Friday, February 25, 2005

An Analogy

Think about this for a moment. Oh, and make sure you read this entire post, if you're going to read it at all.

Let's say you are living near an area where they are building a bridge. A very impressive bridge, one that rivals the size of the Golden Gate Bridge, modern and imposing. On the very day the bridge is being completed, you happen to have a day off and decide to check it out up close. As the work crews are finishing, the architect, crew foreman, and head engineer walk up to you.

"What do you think of it?" they ask you.

"It's beautiful," you reply.

"Do you think it'll hold up?" they ask.

Now, how would you reply to that question? The architect, foreman, and head engineer are asking you, who have no real knowledge of bridge building, if this new bridge will do its job.

I know how I would react. Something along the lines of, "How the heck should I know if it'll hold up? I don't know anything about engineering, contruction, or architecture. You're asking the wrong guy."

Would I be going too far to assume that those of you who are as ignorant as I in these fields would answer in the same, general fashion?

If this is true with my hypothetical bridge example, then why are so many people willing to give their opinions on the subject of steroids and their effect on the human body as it relates to major league baseball?

I'd make another assumption that the vast majority of the people discussing this issue do not hold degrees in either chemistry or biology, and are not major league baseball players. Yet in every discussion I've had on this topic, those who believe steroid use, without a doubt, gives players an unfair advantage -- they argue so passionately, so ardently, that one would swear they were an authority on the subject. And how much reading, how much research have they done, really? I mean, the people with degrees in those fields have gone to school for eight, ten years just to be able to study more in those fields. Eight to ten years, just so they can start learning more. Yet people are arguing facts related to these fields after, maybe, an hour or two of reading on the subject? Color me skeptical.

Don't get me wrong, I have an opinion, too. It's almost impossible not to form an opinion of some sort, as we humans are wont to do so even when we have next to no knowledge of the subject.

My opinion? Quite frankly, I believe that Bonds likely did take some sort of steroid substance, and that he probably had an idea of what it was when using it. However, I also believe it unlikely that the use of steroids could give a player a significant advantage over his competition.

My problem with Barry Bonds, if it were proven he did knowingly take steroids of some sort, would not be the consumption of the drug itself, it would be with the idea that he himself thought it would give him an advantage. Although technically, by the rules, it wouldn't have been cheating, it's close enough in my book. I'd be as hard on Bonds as many others are now.

Despite my opinion, I will not engage in crucifying Bonds without proof. The court of public opinion is against Bonds, but that is supplied mostly by the media's prosecution of him.

If you do not think the media, in general, is biased against Bonds, you are living in a cave, and really should come out and get some sunlight. How do you treat someone who's been a jerk to you for a decade? Do you still treat that person the same as day one? Of course you don't, you become biased against that person. Keeping this bias in mind, do you not think it would influence the flavor of stories about him, influence the columns written about him? Sure, Barry is still a jerk -- I've thought so for many years, personally -- but him being a jerk doesn't make him guilty of anything. Let's think here for a second. We've got Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Ken Caminiti, and Jose Canseco as suspected or known steroid users.

Um, don't you think there's liable to be a few more than that? A few more, at least, who right now are happier than a sow in a mudbath that Bonds is taking 80% of the spotlight just by himself? A few more who will now get away scott-free, because most of the nation is fixed on proving one man guilty, instead of attacking the real problem -- steroids itself.

That would be like you robbing a bank for $100,000 but the police not investigating your theft because some other guy stole 2 million dollars. That wouldn't happen in real life, would it?

Another problem I have is with the arrogance of the media, believing that simply because they ask the question, Bonds should answer, and by golly he should be polite.


If someone accused you of stealing, and asked you questions about it repeatedly over the course of months...

Wouldn't you be surly? Wouldn't you be angry? Wouldn't you have an attitude? People are using Bonds' attitude as a condemnation of his guilt, which is the most idiotic thing I've ever heard. People are at their angriest, their most combative, when accused of something they did not do, not when they're guilty.

I've written quite enough on this subject, and I've got to quit. I hope I've given you all some food for thought, though, and hope that we will all endeavor to get hard, indisputable facts before forming an unwavering opinion on how Bonds should be perceived.

For now, I believe we should be neutral. Personally, I want to see the man swing a bat, not hold press conferences.


Pops said...

Here's though to answer your analogy:

David used his sling on Goliath because it was the only edge he could get.

Achilles was dipped in a substance that made his skin impenetrable, except for his heel, where his mother held on to him.

Bullets bounce off Superman.

David Banner turns into the Incredible Hulk.

What do all these have in common? An individual trying to find something that makes him bigger, stronger, faster, safer, harder hitting, etc. etc., than the competition.

These stories are all about heroes, and we love them for their sacrifices as much as for their winning ways. Why is steroid use any different? Aren't these modern day athletes sacrificing themselves for our entertainment? for us? Doesn't that make them heroes, too? I expect they gave little thought to becoming villains when they chose to take the steroid road to superstar status.

Anonymous said...

True enough, o' father of mine, however...

The difference here would be the perception of selfish, and self-sacrificing. If the long-term effect of steroids was well-known, and well-documented to cause a multitude of health problems later in life (which many suspect), and the players were well-versed in what would likely happen to them, then I can see your angle. Taking the substance, knowing you risk your health, even your very life once your sporting career is over -- yes, that would have some nobility to it. But I'd be hard-pressed to believe these athletes believe they're sacrificing their future for the present.

pops said...

Was the late Lyle Alzado, former Denver Bronco, before your time? Not only was he involved in steroids in the 70's, he publicly carried the torch against steroid abuse right up until his death in the 80's. The information is there, ignorance is no excuse -- its a cop-out on the part of the poor, abused, down-trodden millionaire athlete. "If ya can't do the time, don't do the crime." Baretta was never more accurate, because the time is the rest of their lives.

pops said...

Did I just switch sides on you? I think so...the point I intended to make, though, was that throughout history, everybody looked for an edge, and did whatever it took to get one. And the audience knew about it. Why should we condemn these guys?

Daniel said...

Yes, daddy-o, the information is there for those with the patience to look for it, and the intelligence to let that information dictate their decision whether or not to use performance-enhancing drugs.

However, there are too few examples of Lyle Alzado's and Ken Caminiti's out there to scare the players off. The risk to the athlete's health, I believe, is still perceived to be small by the athletes themselves, and of course there are new designer steroids coming out on the market every couple of years to assuage some of those athlete's worries.

The condemnation would come from the public based on their perception of the athlete. In Bonds' case, you'd be hard pressed to find more than one person of ten who would say Bonds is not a selfish player.

If the public believes him to be selfish, then they would believe that he took steroids to help himself, not for the fans or anyone else.

It's a great argument you make, but Bonds' public image is set in concrete for the majority of Americans -- you'd have an uphill battle to get people to see that side of things, I think.