December 15, 2007

Sometimes the only thing worse than an LA Times sports columnist is an LA Times columnist writing about sports in another section of the paper, as this gem proves. The most treacly form of journalism is the column that expounds on the sociological roots of a sport, and baseball has always been the beneficiary of every hackpiece glorifying the bucolic, elegiac nature of the National Pastime and its confrontation with the cold realities of our corrupt society.

Screw that. It's a game that's played for our entertainment, to the pecuniary benefit of a few. Great athletes bend the rules, sometimes illegally, but always for the purpose of obtaining a competitive advantage; to that extent, stretching the envelope is what separates the star from the journeyman. I am no more shocked that so many of the game's stars were on the "Juice," the "Cream" and/or the "Clear" than I am at finding out that the models in the Victoria's Secret catalogue have all had plastic surgery, mostly performed during their teen years, in order to create an ideal "look" that's entirely unnatural for women. I wouldn't inject steroids or HGH into my body for a million dollars (or, at least not without the supervision of a licensed physician), but I really don't care if another adult makes a different decision, and I will no more hesitate to follow a sport than I suspect a woman would hesitate to purchase a camisole because Giselle has fake boobs.

Of course, if the overlords of the sport don't wish for the game to become a spectacle of angry, musclebound sluggers with receding hairlines and shrinking genitalia, they are more than free to impose whatever punishments they can for such transgressions, and negotiate with the Players Union any tests through the collective bargaining mechanism. I have zero sympathy for any of the active players exposed this week, all of whom had a chance to refute the charges, but decided to stonewall the investigators instead. They have a Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, and I have a First Amendment right as a citizen to draw whatever conclusions I want from said silence. If, like Roger Clemens, they feel aggrieved that their good names have been slandered, well, to quote the wee lad Will Poulter from School of Comedy, "croi me a forking river !!!"

But don't ask to me feel ashamed that I felt electrified every time Eric Gagne came into the game for the Dodgers in the middle of this decade. As far as I'm concerned, performance-enhancing drugs in the context of team sports are no different than college athletes receiving under-the-table payments from boosters, or immigrants crossing over the border without a visa to feed their families. If you get caught, you should pay the penalty, but I'm not going to lose a minute of sleep over it. [link via Matt Welch]

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