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The thoughts and theories of a guy who basically should have gone to bed hours ago.

I know, I know - what's the point? But look at it this way - I stayed up late writing it, but you're reading it...

Let's call ourselves even & move on, OK?


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Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Week of Milestone Homeruns


Just catching up on some blogging tonight, so for posterity sake, here are the videos for three notable homeruns, all of which took place in the space of three days:

Barry Bonds ties Hank Aaron with #755 (August 4, 2007):


Alex Rodriguez hits homerun #500 - youngest player ever to accomplish the feat (August 4, 2007):


Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron's homerun record by hitting #756 (August 7, 2007):


And because people will ask, here's my take on the steroid scandal: Baseball's obsession with statistics and records has always been misplaced. Yes, it's likely that Bonds used steroids and Aaron did not. But Bonds and Aaron also played in different sized ballparks, with bats that were made differently. Bonds had access to weight lifting equipment that Aaron did not have, as well as training facilities, rehab facilities, medical procedures, and conditioning techniques that didn't exist in the 60s and 70s. So much has changed in 33 years, that the only thing I can think of that is exactly the same between the two eras is the distance between the bases, which doesn't matter a lick when it comes to hitting homeruns.

So I don't really care who holds the record for most career homeruns. Both men have hit a lot of homeruns and will long be regarded as two of the best long ball hitters ever to play the game. What matters is this: To my knowledge, Aaron didn't cheat. I (and, apparently, no one else) can prove that Bonds cheated, but the evidence seems to suggest that he did. If it turns out that's not the case, then please put me first in line to apologize to Mr. Bonds. Until then, I can tell my 7 and 4-year old sons that Hank Aaron was a great baseball player. I'll be telling them that Bonds was a great baseball player too, but also a stupid man (they've learned in school, and at home, that people who take drugs are stupid people) and a cheater (they've also learned in school, and at home, that if you cheat, no one will want to play with you again). If I'm raising them right (and, of course, I believe that I am), then they'll grow up to understand both men's accomplishments, and hold Hank Aaron in far greater regard than Barry Bonds. That's about right, I think.

posted by Brian at 11:44 PM


4 Comments:

  • This is why I probably shouldn't have kids. I don't see steroids as cheating.

    Like you said, there's a looooooooong list of ways in which modern ballplayers get a leg up on their predecessors. Some of these involve medications and chemicals. Some of these are legal. We draw an arbitrary line between what's legal and what's not, and if you use the illegal drugs, you're cheating? But it's okay to scarf down the Beefcake 2000 and use all sorts of technology to improve your swing.

    Balderdash. Seems to me, the thing about world records is that it's impressive to know what the maximum limits of the human body are. If that human body happens to be on steroids, cocaine, peyote, or double-strength Mountain Dew, it's still a human body accomplishing these feats. Likewise, there are any number of athletes who sacrifice their health for their craft -- have a conversation with Muhammad Ali lately? -- so it seems to me that if an adult wants to choose to abuse his body to achieve a higher level of competition, more power to him. I don't see the difference between that and a day trader doing meth to keep up with the Japan market. It might be stupid, but it's not cheating -- and if it helps you to get into the history books, it's arguable whether it's stupid.

    The counter-argument, of course, is that it's not "fair", whatever that means. I think athletics are inherently unfair, seeing as how you need to be born with a certain density of fast-twitch muscle fiber just to get in the door. But if you wanted to set up an "anything goes" league and a "drug tested out the wazoo" league, that's fine by me. Just don't say that the current hypocritical situation is anything different than what it is.

    By Anonymous Jeff Porten, at 3:01 AM, August 13, 2007  


  • I think we're basically saying the same thing. Lots of things are different, and steroids are just one of them.

    What makes it cheating is not about whether or not it is fair, but about whether or not is breaks the rules. At this point, it seems as though anabolic steroids were illegal when Bonds (allegedly) took them, but that this particular substance was not on the explicit list of "things you can't take." That creates some murky legal waters, but my personal opinion is that Bonds knew he was doing something that was against the rules, and did it anyway.

    When it comes down to it, sports are entertainment, and whether a baseball player broke the rules of his baseball league is not all that important. But the primary consumer of this entertainment is (or at least should be) kids, and kids learn all sorts of lessons from watching the competition. That's especially true since their local institutions (schools, community sports) have all done their best to eliminate competition in every way possible (my kids get "participation trophies" at the end of a season, some leagues don't even keep score during the games, when they play t-ball no one is allowed to make an out, etc., etc.)

    When I talk to my kids about winners and losers, the guys who "win" by breaking the rules get tossed in the "loser" column...

    By Blogger Brian, at 9:31 AM, August 13, 2007  


  • Note to self: have kids, then have my kids hang around Brian's kids. The results should be interesting. I suspect my only child could be a bad crowd all by his lonesome.

    What makes it cheating is not about whether or not it is fair, but about whether or not is breaks the rules.

    Of course, you're technically right, but I think you also have to look at the rule in the first place. Like the man in the shades said, "Some rules can be bent, some rules can be broken." More importantly, some rules should be bent, depending on the game.

    it seems as though anabolic steroids were illegal when Bonds (allegedly) took them, but that this particular substance was not on the explicit list of "things you can't take."

    Exactly -- so here you've already implicitly admitted that not all illegal things are necessarily against the rules of the game. Seems to me that this became retroactively verboten because baseball is the game of Mom and apple pie, and Barry Bonds became a very public casualty of the war on drugs when the morality police realized they could make MLB run and hide.

    my personal opinion is that Bonds knew he was doing something that was against the rules, and did it anyway.

    Oh, sure. Seems to me that if you pop steroids without thinking twice about the morality of it, chances are you've already taken a few too many boots to the head. I'm just questioning whether all instances of "breaking the rules" fall into the category of "cheating".

    Example: in a poker game, it's cheating if I bring a hand mirror to allow me to see my neighbor's cards. On the other hand, if he flashes me his J9 offsuit on the turn so I know exactly what he's drawing to, that's against the rules for me to use the information, but it's not cheating. (In fact, most players would say that I'm an idiot if I follow those rules.)

    Thing is, you need to be a game expert to make that distinction, and I'm not an expert at baseball.

    When it comes down to it, sports are entertainment.... the primary consumer of this entertainment is (or at least should be) kids.

    I think this is where we come down to our disagreement -- I don't think of sports as entertainment. I see sports as a social way of channeling the impulses we developed while spending a quarter-million years killing each other in hand-to-hand combat, and then had only 200 years to learn how not to. Kids consume this, not as entertainment, but as socialization so they learn what to do with their own urges to, say, kill everyone in Boston and steal their women.

    Beyond that, I think athletics are important because I think the potentials and limits of the human race are important -- it's rather artificial to count the number of times a guy can hit a ball out of a park with a stick, but I'm thrilled to hear that someone can propel himself at 22.9 miles an hour, or live for 120 years, or calculate the prime factors of 1701 instantaneously. From that perspective, I think a steroid-fueled athletic achievement is no less impressive than a caffeine-fueled mathematical discovery.

    That's especially true since their local institutions (schools, community sports) have all done their best to eliminate competition in every way possible

    Yes, that's an excellent method of preparing them for the real world.

    When I talk to my kids about winners and losers, the guys who "win" by breaking the rules get tossed in the "loser" column...

    When they hit fifteen or sixteen, ship them over to Uncle Jeff so I can teach them how to play the rigged games, and how to rig the games in their own favor. The rules are different where I play.

    By Anonymous Jeff Porten, at 3:27 PM, August 16, 2007  


  • Seems to me that this became retroactively verboten because baseball is the game of Mom and apple pie, and Barry Bonds became a very public casualty of the war on drugs when the morality police realized they could make MLB run and hide.

    Actually, that's not what happened. The Olympics went through a horrible doping scandal, and began making specific substances illegal. Professional US sports all played catch up with the IOC, and baseball went more slowly than most.

    I see sports as a social way of channeling the impulses we developed while spending a quarter-million years killing each other in hand-to-hand combat, and then had only 200 years to learn how not to. Kids consume this, not as entertainment, but as socialization so they learn what to do with their own urges to, say, kill everyone in Boston and steal their women.

    You make a fair point, in that adults use sports as an outlet. Although, I could argue that outlets for agression can be defined as entertainment, but that'd be stretching it.

    With kids it's different, though. Their lives are so full of superheroes, favorite TV characters, etc. that these athletes fall right into that group. They become very much like Superman, Mickey Mouse, or Harry Potter. So when a ballplayer takes drugs, it's almost as bad as seeing Mickey walking around with a joint...

    Besides, if the only thing keeping your kids from killing everyone in Boston and stealing their women is a steady stream of baseball games to watch, you've got problems (especially in the winter!)

    By Blogger Brian, at 10:56 PM, August 16, 2007  


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