Tuesday, August 14, 2007

When a Simple Comment Becomes a Full Blown Rant

I was cruising the blogosphere, as I am known to do from time to time, and came across Bigun's post. I began to leave a simple comment but then it became a full blown rant, which in turn became this post. I think about this kind of stuff all the time, seriously…all the friggin' time and it is rarely limited to the world of sports so I rarely put it out there because, well, frankly I think it comes across poorly when you are constantly engaging in philosophical debate on a triathlon blog, Like Excel Man said, "train, race, repeat"…the advice is as timeless and as sound as "Chop wood, Carry Water."

However, given the opening…I'm going there post haste and so here goes.

Prescribed medications at therapeutic levels for the purpose of treating legitimate medical problems tend only to have the effect of treating the problem. Of course I think that anyone who has a medical need should be treated for that need and not penalized.

There are also a number of caveats. First off I don't think aging should be considered a disease as seemed to be indicated in the slowtwitch article…and yes there are medical specialists who do treat aging as a disease and treatment is exceptionally expensive. To go along with the aging I don't think that aging athlete's abilities should be propped up by performance enhancing drugs so that they can continue to compete with younger athletes. Accumulated injury is aging and decreasing ability to recover from injury is also aging.

Why not split pros into age groupings if folks are genuinely interested in allowing aging pros to continue to compete on a level playing field and to play clean? There could be much larger age groups that are based on actual human development, say 18 to 34, 35 to 44, 45 to 54 and then retire or keep adding depending on the size of the pool of athletes who turn out to continue to compete. I mean lets face it, it isn't like endorsements and sponsorships will go away for these older athletes with the aging population and with all us middle aged athletes out there.

Now there's a picture, Greg LeMond leading team Geritol in the grand masters TDF! So…who leads team Depends?

As far as the current situation in sports like cycling and how we can keep it out of triathlon…to some degree I don't thing we can keep it out if the stakes continue to rise. To keep the sport clean requires more than testing protocols it takes a full out grass roots movement on the part of those who make the sport popular and therefore lucrative to demand integrity. If we do not get integrity then there must be a collective turning of our backs on the professional tier of the sport.

That is the point at which I lose hope for the future of sports with integrity. Just look at more main stream professional sports like basketball, baseball and football sports. I'm not saying that they are all dirty though I'm sure many are dirty. However of me it goes well beyond performance enhancing drug use it goes to true character. When you have professional athletes walking around acting like thugs, spouting racist remarks, whining about pay etc… you have a system that twists the development of the character of our youth and therefore our society.

I turned my back on professional sports a long time ago because they did not reflect the values that I hold. I am not saying that there are no good people in professional athletics, I believe there are but in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King "We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people" and in my humble opinion there is far too appalling a silence within the world of professional sports.

On, and just in case someone wants to take issue with pros complaining about pay with the rejoinder, "so then the owners should get it all?" I answer emphatically No! Here's my belief; the money generated by the pro sports industry…many hugely lucrative industries for that matter, should go towards the advancement and benefit of society in general.

Yes, pro athletes can have very short careers because of injury and they do provide valuable entertainment to the public so their compensation should be commensurate but, for instance, think of all the youth athletics, nutrition and fitness programs that could be funded with all that money. There would be no such thing as an obesity epidemic, no growing childhood type two diabetes and just as another of the many positive outcomes, there would be many fewer women living in abusive relationships. Yes it's true; no single factor predicts a woman's willingness to leave an abusive relationship than her participating in athletics as a girl.

I wish I could take credit for the following comment but I can not and can not even recall the source but when I was in an undergraduate honors seminar on American popular culture abroad there was a book that we read and somewhere in that book was a statement to the effect: "After World War II the United States had more money and more leisure time than any other country in human history. We had the opportunity to build a civilization but instead we built an economy."

And so now we bemoan our false heroes, our failed leaders and our fragmented society. To quote the Roman poet Juvenal "Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions - everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses"

We do have the power to change society and certainly to keep our sport clean or mostly clean but it will take the community as a whole to shun those who would cheapen our sport, a collective back turning but then of course we would have to give up our bread and circuses.

Finally, I recognize that not everyone is a crusader and I fall short plenty of the time but that's the beauty of a Democracy and democratic processes...they only require that most people are trying to do the right thing most of the time. Nothing dramatic just try, just act one day at a time.

Thank you for this opportunity to rant. A parting quote again from MLK:

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.

…and now on to IMKY and other things triathlon.


  1. sometimes it's good to stir the pot up a bit....

  2. Thanks for that post SB. Philosophise all you like

  3. For what it's worth..I'm clean and because I have grown to really enjoy the sport, I will stay clean. I will do my part.

    Nice post.

  4. Excellent, could not agree with you more.

  5. I appreciated and enjoyed your well thought out post.

    I must, however, disagree with your thoughts on pay. Sports is entertainment, pure and simple, and economics drive prices. For that very reason major sports stars earn piles of money, like movie stars and rock and roll stars.

    Would you also suggest that Tom Cruise give up a portion of his money (Matt Damon was paid $26 million for his most recent movie)? How about the Rolling Stones - should their income be diverted? Or the leaders of corporations - what about them?

    How about Katie Couric and her millions?

    I believe these people are often underpaid if one runs the numbers. When Couric was on the Today show she made $10-15 million a year and the show cleared $50 - 60 million a year in profits. In that case she could make a good argument that she was underpaid, and I would agree.

    Before that pay is calculated the revenue must justify the pay, even if those numbers have more zeros in them then I can comprehend.

  6. It's really hard to a number on fair when it comes to profits and pay. As a RV salesman, I made 21% commission on the profit made on the sale. 21% of $50 mil is $10.5 - she made plenty as far as I'm concerned.

    I'm not sure athlete's salaries are bloated - but I do think it's too expensive to go see most professional sports at the stadium, probably a side effect of player's saleries.

  7. It doesn't matter what someones salary is. Really.

    Until en masse the public stops being charged huge prices for tickets and merchandise and food at stadiums, and it keeps going up, athletes will continue to make mad money.

    I don't look at mainstream athletes or really even fringe athletes as role models. Their not.

    But the money is there in a capitalistic environment for them to make it. Like it or not the salaries will only get bigger.

    I have never believed in the 'short career' window mentality. As an infantry officer I had a life expectancy less that a pre-season let alone a regular season of most sports and I never made more money.

    I wish teachers made more money, but because they are dependant on government funding they will always be underpaid.

    Great rant and lots of good comments.