December 04, 2004

What's All This Asterix Talk?

A defense of substance abuse, please note, should not be the first thing one writes in the morning. But I've been reading the commentary on Barry Bonds' steroid use, and it seems that every pundit out there wants to take his records away, or put an asterix by then, or simply consign them to oblivion. Not only do they want to do this, but they see it as the obvious thing to do.


Not one sports pundit has offered any sort of reason why steroid use, in itself, would taint someone's records. One objection might be that it's "unnatural". But players these days do all sorts of unnatural things to their bodies. Had Bonds really been rubbing arthritic cream on his skin, and not steroids, he would have still enjoyed an "unnatural" advantage far beyond what Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron ever had.

Another objection is that steroids are illegal. But they're illegal for the same reason crack cocaine is illegal: the state is trying to prevent harm to the user and others. Not because they bestow "unfair" advantages in breaking records. No one put an asterix by Daryl Strawberry's numbers for skitzing on crack. What's the difference, morally? So Bonds is willing to accept bodily harm later in life for sportsly glory now. Isn't this what every single professional athlete in known existence does? Isn't that the point?

The only compelling objection is that Bonds broke the rules, and baseball exists only insofar as it's a bunch of rules strung together for some fan-pleasing purpose. Fair enough, though according to this story the league didn't even start testing for steroids until last season. At most, then, Bonds should get an asterix for that one season, and then be forced to retire -- for the awful example he's set for future generations of young children. (I mean, asterix or no, what will we tell the children?)
-- Brad Plumer 1:52 PM || ||