Drug use by athletes has hit the headlines again. This time its steroid-use in baseball. I must confess at the outset that I hate professional sports and find baseball one of the dullest sports in the world, right up there with cricket and turtle racing. But I'd like to think that my status as a disinterested outsider gives me some clarity when looking at the issue.
The continuous doping scandals should make us stop and consider what sports are supposed to be versus what they've become. Sports, after all, are a game--something people do for fun. The sporting aspect of "sports" seems to have been completely lost nowadays amidst the million-dollar salaries and exotic elixirs of performance-enhancing drugs. The typical reaction to drugs in sports has been a push for stricter testing of athletes. While this might serve as a band-aide to stop the bleeding, I think the current crisis requires an operation. Instead of limping along in the same fashion, we need to simply de-professionalize sports. Sporting games should never become the basis of professional careers. And we should never have become idle spectators. Instead of eating chips and watching steroid-enhanced millionaires run around on a flat screen, we should all get off our potato-chip-enhanced asses and play the sports ourselves. Our preoccupation with sports should be over our local teams--whether our company's baseball team will defeat the one across town.
These days, the voyeuristic nature of entertainment has hit Schwarzeneggerian proportions. We watch athletes with completely unnatural (= drug-enhanced) abilities play completely unnatural sports (like football) while the greatest exercise we get is the long walk to the fridge to grab another beer. Americans' sex-life is likewise reduced to sitting around watching impossibly proportioned silicone-enhanced women perform routines as rigid as an aerobic dance at the local Y.
Americans need to wander forth into wetspace. Turn off the boobtube. Forgo buying tickets to the Red Socks game. Toss the porn. Life is to be lived, not watched.
For info on the Balco scandal, check out the SF Chronicle article and the Slate article "Cheating Athletes." Bloggers on the issue include Batter's Box, Brother's Judd, Off Wing Opinion, and A Perfectly Cromulent Blog.