Readers in Council,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
In his major league baseball career Mark McGwire gave us a great show. Why do people care that he took steroids (“McGwire admission gets mixed reaction,” January 14, 2010)? Fairness? Yawn! Everyone adored his spectacle at the time - and adored him for giving it to us - and that is what organized athletics is mostly about. Spectacle, circus and theater. It is the fans who are inconsistent. That is why I don’t begrudge athletes the use of performance enhancers and I rue sports ruling bodies as preachy and assuming, playing with the idea of the nobility of peaceful sporting competition and the brotherhood of man. Professional sports are businesses, and that is pretty much it.
It is at times like this that sports information crosses the line from mere recreation to hard news. In fact, I want to see more drug use and an official Drug Olympics where every participant is doped up seven ways from Sunday, because I want to know the absolute limits of the human physical machine. It would be a valuable lesson for the sciences of space travel and planetary colonization, not to mention our own terrestrial evolution. I would love to see baseball sluggers hit hundreds of home runs in a single season, or javelin throwers toss their sticks a kilometer. I want to see sprinters run a hundred meters in five seconds. I hope to see power lifters hoist a couple tons straight over their heads in one heave, and swimmers habitually hold their breath under water for ten minutes.
Let’s not pretend that there is anything more commendable of sports and their players than the sheer spectacle. These are normal people, after all, and I can easily think of more admirable role models than men or women who kick, hit, or throw balls around instead of having a real job. I am completely incapable of doing what they do, but so what? I know that I regularly rant against sports, but not without reason.