We argue loudly about technology in sports, not so much the consequences of our own. Why?
SAN FRANCISCO--This week, ballots went out to sportswriters across
America to select the next Baseball Hall of Fame inductees.
been controversial since nominees (who have to be
retired for five years) are now coming up for review from the
so-called Steroid Era in baseball. There are two schools of thought
about nominees who are either suspected or admitted users of
They should never be elected to the Hall of Fame because they
Vote them in because not only were they great players but the
context of their statistics will forever be associated with the
"Steroid Era," in which perhaps 75 percent of all players juiced.
I'm in camp No. 2 (for many reasons not the least of which is that
the folks who vote are the same hypocritical sportswriters who,
while shunning tainted ballplayers now, turned a blind eye to
steroid abuse for two decades).
But this kindles a larger question: Why is our consideration of the
moral/cultural consequences of all technology so haphazard?
Technology--electronic of chemical--is an unquenchable wildfire of
ideas, nurtured by nimble minds, feeding on itself the way
oxygen fuels flames.
Like the climber who responds "because it's there" to the question
"why do you climb the mountain?" engineers and chemists and other
scientists explore the mysteries of the human mind and natural world
because it's there. Innovate first; consequences later. Consumers of
the technology generally behave the same way. Consume first; figure
out the consequences later.
It seems to me that athletes should be able to use technology (even
what we consider edgy/scary technology) to their advantage; it will
always advance; it's out of the box and will never be stuffed back
in, and the chance too see a human being performs feats never before
achieved is alluring.
Dark downside The response will be: "Hey, jackass, health and safety issues
abound. You're putting a lot of people at risk."
adult (key filter here) athletes would do so
willingly, understanding and accepting the risks. How is it any
different than generations of football players staggering through
retirement because of field injuries and head trauma? Ask anyone of
them, and he'll tell you he'd do it all over again. If you're
worried about it, alter the health-care system so you sign a waiver
that says no health care for you if you use such-and-such
At some point, we will be able to build a mechanical arm with built in optical sensors that will be able to hit a homerun almost every time. Should we allow an MLB player who loses his arm to Cancer to get such an arm and then play? Also, it could be calibrated to throw from deep in the corner to one foot above the plate at about twice as fast as Roberto Clemente or Willie Mays. If so, do we allow someone who mysteriously got Flesh Eating bacteria in their arm to cut it off and replace it with such a cool little machine? Such arms might let average tennis players serve at 180 or 300 MPH.
Too bad, if the opponent or a ball boy or someone in the stands, is occasionally killed.
Might actually make tennis interesting to NASCAR fans.
My dad told me a story about a deaf linebacker that could read lips. He would get down on all fours and scamper back and forth while the other team was in the huddle so he could see the quarterback's lips. He was amazingly effective at 'guessing' where interior runs were going.
Now, let us modify our linebackers' helmet with a microphone and earplugs so they can listen in on the offense's huddle.
Clearly, you are on a slippery slope and you are gunning your engine going down hill.
I don't actually mean this to generate flames and angry responses, but to remind you that people with money can by expertise, medical, engineering and otherwise, that can change a sport into something entirely other.
I note that there are people smarter than me that can think up more clever things than I winged above.
WRT MLB: I would go back and cancel out every run scored and every RBI due to a a hit from known juicers and reset all pitchers' lifetime win-loss and ERA statistics. Certainly wipe the juicer's stats and certainly ban them from the HoF. Same as Cycling did with Lance Armstrong.
It is called Honor.
Steroids first hit in the 60s (Cortizone was used as a pain-killer/recovery agent for one year at De Matha circa 1964 until Coach Wooten realized it had allowed a player with a simple fracture to go back into a game because he felt no pain.)
Within a few years, I noticed football players at big-time high schools were getting huge. It rapidly got to where normal kids could not make those teams and players from the opponents could easily get trashed.
So, the motivation for the pre-professionals in the high schools who wanted big college scholarships and then became real professionals in the colleges taking payments and free uses of Mercedes and BMWs (backs) and Cadillacs (Linemen).
And, we all remember the East German Women(?) swimmers that destroyed a good set of American women swimmers. PBS has a good program about the health problems of the EG Swimmers.
I recall the slime ball reporters calling our swimmers crybabies when they complained that there was something wrong. So, really the sports reporters have been mostly ignoring this for 40 years. Somebody interviewed Mark Spitz at the 2008 Olympics and he detailed how athletes were using PEDs that were either not detectable or not yet banned. NBC did not run the interview. Obviously, would have hurt ratings and risked their Billion dollar event.
Assuming that many pitchers in the MLB were not doping, do you think they like having their life-time statistics were trashed by the juicers hitting about twice as many home-runs as they would have if they were honorable?
I thought that Susan Slusser's article makes some good points about the conflicting opinions that will cloud the decisions. I also don't give the HoF that much credibility or weight in my judgment of whether a player was the best among his peers during his time in MLB.
I'm also a Giants fan who is glad that the 2010 and 2012 teams won the World Series, demonstrating that it takes a whole team effort and not just one player.
The focus of this column also makes me wonder what technologies current and future ballplayers will use to try to keep an edge as their bodies wear down.
I'm reading former major leaguer Doug Glanville's book, "The Game From Where I Stand" and it's a fascinating look at MLB from about 1997-2004. It also turns out that he studied engineering in college!
If Bonds doesn't make the HoF, then nobody even remotely suspected of steroid use (everyone who played) ought to.
That said, I don't agree that we should just allow professional athletes to do steroids or other performance enhancing drugs, even though they are adults and are free to balance the risk rewards for themselves. The reason is the millions of children (including my own) who look up to professional athletes and want to emulate them (ask Dean Kamen about that). We can't allow our kids to believe that PEDs are table stakes to any chance of becoming a professional athlete.
Besides, Brian, we Giants fans no longer need Bonds' exploits to make our franchise special. We've got two championships in three years. Giants are legit now, without Bonds and (mostly) without Melky.