Archive for March, 2005

March 13, 2005: 9:22 am: Baseball

What’s wrong with the steroid controversy

Steroids are cheating! Steroids are wrong! They hurt the integrity of the game and call records into question! All of those statements are wrong to a great extent. There is only one real legitimate objection to steroid use in sports, in my opinion. First, let’s look at the false beliefs that are clouding the issue, and frankly, preventing a solution.

Steroids are cheating

The common argument against steroids is that they giv eplayers an unfair advantage. But why? Checmical enhancement is often put forward as the reason. But protein shakes are also chemical enhancement and there’s no controversy over those. The protein in a protein shake comes form a lab, not from the protein tree. Players who can afford highly skileld personal trainers and training equipment definitely have an advantage on players who can’t, but no one cries foul about that. Steroids are not cheating simply because they help build up muscles. But we’ll revisit ‘cheating’ again later.

Steroids are wrong

This is just a simplistic argument. If steroids were absolutely wrong, then they wouldn’t be prescribed by hundreds of doctors for legitimate causes. There is nothing inherently wrong about steroids.

Steroids hurt the integrity of the game

Again this misses the mark. Babe Ruth never took steroids, but he also never worked out, followed a highly-tuned diet, or watched video of opposing pitchers and his own swing. He just hit 714 Home Runs in a league that didn’t allow some of the best players int he world to play because they had too much pigment in their skin. This argument has had the most exposure. Ther is one small way in whihc the integrity of the game is affected, and it’s not the one that deals with the record books. Let’s deal with that next.

Steroids are illegal
That is the only legitimate argument against steroids in any sport. They’re agains the law. They’re against the law because improperly taken, they can cause severe damage to your health. They are not against the law because they’re cheating. If steroids didn’t threaten your life, they would be as legal as protein supplements, and just as controversial. They are only cheating, insomuch as law-abiding players don’t take them, so scofflaws cna get an advantage. This is as much cheating as the guy who gets to work faster because he speeds and drives on the shoulder while you stay in proper lanes and drive the limit. The speeder is risking other lives and his own, so is arguably more of a danger to society than a steroids user. Steroids only threaten the integrity of the game insomuch as not every player has legal access. It’s not a level playing field. That argument is true.

The solution nobody wants

All the ‘solutions’ to the steroid problem involve the sports regulating themselves. No sporting league is expected to have their own police to enforce speeding rules, domestic abuse, or assault and battery. These are all offenses that players have committed that are not handled by leagues (except for possible fines), but left to law enforcement. But whenever criminal charges are brought up in relation to athletes and steroids, it’s usually in the context of granting immunity. This is fatal to the elimination of steroids in sports. If players feel they are above the law in this regard, then they will continue to find ways to avoid detection and take illegal substances. if they feared that even if they passed tests, they could be busted for sale or posession like any other citizen, then there would be a real deterrent.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not recommending police be stationed in the clubhouse necessarily, but that we need to stop focusing on the overdramtic bogus accusations of lack of integrity and cheating and focus on the criminal aspect and enforcement of that by authorities. Either that or legalize steroids.

March 6, 2005: 6:01 pm: Commentary

It occurs to me today that spam may undermine some of the principles of existentialism. Not in the personal sense, of course, which is the core of the philosophy. Spam will not extinguish existentialism. The American education system can do that just fine.

Here’s what I mean.

My interpretation of some of Sartre’s writing on the subject is that we must all choose what we think should be done in any case, even if the effects are not immediately different. He uses war as an example. Even if not protesting a war seems to have no different effect than protesting it, a man must follow his conscience. Making the choice even if it has no immediate practical effect is important.

My idea of why this makes sense is that if everyone did follwo their conscience then the percentage of people who acted that way would make a difference even if a minority.

Sartre was referring to World War II. But let’s apply the principle to the much more mundane problem of spam. If everyone in the world ignored spam, didn’t even open it and deleted it, there would be no more spam, or very little of it. Even at the low cost of sending spam, if there were no return it would be abandone.

Spam exists because the tiniest of tiny percentages open the email and an even tinier percentage respond. Although in some particular cases the percentages aren’t as small as one would hope. The cost of sending spam is so low, that even this tiny percentage is enough to make the enterprise profitable for the perpetrators.

So bringing it back ’round to exitentialism, if I make my choice not to open and answer spam, my hope would be that I and enough other people would be able to have a slowing effect on it. That is not the case. Even if 99% of all email recipients followed my principle, there would still eb spam. Nothing but full 100% response can inhibit it. So it reduces my action to one of symbolism only with not only no immediate effect but no effect at all. The only effect of not opening and answering spam is the effect of having the amount of spam I get rise at a slightly slower rate.

So my spam-reading decisions become consigned to the realm of philosophy with no practical effect at all. I realise that this may still be within the parameters of existentialism, but it is much less compelling than the example where I’d at least have an idealistic chance of stopping the war.

In the example of the war, there is a reality that if everyone who agreed with me acted as I did, there might be a chance to stop/change/start the war, whatever it is I wanted. The impracticality is getting everyone to act on their own conscience. I know there are enough people who agree with me, it’s a social change.

With spam, even if 99% agree AND act on their conscience it’s not enough. There’s someone out ther who likes spam and in a universe as large as that of email users it doesn’t have to be a big percentage to render the actions of the overwhelming mahority useless.