Friday, December 14, 2007

Blinding flash of the obvious

I was snowbound from about mid-afternoon yesterday until 8 this morning. National Public Radio was on the whole time (except during the few hours when I was sleeping). And in that time I heard the story (there was actually more than one version) about the Mitchell Report and doping in baseball at least a dozen times.

The first time I heard it I said "Hey that's the guy that spoke my commencement, except he was talking about Ireland then." When I kept hearing it, I started thinking, "well dur--of course there was widespread doping. What do you expect will happen within an organization that only began drug testing less than five years ago and has pretty lax testing procedures and standards?" Come on. Did everyone really think that Barry Bonds was some kind of outlyer? Have we really wanted to believe so badly that 40+ year old Roger Clemens was doing it naturally that we refused to even contemplate the notion that he might be doping?

If you're a baseball fan, you have to know this is/was happening in a big way. If not, where have you been? To me, this story was on par with other breaking news yesterday: Jodie Foster is gay. This is not really news to those who are attune to the gay community. If you weren't aware--where have you been?

What really perturbed me about the coverage of the Mitchell Report was the discourse about what is "fair." NPR ran a "man on the street" segment (and it was all men) asking baseball fans how they felt about the "revelation" of all this doping and what it means for record-holders/breakers and future Hall of Famers. There was a lot of agreement that it just wasn't fair that some of these guys broke the records of men who did it with just plain hard work.
The nostalgia for a simpler time when America's favorite pastime was pure and honest just oozes from these sentiments.
How fair are sports these days? How much money does it cost to put your kid into camps and gear so s/he can earn a college scholarship? How many people actually have that kind of money to spare? And let's not forget baseball's own history with segregation as well as the exploitation of athletes of color in so many sports. The hard work rhetoric is not startling when discussing such an American sport as baseball as it is very much in keeping with our persistent to desire to believe in the American Dream.
Of course no one is really going to boycott baseball because of this. Fans plan on tuning in next season. Do you know how many times I have heard people say they could never get into cycling because none of the results can really be fair given that so many cyclists dope? Americans don't watch cycling because it's just too European and not masculine enough (which is the same thing in many people's minds). And they watch baseball because it is hyper-American and very masculine. Drugs have nothing to do with it.
Me, I'm going to watch some Jodie Foster movies.

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