet, somehow has an unfair advantage over someone who eats doritos and pepsi? The only difference here is that steroids are against the rules in baseball, mostly because they have negative social connotations to them. But the advantage that they provide is not, by any means, the only advantage out there…be it in pill form, needle form, dumbell form, or food form.

  8. Roger:

    Exactly. IN other words, the only reason that they’re dishonest is because they’re against the rules—but they’re not against the rules because they’re dishonest. People want to ascribe an inherent dishonesty to steroids, but, by that logic, anything and everything that is above the standard baseline (whatever that may be) is also dishonest. The distinction they wish to draw for roids is a smokescreen, and based purely on circular logic (not unlike the ol’ “drugs are bad because they’re illegal, and they’re illegal because they’re bad, and they’re bad because they’re illegal” roundabout).

  9. That is not the only difference, Evan, and you know it. No matter how low carb, high protein your diet and how intense your workout, a man over age 35 is not going to put on considerable muscle mass. Yet steroids allow men in those circumstances to put on 20, 30 or more pounds of solid muscle.

    There is just such a huge difference in quantity as to create a difference in kind.

  10. For the kind of money they’re making, shouldn’t most of these guys be applauded for doing everything they could to improve themsleves and give their teams a better chance to win? Where’s the virtue in lazy dumbasses like John Kruk not taking care of themsleves? Where’s the virtue in Mickey Mantle’s career- (and life-) shortening lifestyle?

  11. I side with Sir Charles Barkley on the basic point that such public figures should not be confused with role models.

    this is such a pathetic cop-out, mr gillespie, and i’m sure that on some level you understand it. it doesn’t matter in the slightest what a guy like barkley wants to be; what he is is a role model, as sad as that may be, as much as he may want to deny it. he collects millions by seeking to be a public figure, and every public figure is a role model.

    you can talk all you want about how that should not be — but it is. and barkley and everyone else who takes a check written on the receipts of public appearances are, in fact, role models whose behavior is the legitimate target of criticism, reproach and regulation by society.

    the only reason that they’re dishonest is because they’re against the rules

    and when they behave illegally, as mr williams points out, they should be hammered very, very hard. such is their forfeit for seeking glory in the public sphere.

    for if we allow our role models to exist without law, we demonstrat an aspiration to live in chaos — a slide into barbarism which this society increasingly does wish for, which must be fought tooth-and-nail by more enlightened parties.

  12. Steroids aside, Cal Ripken wasn’t a detriment to his team’s play. Seriously, what’s with that. 431 HR, 1695 RBIs, .276 lifetime average, .977 fielding percentage. Maybe not a total super star, but a solid player even toward the end of his career.

  13. Coming to terms with steroid use in professional sports may be inevitable, but it doesn’t change the fact that it cheapens the games.

    it certainly does, mr mk. it destroys their spiritual and social character of games as expression and reinforcement of the ideals of a society — including virtue and law — and perverts sport into a mere diversion, an economic engine of applied technique of no more value than a shiny ball.

    this perversity of games has a long history in human affairs, and it is a signal of the bankrputcy of a civilization.

  14. That is not the only difference, Evan, and you know it. No matter how low carb, high protein your diet and how intense your workout, a man over age 35 is not going to put on considerable muscle mass.

    Besides being false (I know people over 35 who have done just that), the statement seems to argue that roids should only be illegal for the over-35 crowd.

    There is just such a huge difference in quantity as to create a difference in kind.

    No, quantity is irrelevant here, Joe. Maybe, in crafting the technical rules of baseball, it has relevance, but in terms of virtue, it plays no part. If you want to argue baseball rules, fine. But if you want to argue virtue, let’s not get mixed up in quantitative quagmires. Self-improvement via above-baseline supplemental crutches is what it is…

    …and if you’re trying to define something like “virtue”, then I just don’t see how you can draw such a distinctive line by drawing an arbitrary baseline somewhere between steroids and protein shakes. Where do prohormones fall, Joe? How about steroid precursors? How about anti-estrogen drugs? Do they rank above or below your arbitrary baseline?

  15. There is just such a huge difference in quantity as to create a difference in kind.

    I still fail to see the qualitative difference. The difference between steroids and diets is quantitative. Where’s that magical line you are seeing, joe, where the difference becomes qualitative? Is this one of those “I know it when I see ’em” deals?

  16. “and when they behave illegally, as mr williams points out, they should be hammered very, very hard. such is their forfeit for seeking glory in the public sphere.

    for if we allow our role models to exist without law, we demonstrat an aspiration to live in chaos — a slide into barbarism which this society increasingly does wish for, which must be fought tooth-and-nail by more enlightened parties.

    Gaius, this much is obvious—the discussion really is down another road, namely, whether steroids should be illegal in the first place. I don’t think anyone’s here arguing that a player shouldn’t be reprimanded for breaking the rules, that they should, in fact, live “without law”; instead, we are questioning the details of the law itself.

    This reminds me of the whole “lobbying for the legalization of marijuana is illegal” thing. If the law says that weed is illegal, then surely, you should be punished for it. But arguing that it shouldn’t be illegal is not the same thing as arguing that you shouldn’t be punished for breaking the law.

    Gaius, that may very well be nothing more than a big elaborate strawman you’ve constructed.

  17. Exactly, Soda, it’s a “know it when I see it” deal. And as the discussion is about the “best” rules for baseball, rather than criminal law, I’m perfectly comfortable with that.

    And I don’t believe you, Evan, when you say you know middle aged athletes (no couch potatoes who had a conversion, but people who were already athletes) who’ve put on 20 or more pounds of muscle mass without steroids. Just. Not. True.

  18. Bush says we shouldn’t be doing this this, we must obey.

  19. “it destroys their spiritual and social character of games as expression and reinforcement of the ideals of a society”

    But isn’t the idea of admiring purely physical achievement based solely on genetic endowment ALSO not an expression or reinforcement of the ideals of our society?

    Personally, I think that it is precisely a system where rewards follow the successful application of technique that properly expresses and reinforces the ideals of our society. The ones that deserve expression and reinforcement, anyway.

    The use of steroids and supplements to achieve better athletic performance is no more a “perversion” of our society’s ideals than the use of anesthesia during surgery, or the use of rockets to fly into orbit. Or, for that matter, the use of computers to track baseball statistics so they can be available when managers make decisions.

    We applied science to the task of attaining superior performance. Sounds OK to me.

  20. American League goes roid.
    NL goes au naturel.
    Interleague play limited to WS.

    Then we let the market decide under the basic conditions of competition set forth in the previous 3 sentences.

  21. “But isn’t the idea of admiring purely physical achievement based solely on genetic endowment ALSO not an expression or reinforcement of the ideals of our society?”

    Baseball elevates “purely physical achievement” and “genetic endowment” less than any other major sport. Look at some of those lardasses. Why do you think baseball features 29 year old rookies, and 40 year old superstars?

    Tell the truth, fluffy – are you a fan?

  22. how can doing something to make yourself a better player, that ANYONE else is theoretically able to also do, be cheating…unless arbitrarily decreed to be so?

    we have finally reached the height of hypocrisy when phil niekro, one of the worst spitball cheaters in history, calls steroid users cheaters. baseball has played “wink wink” with spitballs, corked bats, and pine tar for decades, but gets all sanctimonious about steroids?

    btw…cal ripken did demonstrably hurt his team in the later stages of his career by never even taking a day off. perhaps roids would have helped him.

  23. Without fail, every time there is a thread that I might actually want to get into. I go off to lunch and lose track of it.
    Evan,
    I hear what you are saying. But comparing Steroids to multivitamins isn’t going to cut it with me or, I imagine, anyone else reasonable (it’s like reductio ad absurdum, but in reverse). I honestly admire the athletes who spend all their waking hours training legitimately. It’s a shame that there are drug users out there who are ruining the sport within which their sacrifice and effort might be rewarded.
    Forgive my lack of eloquence. I’ll never match Gaius’ way with words. I will, however, stand by my insistence that steroid using professional athletes fuck off.

  24. Aren’t we talking about a game here, like monopoly, tag, and kick the can?

    It’s cute that these guys like to play games for a living, but aren’t there more important things to get workeed up about in life, such as the connection between the secret designers of the secret designs and the Grand Ole Opry?

  25. But, those who take roids aren’t trying to win by “any means necessary”. If that was truly the case, wouldn’t they be breaking other rules, like smashing the first baseman in the face with a bat so that he couldn’t catch the ball?

    I was playing soccer at the local sportsplex last night and saw someone grab another guy’s nuts to get him off the ball. Perhaps I am comparing apples with oranges, but it seems to me that there is very little respect for “playing fair” in sports today. So something fun and healthy turns into something cheap and stupid. Remember when you were kids and there was that kid on your block who had to win everything and would change the rules in the middle of whatever game you were playing to suit him? This whole debate always reminds that those kids grew up, but didn’t necessarily grow out of that phase.

  26. Guy: Yes, but I, for one, love baseball and could go on about it all day.

    I do think steroid use is bad for the game, but probably for weird reasons. I’m a life-long fan, and I just don’t think long-ball is al that exciting. Okay, so you juiced it up and knocked one into deep center…so what? Homeruns are only exciting when they’re rare, if every utility infielder starts hitting bombs the game just becomes lame to watch.

    This is why I don’t like the AL as much: The DH is already lame and ruins a lot of the great management of the game, if everybody is a roid ragin’ bomber that’d only make things worse. Now, I don’t think *everyone* would use (and some people obviously didn’t when they weren’t banned), but four seasons of “Oh, look, McGuire hit another 70” were just lame. I don’t want baseball to be like that all the time.

    Plus it leads to jerks on ESPN saying things like “well, Ichiro is only a singles hitter, so his 200+ hits this season weren’t that impressive.” He’s a leadoff man, dammit, getting on base is his job, a base hit is a base hit…gahh. All right, back to work, this will make me too agitated.

  27. Actually, Joe, I’m a huge fan.

    It is precisely the seemingly absent work habits of many of the players that leads me to believe that an element of the game is natural endowment, or “talent”.

    Manny Ramirez can’t possibly be a better hitter than Gabe Kapler on the basis of his work ethic or his “virtue”. He absolutely, positively possesses a “talent”.

    So baseball is, in fact, rewarding a purely physical achievement – it just happens to be a different physical achievement than the one rewarded in track and field, so you can have athletes who look chubby and out of shape who are still successful.

    The sport also rewards hustle, intelligence, concentration, intensity, etc. But steroids don’t give anyone an advantage on any of those scores. Steroids only augments the physical aspects of the game. If every player in the league was on steroids, hustle, intelligence, etc. would still be important, because they would still be differentiating factors.

    That being the case, it seems that steroids don’t undermine the “virtue” of baseball at all. The only values being undermined within the sport are the ones farthest removed from all the “virtues” the original article talks about.

  28. joe, you’re wrong about men over 35 being able to put on 20+ pounds of muscle. In fact, I have to think you’re deliberately lying about that.

    I know a guy at my gym, who was a good athlete in college, but not huge muscularly. As he got into his 30’s, he began to weight-train for mass and size. In his opinion, he didn’t start to really be able to put on size until he was 35. Now he enters ‘old-timer’ bodybuilding competitions. He routinely puts on 20 lbs of muscle in a few months through intensive weight training and a great diet.

    So there’s one example, joe. Where’s your proof?

    Seriously, you folks act like ‘roids are some magical potion…

    But you’re right, guy in the back, there’s more important shit to worry about, and I’m tired of arguing in circles…

  29. “Who isn’t stunned by Lance Armstrong’s comeback from cancer and Tour De France victories? But that doesn’t mean anything regarding his value as a human being.”

    Ok, sorry if this is just a useless flame, but any person of any worth whatsoever will recognize its truth:

    That is the single stupidest thing I have ever read by a Reasonoid.

    Are you sure you don’t want to rethink that one?

    What possible meaning of the word “value” do you hold for human beings such that at least some part of it is not embodied in coming back from 4 forms of cancer to become the world’s greatest endurance athlete?

  30. Bender: Clem Johnson? That skin bag wouldn’t have lasted one pitch in the old Robot Leagues! Now Wireless Joe Jackson, there was a blern hitting machine!

    Leela: Exactly! He was a machine designed to hit blerns! I mean, come on, Wireless Joe was nothing but a programmable bat on wheels.

    Bender: Oh, and I suppose Pitchomat 5000 was just a modified howitzer?

    Leela: Yep.

    Bender: You humans are so scared of a little robot competition you won’t even let us on the field.

  31. “…comparing Steroids to multivitamins isn’t going to cut it with me or, I imagine, anyone else reasonable…”

    I agree, in the context of the individual player, steriods in your veins are equivalent to cork in your bat or to sandpaper in your glove. As it relates to the team, condoning or endorsing steroid use is the same as setting up a video camera in the outfield to steal the catcher’s signs or putting a microphone in the visiting team’s dugout to eavesdrop on their planning.

    There’s nothing inherently unethical or immoral about sandpaper, cork, camcorders or microphones, until they’re used to cheat. Steriods are no different.

    All of these are tactics prohibited by the rules and used to gain some unfair advantage in the game. However, none of these warrant a Congressional Inquisition.

  32. What possible meaning of the word “value” do you hold for human beings such that at least some part of it is not embodied in coming back from 4 forms of cancer to become the world’s greatest endurance athlete?

    Well, JDM – Lance Armstrong’s impressive achievement says nothing about whether he beats his wife, womanizes, hates Jews, or kicks puppies. Lance Armstrong doesn’t do any of these things, of course, but we can’t derive that information from his ability to focus and his determination to succeed. In fact, from most people’s anecdotal experience, people that driven are MORE likely to be pretty scummy human beings.

  33. “Well, JDM – Lance Armstrong’s impressive achievement says nothing about whether he beats his wife, womanizes, hates Jews, or kicks puppies. Lance Armstrong doesn’t do any of these things, of course, but we can’t derive that information from his ability to focus and his determination to succeed.”

    Terrific. Now think about what can we derive from it, as you already seem to have, and you’ll see my point. My definition of human value, worth or goodness includes things like the kind of will and mental attitude embodied in – say – struggling through four forms of cancer to become the world’s greatest endurance athlete.

    “Nice to puppies” is also on the list, but it may be further down.

  34. I may have skipped a few points here, but I think it’s important to remember that MLB is a group of private organizations (well… sort of private…), and they can tell their “employees” what they can and can’t do. The ridiculous thing is that this has become a government issue.

    Oh, and as far as the whole “role models” thing goes, watch “Any Given Sunday.” If you’re looking up to public figures to be role models, you’re setting yourself up for a harsh fall.

    Also, to the folks on this forum that are familiar with steroids (Lowdog, Evan, etc.) you are absolutely right. 75% of strength training is genetics, the rest is hard work, diet, and supplements. If you really want a “level playing field,” you need a baseball clone farm where everyone has the same genetics.

  35. Bush says we shouldn’t be doing this this, we must obey.
    Jane – This is the most lazy trolling I’ve ever seen you do on a drug post. Take some pep pills or something. Maybe a can of red bull.

    JDM – And I separate Armstrong’s value as a competitor from his value as a person. I admire his tenacity to overcome adversity as I think poorly of him dumping his wife for Sheryl Crow. So we think about this differently. Have a nice day.

  36. How about this: in America, there is virtue in beauty. There is virtue in growing up thinking you’re too tall and too skinny, only to one day become a supermodel. There is virtue in being over 50 and still being a sex symbol. There is virtue in being pretty enough to be an actress.

    So I guess cheating by dying one’s hair, getting breast enlargements, or having teeth whitened should also be outlawed. After all, there are health consequences. And we wouldn’t want the playing field to be unfair.

  37. completely dubious record

    I hated, hated, hated the goody two shoes in high school who got an award every marking period for “no absences”.

    My definition of human value, worth or goodness includes things like the kind of will and mental attitude embodied in – say – struggling through four forms of cancer to become the world’s greatest endurance athlete.

    I think struggling against adversity is probably the most overrated measure of “worth” there is. Suppose I raise myself from homelessness to multimillionaire – does that say anything at all about my worth as a human being? I don’t think so.

  38. Baseball elevates “purely physical achievement” and “genetic endowment” less than any other major sport.

    Except golf. Or NASCAR. Or bowling.

    For the kind of money they’re making, shouldn’t most of these guys be applauded for doing everything they could to improve themsleves and give their teams a better chance to win?

    How many WS or LCS pennants, combined, have Mark McGuire, Jose Canseco, Rafael Palmeiro and Barry Bonds contributed to?

  39. dumping his wife for Sheryl Crow

    He did that??? What a jerk. Further proof that “tenacity” is a useless measure of human worth.

    there is virtue in beauty

    I hope you’re being sarcastic.

  40. There’s nothing wrong with subsidies for businesses. It doesn’t give them any more of an unfair competitive advantage over other businesses than high profits or sound financial management would. What difference does the means make, anyway, in the kingdom of ends?

    Oh, sorry. Is this the steroids thread? My mistake.

  41. By the way, joe, both 29-year-old rookies and over-40 superstars are relatively rare. As you know. In the modern era, a fairly consistent 75% or more of all rookies have debuted in the majors while under the age of 25; see here. (If we could break that 26-30 category down further, we’d know even more precisely.) As for over-40s . . . yeesh, do we even need to examine it?

  42. “there is virtue in beauty

    I hope you’re being sarcastic.”

    You must have missed the “in America” part, read: according to the cultural values of this society. Not in Platonic terms… (though, actually…)

    And now that you’ve got me on that train of thought, isn’t the virtue we’re really debating here in terms of steroid the virtue of truthfulness? Aren’t these people held up as icons because for reasons of talent, experience, etc. they are supposed to be more impressive than the average person? Yet if they are on steroids, it makes one wonder about the truthfulness of that impression. I guess maybe baseball fans just really don’t like being duped.

  43. Sean Healy,

    That would be a neat little allegory if the government was giving steroids to certain players who were large campaign donors. However, no.

  44. “And I separate Armstrong’s value as a competitor from his value as a person.”

    I’m not talking about his value as a competitor. I’m saying that the qualities he displayed in coming back from cancer are undeniably good qualities for a human being to have. Why would you ignore them arbitrarily?

    Also, I wouldn’t include competitiveness as a positive human quality. His feats are only meaningful to his “goodness,” as far as I’m concerned, inasmuch as they are internally motivated.

    His leaving his wife is meaningless to me, since I have no idea what was going on in his marriage. It’s not always the fault of the one who walks away. Besides, I have it on good faith from my own wife that he left his wife before he hooked up with Sheryl Crow.

  45. So the problem with subsidies is favoritism rather than interference in the free market. Got it. This is Reason H&R, right?

  46. “I think struggling against adversity is probably the most overrated measure of “worth” there is. Suppose I raise myself from homelessness to multimillionaire – does that say anything at all about my worth as a human being? I don’t think so.”

    What? This entire post is incomprehensible to me.

    Have fun being a quitter.

  47. Sean,

    If a company installes proprietary effeciency software and runs itself better than any other company, is that “unfair competition” or interference in the free market? Again, your analogy falls apart. Find a new one.

  48. Randolph,
    That’s precisely my point. Steroids aren’t proprietary the way, say, your genes are. In fact, they are precisely the opposite. And juicing can in no way be compared to efficient management; a more appropriate comparison would be to training well.

    But I’ll try another analogy: how do you feel about corn subsidies? All the farmers get them, so what’s the problem?

  49. JDM, although I don’t agree with Rhywun’s post, I too have found that there is a little too much focus on the “human interest” aspects of achievement these days.

    It seems like people no longer accept an achievement as an achievement unless there is a sad story about some burden that had to be overcome attached to the achievement. “She was a straight A student – after her family was homeless!” “He was a great bicyclist – after he had cancer!”

    I think this is actually psychologically related to the steroids debate, because implicit in the anti-steroids position is the idea that it’s a better [and more virtuous] “story” if someone hits 450 foot home runs while their only workout equipment was a couple of five-gallon jugs of water attached to a stick, than it is if someone hits 500 foot home runs while under the care of a team of doctors, trainers and nutritionists.

    Overcoming adversity is certainly admirable. But we shouldn’t let our sentimentality obscure the fact that a 500 foot home run is a 500 foot home run.

  50. The problem is that I’m paying for them. No one is providing these athletes with supplements or steroids (I don’t know all the details, maybe the teams are or something), and most importantly, I’m not paying for them. So they can do as they please.

    If the corn industry passed around a collection plate for voluntary subsidies, there would be no problem. The use of the coercive apparatus of government is the difference.

  51. btw, previous post is addressed to Sean

  52. Measuring the worth of a human being. That seems like such a difficult and subjective undertaking. Maybe we should simplify things. Base a person’s worth on skin color and height.

    With “white” being the most virtuous skin color, of course. And between 5-6 feet as the optimal height range. Also, brown hair and brown eyes should be considered desirable.

  53. ‘Manny Ramirez can’t possibly be a better hitter than Gabe Kapler on the basis of his work ethic or his “virtue”. He absolutely, positively possesses a “talent”.’

    That’s nonsense. Manny is a Ted Williams-esque student of hitting. You wouldn’t think so, because it doesn’t seem to fit his personality (or the way he plays left field), but he’s a tape glutton.

    Phil, “Except golf. Or NASCAR. Or bowling.”

    I said “major” sport. *sniff*

  54. I may have skipped a few points here, but I think it’s important to remember that MLB is a group of private organizations (well… sort of private…), and they can tell their “employees” what they can and can’t do. The ridiculous thing is that this has become a government issue.

    Randolph,

    That would be true, save for the fact that the fed government has some strings to pull—namely, the unfair application (that other organization don’t get) of the monopoly exemption. Not that I’m in favor of anti-“monopoly” laws, but when the government imposes a law, it should apply it universally. Anyway, that exemption seems to hold lots of sway in the halls of MLB-dom, so don’t think that they’re an autonomous free-market company.

    As for why they get involved in the steroid thing, well, the War on Drugs is an addictive thing. It can make pols do crazy, irrational things, like, um, ban ephedra because it was loosely tied to something like 10 deaths in 2 decades. Anyway, if I’m not mistaken, anabolics are illegal on the street, so maybe that’s their official “in”? The rest is good ol’ political grandstanding by self-righteous cocksuckers who have nothing better to do with their time.

    Also, to the folks on this forum that are familiar with steroids (Lowdog, Evan, etc.) you are absolutely right. 75% of strength training is genetics, the rest is hard work, diet, and supplements. If you really want a “level playing field,” you need a baseball clone farm where everyone has the same genetics.

    I’ve never taken steroids or prohormones, cuz I don’t trust ’em in my own body, but that’s my personal preference. As long as baseball has outlawed anabolics, though, the players should abide. I just don’t know why it’s singled out. It’s clearly not about a “level playing field”, though, you’re right. It’s social stigma more than anything else. I still wonder if prohormones & steroid precursors are against MLB rules. Anyone know?

  55. The DH is already lame and ruins a lot of the great management of the game,

    I’ll thread jack here, but I always think the above comment is simplistic baloney.

    There’s no great management in pinch hitting for the pitcher, and the occasional double-switching. Basically a robot could do that, the only time it really sparks any management is when the pitcher is due up and the manager has to decide to leave the guy in for one more hitter or waste a pitcher for one out. With every team carrying 11 pitchers (ans some even more) that’s less of an issue than it was back when some teams carried only 8 or 9 pitchers. In fact, carrying so many pitchers reduces the occurrences of double-switching.

    And over the course of a season, I’d say managing in the AL is tougher because your hand is rarely forced to use a pinch hitter, you actually have to know more about the tendencies of the hitters and the opposing pitchers to decide on when to pinch hit. And over the course of a season that can lead to a lot of conflict when a player is lifted for a pinch hitter; it can also lead a manager to use the same lineup day in day out and have some players rusting away on the bench, griping and not being of any use when they’re needed.

  56. Why can’t juicing be compared to efficient management?

    You have a problem to overcome. You overcome it, applying all the tools at your disposal. Sounds like management to me.

    The problem with corn subsidies isn’t that it gives one producer an advantage over another. As you point out, all producers benefit from them. The problem with corn subsidies is that the state takes my money to pay them.

    If you want to talk about farming, steroids are analogous to pesticide use. Some people think that pesticide use damages the “virtue” of farming. Some people don’t. It’s certainly more “romantic” to run a farm “the old fashioned way” [and I personally prefer the products of small-scale local agriculture myself, as a consumer] but you can’t really claim that the producers who use pesticides are “cheating”. They have a task; a technology exists to aid that task; they purchase the technology and use it. Other people just choose to not use that technology.

  57. Joe, perhaps you “sniffed” because you’re weeping, due, of course, to the fact that NASCAR is the #1 spectator sport in the country. I know, it makes me cry too. WHAT ARE PEOPLE THINKING!?

  58. Evan,

    When I said “familiar with steroids” I didn’t mean it in the “familiar with using” sense, I just meant well-informed about the reality of how steroids work in the body.

    I don’t think prohormones are banned in MLB. Oddly enough, Creatine was banned for a while by the NCAA and they tried to test my football team for it. The geniuses didn’t realize that creatinine (creatine byproduct in urine) is the substance that allows a test to tell if urine has been diluted in an attempt to cheat the test. Silly athletics department!

  59. Randolph,
    Well, Fairtrade coffee operates on the principle of voluntary subsidies. It also distorts markets and props up inefficiencies in commodity agriculture. Are you cool with that? I’ll drop the analogy, considering we’ve strayed pretty far off topic, but subsidies aren’t bad just because they generally come from tax money; they’re bad because they screw with the operation of a free and fair market.

  60. Sean,

    Well, the fair trade coffee thing is sort of complicated. I personally think it’s a huge waste of money that distorts the market and encourages people to grow too much coffee. But if people are willing to pay those extra 2 bucks for a cup of “morally correct” coffee, then that’s the market price. But really, I do hate fair trade coffee – they tried to add it to the dining halls at my college and apparently it would have cost an extra $60,000.

  61. Sean Healy sayeth,

    “But I’ll try another analogy: how do you feel about corn subsidies? All the farmers get them, so what’s the problem?”

    Let me count the problems:

    1) It creates an unnatural market distortion by giving farmers incentives to continue business, and make decisions based not on true demand, but on the actions of a group of politicans.

    2) It is payed for via theft.

    3) Since other non-corn farmers don’t get the same subsidies, it creates an artifical “demand” for corn, again, based not the preferences of the consumer, but on the actions of a group of higher-ups. Relatively speaking, it lowers the “demand” for, say, sugar cane farming. Why do you think everything is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup? Because the big corn industry giant (I forget their name) lobbies hardcore to get corn subsidies, thus making corn cheaper, and sugar more expensive.

    Hope that helps you with your economics problem. Perhaps an intro to econ 101 would be in order?

  62. fluffy,

    I agree with most of that. I’m just narrowly focusing my posts on Nick’s assanine sentence which I quoted above.

    A 500 foot home run, 60 yard touchdown pass, or anything Michael Jordan did after lacing up his Nikes has it’s own aesthetic, which is the primary reason I enjoy sports.

    I disagree that a 500 foot homerun powered by steroids is the same as one that is not. Part of the aesthetic of these things is the capabilities required to perform them.

    Imagine a drug free human being ran a 3 minute mile. Now imagine a horse did it. Now imagine it was done by a human on some sort of horse gene therapy, or just lots of steroids and stuff. All three are different in their athletic aesthetics.

  63. Evan,

    Watching your kids on the swings is the Number 1 spectator sport in the country. Hey, if watching other people turn left qualifies…

    Personally, I find it more interesting to watch people parallel park. While drinking a beer at a sidewalk cafe.

    You see that guy swing that pickup into that space in one move? That was sweet!

  64. To finish my thought, the first of my 3 examples is the aesthetic most people want to purchase with their sports entertainment dollars. It’s just that simple.

  65. I agree that Cal Ripkin probably didn’t perform as well as he could have, had he taken a few games off to rest here and there. That might have cost his team a win or two.

    But I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing if you believe that entertaining fans is also what a ball player does. Maybe the most important thing.

    I know I would have rather seen a slightly banged-up Cal Ripkin (because he didn’t take time off to rest a sore shoulder, or whatever) than some nobody, even if that day Mr. Nobody could make a throw that Cal would have missed.

  66. Evan,
    You might want to read my comments again. I was adducing the badness of corn subsidies as an analogous argument against steroids.

  67. P.S. to Sean – apologies for my minor snarkiness earlier, it’s been a rough week and it’s only Tuesday.

  68. The problem is that subsidies are legal whereas steroids are illegal. I also agree with the, “fans don’t like being lied to” and MLB will be punished by their fans in the market. And while we’re at it we had better put an asterisk after every grade earned by some kid on Ritalin and after the paycheck of those assholes who drink coffee.

  69. joe, on what planet is golf not a major sport? Hell, here in DC I can find major tourneys televised a thousand times more easily than I can find a Nationals game.

  70. Rhywun,

    I just figured out that you were asking if the entire post about outlawing dyed hair was sarcastic. Yes, yes it was.

  71. Why would you ignore them arbitrarily?
    JDM- I just do, which I guess why it’s arbitrary.

  72. What? This entire post is incomprehensible to me.

    OK, let me elaborate. I consider qualities such as honesty and fidelity to be virtuous. Suppose he overcame the adversity of cancer in to remain with his wife (uh… guess not), that I would consider virtuous. Overcoming adversity to accomplish something as trivial as athletic prowess – I don’t see anything virtuous in that. Impressive? Sure. But it says nothing to me about him other than he wanted to win some bike races.

  73. linguist,

    well really I was just questioning the sincerity of “in America there is virtue in beauty”. Because it seems a LOT of people actually believe that given the way they idolize beautiful people.

  74. I’m not sure why non-baseball fans are tossing their hats into this ring. Why criticize how fans prefer the game to be? Why criticize how owners and players handle this dispute? Why does Nick feel he should turn his formidable wit and intelligence to this rustic game, its fans and their particpants.

  75. Rhywun,

    So a person who goes out to volunteer time in a soup kitchen, is no more virtuous than one who gives up because it’s too hard to turn the doorknob, or because there’s too much snow on the roads?

    If you don’t think that tenacity is a positive human quality – a virtue – you have to answer “no.”

    You sound like a liberal to me, maybe this will jar something loose – “We do these things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

  76. I’m not sure why non-baseball fans are tossing their hats into this ring. Why criticize how fans prefer the game to be?

    Because nobody can tell how the fans want the game to be in the absence of a competive market. And because Nick knows competitive markets better than yr avg bb fan.

    Why criticize how owners and players handle this dispute?

    Because the owners and players have set up the league so that it is a monopoly rather than an ongoing competrition. Such a stupid economic blunder is always worthy of criticism, no matter how rustic the business sector. Now the game has an issue that competition would solve, but there is no competition between baseball leagues, so it is up to Chimpy McCokespoon to clean things up. That sad state of affairs will get yer panties in a bunch whether you are a fan or not.

  77. “Because nobody can tell how the fans want the game to be in the absence of a competive market.”

    You could, you know, ask them.

  78. Baseball fans aren’t terribly shy about giving you their opinion of the game, and the issues of the day.

    You really want to pretend the opinion of baseball fans on this issue is a big mystery, Answers Dept? I think they’re being loud and clear.

  79. Suppose I raise myself from homelessness to multimillionaire – does that say anything at all about my worth as a human being? I don’t think so.

    Certainly it does say something about a persons value. Not everything, and definitely not the most important thing. but nothing at all?

  80. I’m way too in agreement with joe here. I’ll need a few minutes to reassess my thoughts on this matter.

  81. Baseball is not a monopoly.

    Anyone who wants can start another baseball league any time they want.

    And baseball is an entertainment, which means that its competitors are every other form of entertainment out there competing for peoples’ TV viewing eyeballs and discretionary entertainment dollars.

    The only reason baseball needs an antitrust exemption is because the way the antitrust laws are written, businesses that cooperate in planning [even if it’s two corporations that have baseball franchises cooperating on a schedule to play each other, since baseball requires two sides] are vulnerable to being accused of forming an unlawful combination.

    The fact that the law might make the existence of baseball leagues illegal is yet more evidence that the law is foolish and poorly written. Rather than admit this, Congress gave baseball an exemption.

    Some people think the exemption was about the reserve clause, but it wasn’t. If it was, and if that was what the exemption was for, Curt Flood would have lost his case.

  82. But isn’t the idea of admiring purely physical achievement based solely on genetic endowment ALSO not an expression or reinforcement of the ideals of our society?

    i think that if this is what one sees in sport, they’ve already lost their value, mr fluffy.

    the discussion really is down another road, namely, whether steroids should be illegal in the first place.

    and that question, mr williams, is really this: should the drive to physical self-expression obey any limitation at all?

    that’s really what we’re talking about — the spiritual and social significance of sport is in its expression of values. if that expression is, intrinsically, merely a vehicle to see what the individual can do without limitation, what social value is it promoting? in short, anarchy and self-indulgence. no wonder we give birth to athletes/role models like mike tyson, barry bonds and terrell owens.

    the very fact that the legality of performance enhancement is considered a variable to be toyed with to maximize individual achievement — law a slave to self-expression — says much about our pathological social condition, imo.

  83. Well, yeah, but you think everything everything “says much about our pathological social condition.”

  84. Overcoming adversity to accomplish something as trivial as athletic prowess – I don’t see anything virtuous in that. Impressive? Sure. But it says nothing to me about him other than he wanted to win some bike races.

    again, mr rhywun, if this is all one derives from sport as a social ceremony — and most do, more every generation — they have no intrinsic value, i agree. on that level, they are merely diversionary circuses for apathetic masses to be drowned with.

    but this is not all they are, nor indeed what they are for. sport has always been intended to be a social institution that exemplifies in daily allegory the values of the society. integrity. teamwork. discipline. work. if we don’t see those in sport anymore — if instead we see greed, hubris, falsity, selfishness — it can only be interpreted as a symptom of a broader social collapse, imo.

  85. there’s a lot that points in that direction, mr joe. 🙂

  86. Tsk tsk.

    Emoticons. You might as well be Felix Sulla.

  87. i have a number of prole affectations, if you look closely, mr joe. i am what i am, after all. 🙂

  88. but in truth — was not sulla the lord protector of the optimates? i think instead my low manners may better reflect that which would be put on caesar or, indeed, marius — traitors to high birth, seekers of glory by any affectation.

    my upbringing and condition, however, is purely cicero.

  89. “if that expression is, intrinsically, merely a vehicle to see what the individual can do without limitation”

    That is exactly what sport is about, as far as I am concerned. Within the rules of the contest.

    “integrity. teamwork. discipline. work.”

    All of these exist to make the first possible. Or, in the major team sports, exist at the same time as the first, each one complementing the other. And none of those items are in any way harmed by the individual participant seeking to give his best possible performance, using all the tools at his disposal.

    We’re back once again to a point which may be irreduciably subjective – some people think that using all the training and technological means available to perform better is acceptable, and some people don’t.

    There is absolutely no reason to believe that nine guys who train without steroids will somehow automatically be better teammates, work harder, or have more discipline than nine guys who train with steroids. The integrity issue is muddier because steroids are currently illegal, but that is not an issue when discussing their theoretical use, since we can easily imagine a scenario where they were legal, as they were up until the 1970’s. In fact, the only “value” I really see that is indisputably supported by banning steroids is a deep conservatism that borders on Luddism.

    To some extent, Gaius Marius almost sounds like he’s auditioning for the John Houseman role in ROLLERBALL. I don’t really watch sports because I like the way they reinforce the lesson that all individual action is futile and victory can only come by tireless and anonymous toil on behalf of the team, there, Mr. Bartholomew.

  90. So a person who goes out to volunteer time in a soup kitchen, is no more virtuous than one who gives up because it’s too hard to turn the doorknob, or because there’s too much snow on the roads?

    No, that is not at all what I said. To use your analogy, what I said was: the person who overcomes the adverse weather and doorknob in order to volunteer at the soup kitchen is no more virtuous than the person who overcame no such adversity in order to volunteer at the soup kitchen. Helping those in need is virtuous. The adversity you overcome in doing so is irrelevant, except as a matter of curiosity.

  91. “No, that is not at all what I said.”

    No, it isn’t, it is a question who’s answer should clear up the issue we are dicussing.

    How do you answer the question:

    All things being equal except for their relative tenacity, is a person who goes through 3 feet of snow to get to the soup kitchen and volunteer more virtuous, or a better person than the one who does not?

    Would a little more tenacity improve the person who does not manage to get out the door or through the snow?

  92. Would a little more tenacity improve the person who does not manage to get out the door or through the snow?

    In this specific, contrived case, yes, a little more tenacity would allow the 2nd person to accomplish a virtuous task. Let’s go back to the original case: Lance Armstrong. Sure, we can admire his tenacity. But is it virtuous? The end result is, he won some bike races. An admirable, sure, but not a virtuous one.

  93. oops, s/b “An admirable FEAT, sure, but not a virtuous one”

  94. Fuck all this shit about “virtue” “social collapse” and “values”.

    Baseball is about “FUN”.

    I enjoy playing the game, watching my kids play the game, and watching other folks play the game. The key word here is “GAME”.

    Modest proposal – do not apply any more regulations to Baseball than we would desire in our own personal lives. This means the rules should be strictly limited to innings, outs, runs, bats, balls, strikes, etc. There should be no rules regarding drug consumption, diet, exercise, salaries, language, ego gratification, and business matters. It is a fucking game.

    Baseball purists will howl about the skewed statistics resulting from performance enhancing drugs. A simple solution would be to publish each players’ steroid concentrations right next to their batting averages. It would provide the statistic freaks with another number to debate – how could they complain?

    Baseball is a beautiful, graceful, geometric game. The 90-degree, 90-feet base layout is pure genius. Let’s not allow rampant social engineering to creep in between the baselines.

  95. You could, you know, ask them.

    No. The answers would be politicized, strategic and not developed in a world of consumer choice. Because they are so used to top down mgmt of markets that they can’t even visualize interleague competition as a way of settling this difficult dispute. Heck, even Mr. Gillespie has not gotten ’round to proposing a roid league and a roid free league — and he usually figures these things out per’ quik.

    The only way to get the real answer is to offer fans both choices and then listen to the story that their spending tells over a 5, 10 yr period. That answer will be the valid one.

    Anything else is way too unreliable.

  96. “In this specific, contrived case, yes, a little more tenacity would allow the 2nd person to accomplish a virtuous task.”

    It goes far beyond the contrived case. Without some degree of the quality of tenacity, will, courage, discipline, etc. Lance Armstrong displays by winning the Tour de France it is impossible to accomplish anything. Without some of it, any other other virtues one may have worthless, since they cannot affect the world.

  97. “The only way to get the real answer is to offer fans both choices and then listen to the story that their spending tells over a 5, 10 yr period. That answer will be the valid one.”

    It really wouldn’t. There is no way to hold all of the other variables constant between the 2 leagues. People could end up spending their money on the Juiceball league for any number of reasons, and still wish it was drug free. Or even wish for the days when there was a single drug free league.

  98. JDM,

    My guess is that if the AL went drug and NL stayed drug free, then the roids difference would dominate all the other differences (in the aggregate and over time, not in every instance).

    Anyway, even if roid differences somehow failed to dominate fan opinion, even that would tell us something very useful: to wit, the roid question ain’t as important as we are currently makin’ out. Even more importantly, it would give us a better idea of what fans *do* find important. That’s gold, baby.

  99. My guess is, the roid free league would be just as full of juicers as the pro roid league. Unless the RFL’s players agreed to draconian testing.

  100. for if we allow our role models to exist without law, we demonstrat an aspiration to live in chaos — a slide into barbarism

    What if the legal code itself, owing in part to the political system it’s based upon, represents, both in style and substance, a slide into chaos, irrationality, and (in some respects) barbarism? Surely a stalwart critic of democratic populism such as yourself can see the challenges involved with feeling an obligation to the law under such circumstances.

    I’m still not too keen on the America = Rome II analogy, and think that if the comparison has to be made, America is most likely closer to the time of the Third Punic War than it is to the late Imperial days. But if called upon to make the latter analogy, I’d make one of the first articles of evidence the similar manner in which the law has gotten completely out of control, with one idiotic ordinance or regulation after another stifling liberty; reducing adult citizens to the legal status of small children; and making full compliance nearly impossible.

  101. sport has always been intended to be a social institution that exemplifies in daily allegory the values of the society. integrity. teamwork. discipline. work. if we don’t see those in sport anymore — if instead we see greed, hubris, falsity, selfishness — it can only be interpreted as a symptom of a broader social collapse, imo

    I actually agree a little with the first part of this argument. The types of athletes that a given nation tends to venerate as demigods – as opposed to simply admire for their skill – can occassionally tell you a thing or two about its cultural psyche. You can compare the one-time American veneration of Nolan Ryan with the current Japanese veneration of Ichiro Suzuki, for example.

    But if you’re going to suggest that putting athletes with major character issues on a pedestal is a sign of social decay, I would posit that:

    a) The admiration of such athletes is nothing new, as evidenced by the love once sent in the direction of Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb.

    b) Generally speaking, athletes with said character issues are treated much more roughly in the court of public opinion than athletes with mostly clean rap sheets. Outside of a core base of devoted fans, guys like Barry Bonds, T.O., and Kobe Bryant are looked upon with a more grudging manner of respect than guys like Ryan, Emmitt Smith, and LeBron James. Yes, the public does tend to place a premium on athletes with charisma and personality (thus, for example, Shaquille O’Neal will get more airtime than Tim Duncan), but their stock tends to fall should they cross the line into full-blown jackassery.

  102. So is the author openly embracing irrationality since he consistently says, “I know, we know, the whole plantet knows, that sports fans are irrational, but…”? It’s that “but” that gets me. And what’s this BS about “virtue?” I honestly don’t understand the mentality of these type of “sports-are-holier-than-thou” people. It’s almost archaic the way they think. So steroid illegality is not about “equity and health”: it’s about pandering to fools…? Apparently so.

  103. If the AL goes roid, then “draconian” testing won’t seem so draconian because the player can always go to the AL if she or he is good enuf.

  104. For those of you who think steroid use undermines the nature of baseball, do you make any distiction between use by hitters and pitchers? To put it another way, is steroid use to put on 35 extra pounds of muscle better, worse or the same as using them to aid in the recuperative process?

    Personally, I enjoy watching great pitching and manufacturing runs to playing the “who can hit the most homers today” game. In that regard, I might say I think pitchers taking steroids actually makes the game better.

  105. I’m not sure, but I think “A Smith” just accused everyone of having a false consciousness.

  106. What if the legal code itself, owing in part to the political system it’s based upon, represents, both in style and substance, a slide into chaos, irrationality, and (in some respects) barbarism? Surely a stalwart critic of democratic populism such as yourself can see the challenges involved with feeling an obligation to the law under such circumstances.

    which it certainly does now, mr eric — the appropriate quote was from tacitus. perverting law from a moral code for social living into an administrative device of a desperate management class is itself part of that slide. but there is a qualitative difference between the two — one can still discern a moral code in law, which operates underneath the corruption of a million minor laws. in other words, in decaying societies, there’s a difference between “laws” and “the law” which is implicitly understood by most. this is why most people feel free to speed and refuse a seat belt while they still will not murder or steal.

    which side of the line is a drug ban? i don’t think it’s particularly relevant, actually — because drug use is so clearly a form of escapism, a will so defiant of nature and conformity as to risk destruction for the nth degree of individual indulgence. be it legal or no, the practice is clearly a symptom of the social decay in the masses that manifests itself in the management class as the paralyzing multiplicity of administrative laws.

    The admiration of such athletes is nothing new, as evidenced by the love once sent in the direction of Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb.

    i submit that social decay in the west was well-entrenched long before ruth and cobb — indeed, that the rise of consumer sport is a consequence of the proletariats seeking new role models where the old ones — the creative class, the upper crust — have lost their use and charisma. who among us today does not mock the aristocrats? aren’t they even the comedian’s stock-and-trade joke? this is an incredible reversal from 500, 300 or even 100 years ago, where the upper crust were taken by most everyone to be the very model to which we all should aspire. the breakdown of that mimetic underpins the devolution from coherence into chaos of any society.

    guys like Barry Bonds, T.O., and Kobe Bryant are looked upon with a more grudging manner

    we all gawk at them in fascination — let’s not downplay it. in a healthier age, we’d ostracize them.

  107. For those of you who think steroid use undermines the nature of baseball, do you make any distiction between use by hitters and pitchers?

    no, mr stretch, i don’t — i think jason schmidt is every bit as repugnant as barry bonds and mark mcgwire. they all indulged inappropriately.

    to focus, as most everyone here is, on the economic and statistical output of the event as a measure of its virtue and morality is so typically decadent — who cares what’s right, so long as its profitable! — is why the administrative view of life is ultimately hollow and doomed to collapse. i sometimes doubt anyone here really understands this point, so deeply ingrained in the language of this board is the idea that economy is equal to (or even determines) morality. but one finds on a review of history that this industrial view arises frrequently in societies nearing collapse that have lost the capacity of moral action and regress instead to mere management and assuagement with an eye toward efficiency over virtue. this often has the ultimate effect of greasing the skids — ekeing out the next greater degree of power and performance from the engine of self-destruction.

  108. I don’t distinguish between pitchers and hitters, but I do distinguish between using steroids as part of the off-season (or inactive) recovery from an injury, under medical supervision, and the use of steroids as performance enhancement.

    Which will, no doubt, generate a flurry of Sullum-esque comments attempting to blur the line.

  109. one can still discern a moral code in law, which operates underneath the corruption of a million minor laws. in other words, in decaying societies, there’s a difference between “laws” and “the law” which is implicitly understood by most. this is why most people feel free to speed and refuse a seat belt while they still will not murder or steal

    I can kind of agree with this, though I’ll note that I have no qualms being among “most people” in this context.

    drug use is so clearly a form of escapism, a will so defiant of nature and conformity as to risk destruction for the nth degree of individual indulgence

    Do you make any distinctions between different types of illegal drugs, or are they all part of the same parcel as far as you’re concerned? For example, I suspect that few knowledgable people would put smoking an occassional joint as being in the same league of “destructive” behavior as shooting up on heroin each day. And as Joe notes, there are distinctions to be made between classes of anabolic steroids as well.

    Also, would your list of destructive drugs consumed for purposes of escapism and self-indulgence include alcohol? It’s generally believed that per capita alcohol consumption is lower today than it was a century ago.

    indeed, that the rise of consumer sport is a consequence of the proletariats seeking new role models where the old ones — the creative class, the upper crust — have lost their use and charisma.

    I’d argue that the interest in watching and following “consumer sport” has more to do with the need for physical escapism in an increasingly mechanized society. On the other hand, the obsession that some have with the private lives of celebrities – including but not limited to professional athletes – and the veneration of some of them as role models may indeed be driven by a need to find a substitute for the aristocracies of old.

    But it’s worth asking why those aristocracies “lost their use and charisma”. A lot of it has to do with the rise of the meme of meritocracy, that admiration should be based on one’s abilities and accomplishments rather than one’s birth. One can bemoan the fact that this development has led the masses to idolize self-made movie stars and football players rather than self-made scientists, writers, and business leaders, but the root cause isn’t an entirely bad one. Particularly when you consider that the notion of meritocracy also played a pivotal role in breaking down historical attitudes towards race and gender.

    we all gawk at them in fascination — let’s not downplay it. in a healthier age, we’d ostracize them.

    I’d say that T.O. got a fair amount of ostracism this week, don’t you think? Yes, there’s some morbid fascination towards such characters as well, but also much less respect for them by the public as a result of their actions. A quick look at how they fare relative to their less-blemished peers when it comes to obtaining endorsement deals – or for that matter, the effect that their behavior has on the value of their trading cards – will demonstrate what I mean.

  110. I’m not sure, but I think “A Smith” just accused everyone of having a false consciousness.

    No. Merely suggesting that ppl’s opinions on roids in baseball could possibly be benefitted by observing both a roid and a concurrent draconian non-roid league in concurrent operation.

    It is all well and good to guess what an open and honest roid league would look like in the abstract, but I prefer opinions formed in view of concrete, modern examples when we are talking about slippery concepts like virtue and prioritizing virtues.

    So, not false consciousness. Empiracally evidence challenged maybe.

  111. I have no qualms being among “most people” in this context.

    lol — me neither, mr eric.

    For example, I suspect that few knowledgable people would put smoking an occassional joint as being in the same league of “destructive” behavior as shooting up on heroin each day.

    i would say that the destructiveness that bothers me isn’t in the physiological effects but in the psychological and spiritual. accepting diversionary self-indulgence on this level as normal or even good is morally damaging — indeed, i’d put steroids, booze and porn in on that, and you’d better believe i have been known to grossly indulge in both in my life at times — and usually mask and aggravate deeper problems in a person’s makeup and/or situation that must be dealt with at the root in order to live well. and each of us living well, in the philosophic and spiritual sense, is certainly to the benefit of us all.

    I’d argue that the interest in watching and following “consumer sport” has more to do with the need for physical escapism in an increasingly mechanized society.

    i submit, mr eric, that mechanization is a result of the bankruptcy of the creative class. it isn’t widely known that the hellenic world experienced industrialism and a technology revolution as well — in the aftermath of the breakdown of classical greek society into a spartan redux following the death of pericles, and particularly sharply following the second punic war. with the land of italy cleared of peasants thanks to hannibal, roman enterprise constructed helot farming on a truly industrial scale of efficiency throughout the budding roman empire. the pace of technological change accelerated right into the collapse, as the management class looked for ever more technical solutions to their fundamental moral problems.

    i think that western industrialism is essentially a return of that spartan helotry, and it is closely bound up in the undoing of western civ, whatever praises we sing of it.

    A lot of it has to do with the rise of the meme of meritocracy, that admiration should be based on one’s abilities and accomplishments rather than one’s birth.

    i would say that meritocracy is what accompanied the birth and health of the west under the institution of the catholic church. it’s almost impossible to see through the cloud of protestant and secular hatred that sits between us and the 11th c, but the church built the west on its meritocracy and its efforts to purge itself of simony and amorality.

    when the church eventually could not find the will to do so any longer, in the 14th c, it began to lose the allegiance of western society — and, one may argue, the first breakdown and subsequent slow decline of western society into fractiousness and chaos actually began, sparking the wars of religion.

    our efforts to replace the church with secular mechanisms deserving of allegiance has been, to my mind, a total failure from the very start — as it had to be — transient, myopic, decontextualized and unstable meritocracies shortly yielding totalitarian ideological murder-states and hero-cults manifold. it’s all rather been a justification of the biblical commandment, “you shall have no god but god” — for material power without spiritual morality is what we would all hope to avoid experiencing. and yet we live it every day.

    i agree with you, mr eric — these aristocracies, bishopric and noble, are the dead remnants of a class that was once maintained by their ability to lead and find profoundly effective solutions to problems. they no longer merit allegiance. but that doesn’t fix the problems we face in disintegration — and elevating a fallacious aristocracy of third-rate actors, superficial beauties and steroidal gladiators as a substitute but unfunctional facade is testament to just what a lack of creativity and leadership we are suffering from.

    I’d say that T.O. got a fair amount of ostracism this week, don’t you think?

    wait until he catches his first touchdown. for too many, all will be forgiven if he is merely economically productive.

  112. “be it legal or no, the practice [drug abuse] is clearly a symptom of the social decay in the masses that manifests itself in the management class as the paralyzing multiplicity of administrative laws.”

    gm, are you aware of any society in human history without drug “abuse”?

  113. And I can’t even come up with a response to your statement that the world was better when people worshipped aristocrats, because it’s just too stupid. I’ll let you know if I think of something appropriate.

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