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Armstrong...and the rest all chose to be supermen rather than sportsmen.
January 23, 2013 3:03 PM   Subscribe

In light of Lance Armstrong's recent admissions and the failure of the Baseball Writers' Association of America to elect a single member to the Baseball Hall of Fame this year, the New Atlantis examines the era that created people like Armstrong and Barry Bonds and what this subsequent rejection says about us, them, and the sports themselves.
posted by ZaphodB (37 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I really think the problem stems from a culture in which riding your bike became a billion-dollar industry.

or playing any games, really. I'm of the opinion that if we're gonna have pro sports, all major-leage teams should be seized by the municipalities and states whose names they use, and run for the public benefit.
posted by Jon_Evil at 3:19 PM on January 23, 2013 [19 favorites]


what this subsequent rejection says about us, them, and the sports themselves.

I think it says that fans of American pro sports would be by far the most entertained if athletes were allowed to cram as many performance-enhancing substances into their bodies as (in)humanly possible. What the demolition derby and the monster truck rally did for automobile-based sports, high-grade steroids could do for football and baseball.

In the very least, I'd start watching.
posted by item at 3:20 PM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


as if they didn't dope in the years before it was.
posted by One Thousand and One at 3:20 PM on January 23, 2013


It means the singularity was infinitely more trivial than advertised.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:23 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think this author has a very good grip on the problem. If you read the last three Armstrong threads on metafilter it is inescapable that some folks are really invested here. I think two things are tangled to pump each other up. One is the society's relation to elective drug taking, whether it's alcohol or weed or coke or speed or steroids or HGH. We send people to state prison for possession of marijuana. The second piece of goof wadded up here is our hero worship of athletes. Some people thought Lance Armstrong was like their personal savior.

One metafilter commenter in the thread before the last one nailed it when they said if you had only dead heroes they aren't going to let you down next week.
posted by bukvich at 3:33 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really think the problem stems from a culture in which riding your bike became a billion-dollar industry.

Specifically, a billion-dollar industry in which you actually cannot succeed without doping.
posted by mhoye at 3:35 PM on January 23, 2013


I don't understand why the Spandex industry is escaping scrutiny here.
posted by found missing at 3:37 PM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


That would be a stretch.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:38 PM on January 23, 2013 [17 favorites]


Well, you'd have to have balls to get yourself noticed.
posted by item at 3:39 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not that it's a billion dollar industry it's the amount of compensation (money, recognition, endorsement contracts) tied to winning. We continue to have a myth that there's some kind of pure meritocracy possible in sports despite the outrageously expensive training budgets, more and more expensive equipment, and advances in sports medicine (how much does cryotherapy cost?)
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:48 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


how much does cryotherapy cost?

A lot more since the Ashton Kutcher and Angus T. Jones incidents.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:53 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the problem stems from a culture that actually cares about people who still use their old fashioned physical bodies to do outdated things like hit balls and ride bikes. Bonds and Armstrongs chemists are the kind of people who are actually taking us into the future.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 3:54 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


how much does cryotherapy cost?

Ask the late hall of famer Ted Williams
posted by cmfletcher at 3:56 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I found this an interesting (if perhaps a little overcooked) read on Lance.
posted by never used baby shoes at 3:59 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't really understand the hate for pro sports. The athletes are talented people who have a skill people will pay to watch, just like musicians or actors. There's no reason it's wrong for sports to be a billion dollar industry if movie making is.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 4:02 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't really understand the hate for pro sports. The athletes are talented people who have a skill people will pay to watch, just like musicians or actors. There's no reason it's wrong for sports to be a billion dollar industry if movie making is.

It takes so much attention from the entertainment we are about. Its like if changes in Community cast members were national news.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:09 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's no secret that Chevy was doping.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:10 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't really understand the hate for pro sports.

I don't hate pro sports, in some ways I think NFL players are under-compensated given the high risks involved (The average salary is lower than you think when you consider all the players who never make the team or injure out in training). But when you have millions of dollars riding on the outcome of individual events surely you can see the incentive for corruption?
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:18 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is doping a problem in other nations? I know when the Olympics roll in, it's a huge concern, but the victors in the Olympics are deemed supermen.

I ask this because I came across a critique of this mentality recently in an article about electronic music, of all places. From this article analyzing the mainstream rise of EDM:

After being asked in an interview why Europe seems to be constantly ahead of the US when it comes to electronic dance music, techno legend Richie Hawtin explains that the club scene in Europe has not only a much longer tradition than it has in the States, but also complains about the mentality of the US scene: “I think music in America, and this emanates across the world, everybody wants to be a superstar. Everybody wants to actually cut themselves off from people. Everybody wants to be on a pedestal. [...] It’s a little bit disappointing how that’s happened in America. It’s really like the whole rock star, hip-hop mentality. You know, these unreachable people.”

Just as the U.S. aspires (or believes already that it is) to be exceptional, exceptionalism in America yearns to be transcendental. So I wonder if this phenomenon is fueled by the same mentality.
posted by Apocryphon at 4:20 PM on January 23, 2013 [4 favorites]



Just as the U.S. aspires (or believes already that it is) to be exceptional, exceptionalism in America yearns to be transcendental. So I wonder if this phenomenon is fueled by the same mentality.


I always want to follow people who are trancendental, redemptive figures... but I don't find that in the body. The closest we come in sport is the paralympics and the dopers, people who push their bodies BEYOND the natural limits - this points our way to a posthuman future. People tied to the pure body, like sportsmen or DJs who just want to make people dance, remind us that we are mortal.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:33 PM on January 23, 2013


There's doping all over cycling, not just in America. This is about people wanting to take every edge they need to win, which is something you find in pretty much every country.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 4:37 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the problem is not that the athletes are drugged, but they're on the wrong drugs.
If all FIFA footballers were dosed with LSD before a match, that might actually be something I'd want to watch and also something that could possibly justify those ludicrous salaries...
posted by HypotheticalWoman at 4:39 PM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


as if they didn't dope in the years before it was.

People have doped since the beginning of cycling, but were really just doping their brains rather than their bodies. Amphetamines, painkillers, etc. could change the subjective experience of fatigue, but were just a replacement for willpower - if you had enough willpower/drive/pain tolerance, you could still win races clean.

EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone - these (especially the first two) were game changers because they physically enhanced you - more blood cells meant more oxygen carrying capacity which is the crucial bottleneck for an endurance athlete - and also because they're all in your body anyway, and so were impossible to detect for a long time.
posted by kersplunk at 4:42 PM on January 23, 2013


Ooh! HypotheticalWoman just gave me an idea! Instead of banning doping outright, use a point-buy system like in White Wolf games. Like, yes, you can use GBH, but you have to play blindfolded and with no shoes.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:54 PM on January 23, 2013


http://www.hulu.com/#!watch/4090
posted by buzzman at 4:54 PM on January 23, 2013


Deadspin published Lance Armstrong's Biggest Crime Was Being a Huge Asshole, which summed up what a lot of the cycling world has thought for a long time. All the hand-wringing over doping is a stupid part of the sportswriter myopic approach--very few people care after a year or two goes by, and we all know that lots of our favorite athletes were doing it--it's the ones who were indignant and churlish about it who the public as a whole wants punished.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 5:19 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]



Well, you'd have to have balls to get yourself noticed.

posted by Danf at 5:33 PM on January 23, 2013


I have not cared enough to look deep into this controversy. But in all the time I have read about it, heard it on the radio, etc etc ad nauseum the term "doping" is used repeatedly. They never once refer to a specific performance enhancing drug. What was it? What is its effects?
posted by mediocre at 5:52 PM on January 23, 2013


The failure of the baseball writers to vote actual players into the Hall is more of a reflection on vacuous sanctimony of the writers. They've elected owners to the hall for fucks sake as if they were as saintly as the writers expect the players to be.

I get it the current crop are cheaters and I am now anti-doping but they put other known and confessed cheaters in the hall in the past. It is just the baseball hall of fame. It is isn't heaven.
posted by srboisvert at 6:06 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Did you catch the part where he says it's arguable Clemens was the top pitcher of his generation? I mean if it wasn't Clemens just who the hell would it possibly be? YOU CAN'T SAY MAYBE CLEMENS WASN'T THE BEST UNLESS YOU NAME A REPLACEMENT YOU COWARD!
posted by bukvich at 6:11 PM on January 23, 2013


bukvich: Maddux?
posted by asterix at 7:05 PM on January 23, 2013


Asterix: Seanbaby?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:10 PM on January 23, 2013


Comparing Maddux and Clemens career statistics is pretty spooky.
posted by bukvich at 7:34 PM on January 23, 2013


mediocre, the journalist in this Outside piece tries all the commonly used cycling performance drugs and reports back on their effects.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:20 PM on January 23, 2013


One of the salient points in speaking of these two sports, cycling and baseball, in particular, is that they are steeped in history (it's the 100th Tour de France this year, for instance), and that these dopers have essentially shit on the ability to tie the present state of the sport to its respective glorious past.
Granted it's a bit more than splitting hairs to suggest that the other advances in baseball wouldn't make it impossible for Babe Ruth to stand at the plate and belt a homer these days, but still no one considers a Bonds homer to be the same as a Babe homer, it's something less.
Cycling around France, or up the cobbled hills of Belgium is supposed to be for hard men, not lab rats.
I'm more a fan of cycling than baseball, but I do wish that cycling had a commissioner, and a Hall of fame with the clout that baseball's has, just to feel comfortable in knowing that Lance is now cycling's Pete Rose, if not worse.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:12 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is just depressing to keep reading doping-cycling-doping-cycling. Doping is endemic in every sport.

When Operation Puerto hit in 2006 it was reported that 200 athletes needed the help of one very special gynecologist to reach their top performance. Only 50 were cyclists. The rest were footballers and tennis players.

Now many cyclists got nailed in the BALCO case?

Cycling isn't clean, not even close. There are lots of things wrong with the way anti-doping is structured in cycling. Nonetheless, cycling is the only sport doing anything serious about curtailing doping.
posted by Chuckles at 12:24 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]




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