Sunday, August 19, 2007

A couple of sporting thoughts

One: on a scale of relative outrage, I think that the Michael Vick thing so far outpaces the Barry Bonds steroids thing that they're not even remotely in the same reality. One guy takes drugs to give him some extra ability on the field. The other kills dogs because he thinks it's fun to kill dogs. Bonds: jerk. Vick: depraved, disgusting individual.

Two: good article here on the NFL's lunatic approach to rookie salaries. I hate this business of rookies, who have never played a single down in the NFL, holding out because they deserve more money, and I hate that this has made having the top pick in the draft a less attractive thing than it should be because the team with the top pick is saddled with a massive salary for that player before they ever make the pick. Rookie salaries should be capped, and capped hard. (Now, since the average NFL career is quite a lot shorter than that of other sports, I'd compensate by making rookies free agents a lot sooner -- maybe their second or third years. That way, they can cash in with big contracts sooner, and run less of a risk of getting hurt before their initial rookie deal is up.)


Anonymous said...

You've said before that you don't care about the steroid scandals much, and I wanted to comment then...

I think you're wrong. I think it's actually worse than the dog fighting.

Why? Because if you tolerate steroids in professional sports, you're effectively *mandating* them. In order to compete with a guy on steroids, all the other guys have no choice but to take them too. After a few years, this starts to do permanent damage.


"Some effects of anabolic steroid abuse are permanent and fatal. Major effects of abusing anabolic steroids include:

1. Liver tumors
2. Kidney tumors
3. Jaundice
4. Fluid retention
5. High blood pressure
6. Increases in LDL (bad cholesterol)
7. Decreases in HDL (good cholesterol)
8. Severe acne
9. Trembling
10. Enlarged facial bones
11. Stunted height
12. Nausea
13. Vomiting
14. Diarrhea
15. Bone pain
16. Muscle cramps
17. Blood clotting difficulties

For men:
1. Shrinking of testicles
2. Reduce sperm count
3. Infertility
4. Pattern baldness
5. Development of breasts
6. Increased risk of prostate cancer

Psychological Effects of Anabolic Steroid Use

1. Depression
2. Irritability
3. Inability to concentrate
4. Forgetfulness
5. Lack of interest or energy for everyday life
6. Aggressive, violent behavior
7. Paranoia
8. Manic episodes

That's what you're condemning a lot of eighteen year old minor leaguers to if you tolerate Barry Bonds' cheating.


Kelly Sedinger said...

Well, let's be careful here. I never said that I tolerate doping and steroid use, and I have no problem with sporting organizations legislating against their use, testing, and all that. With regards to Bonds specifically, I think it's disingenuous (not on your part, but in the overall narrative that's taking shape) to not admit that the problem was much more widespread in baseball than just the biggest-named of the sluggers. I'm not in favor of simply allowing steroid use or tolerating it. (I think there are parallel issues here to the NFL's reticence in assisting former players who suffer tremendous health problems in later life due to all those knocks in the head they take.)

However, when an athlete takes steroids, the only person the athlete is harming is themselves. Vick is intentionally torturing and killing other beings because he finds it enjoyable. On a moral scale, that to me far outstrips steroid use. (And early indications imply that Vick's not the only one who's into dog-fighting.)

Anonymous said...

But my point is that steroid taking athletes *aren't* just hurting themselves, they're hurting all the guys who have no choice but to do the same in order to compete.


Kelly Sedinger said...

That's why the sports need to take up policies, as I mentioned. It's only a problem if you allow steroid use to become that widespread that it is necessary to compete. I'm not arguing that that should be the case.

(Besides, I'm not sure that's totally the case anyway. For all of Bonds's obvious steroid use, the man has no championships to his name. All he has is a record.)

But the impulse to doping and steroid use is, at least, understandable: competition. The impulse to forcing dogs to do battle to the death, and then killing the victors anyway? There's no understandable motive there.

Bill said...

There is also the argument that the use of performance enhancing drugs encourages school age athletes to get on the dope train-- there is a trickle down effect, in other words. I haven't seen any studies on the question, but it makes sense to assume that the use of these substances is much more widespread than we think-- the market for elite athletes isn't big enough, just like the market for recreational drugs is bigger than just rock bands.

On the cap question, it always surprises me that the most common default for sports fans is to side with management. I would have less of a problem with your rookie cap proposal if NFL salaries were guaranteed. As it is set up now the major portion of the risk is on the player, and the player is the party that is least able to afford it.

Roger Owen Green said...

For the sake of the argument, I'd state that people who take steroids encourage others to take steroids. And people who do violent acts to animals encourage others to commit violent acts against animals. Both are problematic, in that the steroids can lead to violent behavior, but I'll contend that the violent behavior already involved in dog fighting can lead to a psychopathic attraction to greater violence.

In an either/or argument (which is a straw man in this conversation), I'd prefer the steroids.)

Anonymous said...

Both are unacceptable.

You're also missing the fact that even if pro baseball (and other pro sports) implement the perfect testing/banning guidelines for PED use, high schools, summer rec leagues, and collegiate athletics are not necessarily able to implement those same measures.

I am not the most informed on the Vick dog-fighting deal, but others had been (more?) involved than Vick, who is most guilty of owning the premises. The dogs involved were usually pit bulls, which are not acceptable pets in a growing number of communitites.

I also see a small but clear distinction in my mind between arranging for uber-aggressive dogs to fight each other and actually influencing harm on other human beings. I'm a little shocked that DUI guys like Leonard Little (whose drunken driving actually resulted in the death of another human being) are allowed to continue their NFL careers, but dog-fighting is a career-ending dealbreaker.

Does anyone else wonder if the Falcons were eager to void Vick's incredibly heavy contract anyway? Could a plea bargain represent Vick's shortest road to resuming his NFL career, regardless of guilt or innocence? I'm only speculating here, not making excuses. If he was directly involved, then he is a dispicable character who should be fined, suspended, and punished. Dog-fighting is horrible, but so is a drunken millionaire killing someone while driving drunk instead of paying for a cab.

The NFL absolutely needs to re-examine all of its punitive measures across the board to ensure due process and reasonable (rather than excessive) weight to all violations.


Kelly Sedinger said...

Well, it seems clear that Vick wasn't just "arranging for" the animals to harm each other, but that he was actually harming them. He didn't just plead guilty to only those things he did.

With steroids, though, no matter how much competition and peer pressure are brought to bear, there will still always be culpability on the part of the athletes who take them. Barry Bonds will never be 100 percent to blame for anyone who follows in his footsteps and takes steroids. Michael Vick, however, is completely responsible for the dogs he's forced to fight and killed. And let's not forget the fact that excessive cruelty to animals is almost always an expression of a person's much more violent nature.

As for DUI: not really sure that's the same kind of thing, unless someone has a repeat pattern of committing DUI. I think that there have to be distinctions to be made between conscious decisions to act despicably and, well, really bad errors of judgment.