Thursday, March 16, 2006

Let Barry (Bonds) be?

In postscript to our discussion of self--what it is, how much you can change it and still be you, etc.--I offer my take on Barry Bonds, from today's Los Angeles Times. As many of you will know, Barry's critics say, and evidence in a hot new book seems to confirm, that his pursuit of baseball's immortal home run records has been drenched in massive amounts of steroids. I offer this column with no further comment except, again, to invite your own comments, yea or nay, in this blog.

Regardless of one's feelings on steroids (if you have any) or baseball (ditto) or "cheating to win" (I could write another whole essay about the all-too-convenient distinctions we draw there), the irony is irresistible, isn't it? Amid the endless sturm and drung about so-called self-help--much of which is just a lot of talk, and has no transformational effect whatsoever--here's a guy who really did actualize: He changed himself, somehow or another, into something different from what he used to be, and conquered worlds along the way. And what do we do? We crucify him for it.


Cal said...


Oh boy! I can't disagree with you more about Barry Bonds. He is a self-indulgent, drug abuser and most importantly a cheater. He has tarnished baseball, along with others, over the last 8-10 years, possibly more. I commented on this topic before in a recent blog and there is a big difference between Tommy John surgey and others where something is damaged, or there is an injury that needs to be fixed. Would you not fix an injury? In the case of Barry Bonds he is enhancing himself through the use of illegal drugs, and ultimately cheating and creating a huge--no pun intended--advantage over other players that are using only their God given abilities. I have terrible eyesight, I wear contacts that improve my vision, and I await the day when I can get lasik surgery. Why not?

One more thing. The influence that professional athletes have over younger generations is profound. And what he did to them is what we should ultimately be talking about. He is creating an ideal that it is alright to cheat and abuse drugs. We have heard the stories about some of these kids that have fallen into the vice of performance enhancing drugs. It is just like any other drug; illegal, destructive, debilitating and the list goes on.

Rodger Johnson said...

Per one of our most recent e-mails, and your LA Times piece, I think Bonds' or any athlete's "roit" use is sending a bad message. To address the larger portion of your argument in the LAT, the profileration of cigarettes and America's over indulgence in booze are equally bad. But that's our culture of hypocracy.

We are a people who speak one maxim and do another. The whole Bonds thing is a witch hunt, but the larger issue here is one very simple western ideal rooted in Greek, Roman and Christian heritages.

Before we start going around pulling spects of dust from our brother's eye, we might first want to remove the boulder from our own.

Whether or not surgical enhancements to the body beget a new "you", I submit that the whole metaphyical notion of "youness" is constantly in flux. It ebbs and flows, changes and evolves with and sometimes against the environment -- whether we choose to change or not. The "you" that woke up this morning is over. Behind that "you", what was sinks entirely into the past. It grows smaller, contracts as it declines, and now the end makes one with the beginning. Nothing changes and yet everytthing is different.

So Bonds "roit" doping -- if in fact he has -- or the use of bionic surgeries to enhance one's performace don't really matter. I think we all want to be something we are not -- that is -- there is some weakness that eats at us daily, and if we could change it we would. Does that make use different yes and no.

BTW: I wish I had more time to respond to your LAT piece in the marketplace of public opinion, but time's a luxury that is in short supply these days.

Steve Salerno said...

Cal--Yes, you and I have debated this before. But here's the thing that I keep coming back to: IF, in fact, one of the greatest complaints about Bonds is that his steroids have given him an unfair advantage in the pantheon of baseball's records--well, regardless of whether it's cheating or not cheating, how is TJ surgery any different in terms of the end result? You take a guy like Mariano Rivera, who had the surgery *even before* he came to the majors with the Yanks in 1995. Here's a guy who has been allowed to have an entire career--one that may well leave him regarded as the No. 1 closer of all-time, by its end--as a result of an "advantage," if you will, that was not available to his predecessors of a bygone era (and that, all evidence suggests, may actually have made him a harder thrower than he was before). Let me say that another way--and I can't emphasize this strongly enough--here's a guy who probably would never have been an MLB ballplayer in the first place, were it not for an "unnatural" surgical intervention. And now he's going to go down as one of the best of all-time.

I don't think there's any question that TJ surgery has transformed the game in ways that steroids can't even approach. So I repeat--if the argument, again, comes back to the so-called "level playing field"--then all surgical advances should be banned as well. Right? And TJS is just one small example of how today's game is radically different. Remember, I'm not arguing the ethics of it here; we'll leave that for another day. I'm merely arguing the practical effect, which is that modern technology (of whatever nature) gives today's players TREMENDOUS advantages over their predecessors anyway--so why single out Barry? Even if you want to say he's a schmuck--so what? Heck, if we're going to invoke *that* standard, you'd have to kick half the guys in the HOF out of Cooperstown...