Sunday, January 27, 2008

Baseball, Steriods, and What it means to us

In case you haven’t noticed, my blogs are often written a month before I actually publish them to my web site. This gives me the time to revise as I see things differently, given my observations and experiences. In this instance, the Mitchell Report, I can look back on it with a clearer mind, free of the hype and the newness of the topic. It gives me the opportunity to look at it more objectively and with less emotion.

I’m far from shocked by the findings of this report. We all know that there is a cancerous amount of performance drug use in Baseball. It’s been around for more than 20 years now. How some of us have reacted to it says a lot about us. For a while, many of us simply ignored it and gleefully watched Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds’ bodies explode in size and turn doubles into home runs. Sports are a form of entertainment at their root. They are an escape from real life for a few hours.

Special people inhabit sports: Athletes who can do what the majority of us can only dream about. They have talents that are superhuman and its part of the escape. In that regard, its easy to see why we overlook the steroid use. It’s part of the façade. This is an arena populated by special people doing special things. It’s only natural that they have a special body to do these things with.

The trouble is there is a dirty reality that ends up hurting us. These people make up what people consider the physical ideal. This inevitably sends the message that steroid use is fine. Most of us know otherwise but in our minds, we have a hard time separating a steroid ideal from a natural one. They have been around for so long now and in so many minds, that’s what it takes to look and be strong.

Ultimately though, it also says something else about us. We see strength, health, and athleticism as things that you get from drugs. So, what we end up with is a culture driven to a look that will ultimately kill us should we try to achieve it. Nobody needs reminding about the side effects of steroids. What often escapes the glare of the public eye is the steroid abusers are dropping dead well short of the average human’s life expectancy. A half a century ago, the bodybuilders routinely outlived the average human. Our image of what it takes to be strong doesn’t bring us into line with what it takes to be healthy anymore.

That cuts into one of the cornerstone principles of the fitness movement since its infancy. The whole idea behind getting into shape was to become a healthier and stronger person. The early pioneers didn’t see these as separate endeavors. After all, what good is having one without the other? They are two traits of the physical ideal that demand balance. We need to remember that and realize that the physical ideal today doesn’t do this. Once we do that then we can move forward with any kind of worthwhile solution.

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