Thursday, April 28, 2005

Baseball's Latest Competitive Advantage.

Here's the latest de-demonizing argument for why it shouldn't matter if a baseball player has been pumped with more steroids than a cow on the way to the slaughterhouse:

The Beam in Your Eye

Granted, it's written by a political correspondent, not a sportswriter, and his angle is more about the advantages of Laser Eye surgery than steroids, but it's become a more common argument why steroids don't improve hitting recently. That being: so what if steroids improve eyesight? -So does laser eye surgery and contacts.

This argument, by definition, is a red herring. Asking, "Well, why aren't contact lenses illegal? -They improve eyesight as well," only serves to distract from the many other performance enhancing benefits of steroids. If all steroids did was improve eyesight, maybe they would be legal (let's just forget about the 35 pounds of muscle that comes along with the sharpened eyesight). Besides, there are two major reasons why people point out the eyesight benefits of steroids.
  1. Primarily, because all the indomitable Barry Bonds defenders chant, "Hitting is all hand-eye coordination. Steroids can't improve that." Which sounded rational to a lot of people, but if steroids do improve eyesight, it has to contribute to hand-eye coordination (I'd say about 50%. Get it? Hand/eye? Is this microphone on?). Now the argument shifts from "Steroids don't improve eyesight." to "(Forget that my earlier statement was wrong) Contact lenses and LASIK improves eyesight as well, so how come they're not illegal?" Personally, I can't wait to see what the next mutation of this argument becomes.
  2. (I saw this happen to an announcer again while watching the Braves-Astros game the other day. Can you tell I'm unemployed?) People are incredulous to learn that a chemical can dramatically sharpen eyesight, myself included. Call it fear of technology, medicine, biochemistry, whatever. -The fact that steroids can dramatically improve something that I assumed was a god-given state like eyesight (or the breaking down thereof), without physical augmentation like contacts & laser beams, makes me wonder what other benefits inherently comes along with steroids. For instance, can it speed up reflexes and muscle responses, AKA Bat Speed? Does that sound ridiculous? -Because I was told only months ago that thinking it improves eyesight is ridiculous.
Finally, the basic reason why all this is important is that it's vital to competition. Do I really think the government should arrest people doing steroids at the gym? -Smoking pot in the park? -Dropping ecstasy at a rave? Absolutely not. But do I think a professional athlete who uses steroids to gain an advantage and thus the mountain of rewards and accolades that comes along with that success, should be tested for performance enhancing drugs? Absolutely.

Besides, the writer above points out how stupid one would have to be to buy steroids off the street and use them. But, if you're a rich professional athlete who can afford the best, undetectable drugs, under the management the best trainers money can buy, that's completely different!

Part of competitive sports, unlike the real world, is that there are rules to ensure fair competition (small market baseball teams would dispute this from an economic point of view). The student who takes Ritalin to focus and study for a test, might be ethically guilty in some people's eyes, but there's no rule in place in the class room against it. In sports, the leagues are (finally) saying, "We've determined that these substances unfairly improve performance, so to ensure competition, we're going to make them illegal." And, yeah, steroid precursors like McGwire's Andro should have been illegal when he was playing. Remember, ecstasy and cocaine were legal for years until people started to abuse them.

The only solace I take in what will undoubtedly go down as "The Steroid Era" is that McGwire, Bonds, Giambi, & Sosa, never won the World Series, although Canseco did way back when. Sure, we all had fun wondering if McGwire would break Maris's record, and if Bonds would break McGwire's, but (save for the Bonds Giant team who made it to the World Series) most of those teams were all one-trick ponies.

Now, if you had a whole team on steroids....Hhhmmm....


At 2:21 PM, Blogger Chris said...

I totally agree with you. This just another way to justify something everyone know is wrong. I got an eye injury a couple year ago, and the doc gave me steriods to put into my eye for healing purposes. But my eye didn't grow 10 lbs bigger then the other one. There is a clear difference between something that helps you see,and something that gives you a big advantage over everyone else.

At 6:19 PM, Blogger Drew said...

That would be cool if steroids made your eyes huge. Then all the juiced up players would look like Marty Feldman.


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