Thesis is coming along, slower than I’d like, but progress is progress. Meantime, I’m getting into Shabbat mode which means I can ignore things for at least one day It’s a shame I’m too behind to weigh in on the Rubashkin’s scandal, but I’m sure other people are taking care of it. If you’re interested, you can listen to an interview with new OU President Stephen Savitsky and Rabbi Weinreb.
Next up is the whole Barry Bonds taking steroids (“unknowingly” of course). Yeah, everyone seems to be talking about it as well, and not surprisingly, everyone is missing the real point.
Why is it so important if Bonds – or anyone else – took steroids? The simple answer is steriods violate “the integrity of the game.” The logic is that when players take these illegal steroids, they give themselves an unfair advantage over the other players. This of course shatters the romantic illusion of legitimate athletic competition. In addition to the player’s tainting their own acheivements, the entire institution of sport is now called into question.
This spirit of competitiveness cannot simply be dismissed. Sports can unify communities, but only through the drama of succeeding against all odds. We like replaying the myths of the weak beating the strong because it reminds us that we can suceed against adversities if we try hard enough.1
The problem is that this message can be found almost anywhere in society. For some trite examples from Bruce Almighty, “a single mom who works two full-time jobs, and still finds the time to pick up her kid at soccer practice, that’s a miracle. A teenager that says “no” to drugs and “yes” to an education, that’s a miracle.”
However, unlike the mother or teenager whose struggles produce something, sports cannot claim any instrinsic value. What does it really give back to society? Does it give kids something to shoot for? Unquestionably. Does it help pull people off of the streets? Yes. But so can other things as well. Sports offers the millions of contracts and the attitude that if you’re rich you can get away anything including murder.
Once the myth of competition is tarnished, there really isn’t anything left.
It’s also why people are so up in arms about Barry Bonds, arguably the “best” player of his generation. Suddenly, he has nothing left. All his accomplishments are fraudulant. He might have donated some of his millions, but who really cares about that? He’s known for his stats, not for being a hummanitarian. Like most athletes, his only lasting legacy was on the field.
Without his numbers, Bond’s legacy might as well be buried undreneath it.
1. Or have divine assistance.