Reaching for the Stars

Friday, December 14, 2007

The release of the Mitchell report concerning steroid use in baseball essentially confirms what everyone suspected but pretended not to know. People are shocked…shocked that so many players have been implicated. Some new names have emerged, especially pitchers Roger Clemens and Andy Petitte. Still the litany of names is sobering. Furthermore, many sportswriters are saying that there are many more names not in the report but that “everyone” knows they’re doing it. And baseball isn’t even testing for Human Growth Hormone (HGH) at this point. Sports are a reflection of the culture IMHO. So, I’ll briefly ride on my hobbyhorse, namely living in the age of tantalization.

Tantalus was a wealthy king, who was not satisfied with his mortal powers and mortality. Seeking to have what the gods have, he cheats or commits crimes designed to acquire his objects of desire (Nectar and Ambrosia). In one version of the myth he even chops up his son in an attempt to make himself level with the gods. He is caught and punished by being eternally tantalized (seeing what he wants but having it hang just out of reach).

There are many forces in society tempting us toward immediate gratification, and we seem to crave a never-ending onslaught of excitements and powers. The thrills don’t necessarily last too long. So we can set off in search of the next big thing or pick-me-up. Fans liked seeing the legendary records fall or be obliterated, since it is also a thrill to “be a part of history”, even as a witness. In Tantalizing Times –now available at a big discount through Amazon :>)--- I wrote:

Steroids have been the subject of much controversy in recent years. These have tended to be used by male athletes looking to get some kind of edge. They enhance muscle mass, and guys have been able to get pumped up on them and achieve almost unreal sorts of muscle development. They are used to assist the athlete to become stronger and more powerful, in addition to assisting the athlete to develop the body of a Greek god. Questions were raised about the productivity of many athletes as records began to fall in numerous sports. Football players and baseball players have especially been tempted to swallow steroids in the hopes of obtaining athletic immortality. Curiously steroid use has potential health risks and not only enhancement potential. Considering the theme of the book, its risks are almost poetic, namely the potential for shrinking of the testicles and of impotence. Although they temporarily can help one climb to the top of the heap, excessive use could easily produce a person with many of the characteristics of premature aging and impaired capacity to reproduce. Pg. 53

Although steroids affect muscles (more than brain) my focus here lies on the prospect of opening the door for mind drugs as enhancers. The same arguments will be used. In the case of using an enhancer to get the advantage, we abandon whatever investment we have had in something like will power or determination as well as effort. If activities are made easy by intake of pharmaceuticals, then the outcome is privileged over the process and we acclimate ourselves to the notion that anything worth having is worth being acquired via a bottle or needle. In fact it clearly sets the stage for an entitlement viewpoint to reign supreme. Pg. 80


Luther McLeod said...

Hmmm, Barry. A fine ethical line you draw. Or, is it. Yes, easy enough on an individual level to reach for self aggrandizement. But... should we make the leap from there, to advances that benefit humans as a whole... say going off world, then what. Do we refuse them? And exactly how would entitlement enter into that particular tryst with the devil.

Not trying to be contentious. I think your point interesting.

Barry Dauphin said...

I wish I had great answers for your thoughtful questions. I don't believe there are easy answers, as I certainly have my own libertarian streak. And for society it can be a fine line between aggrandizement and greatness.

Sticking with the baseball analogy, I wonder if it would be such good policy to, in essence, require baseball players to take steroids in order to compete. If MLB is too carefree about this issue, it would become virtually impossible to play (at the professional level... and then what other level?) without taking (potentially unsafe) enhancements. Benefits usually have trade-offs. I am far from being anti-progress, and I don't think I'm a reactionary ninny (hope not at least). We can't know ahead of time a lot of the time what the benefit to humans as a whole would be. Can we recognize aggrandizement (should it occur) and back away, if necessary. Or do advances have a logic of their own to which resistance is futile? (I'm better at questions than answers).

Seneca the Younger said...

I wish I coud express just how uninteresting I find the whole subject.

Barry Dauphin said...

Looks like you succeeded.

Luther McLeod said...

Ha-ha... yes. Re SYT. And your response Barry. I'm still formulating a reply to you. I may have it before the post runs off the end, then again I may not.

Rick Ballard said...


Noting pitfalls along the path of the long slouch to Gomorrah will never be popular. There is simply too much tied up with too many in the sophomoric pursuit of "self realization through hedonism". I doubt that you will see any acknowledgement that the "freedoms achieved" have all the substance of a Barry Bonds record, let alone any acknowledgement that the price of folly appears to be increasing rather than decreasing.

I wonder why the principles behind Gresham's law haven't kicked in with sports? I suppose that it's possible that the "true gold" is being withheld from the market but I doubt that the opportunity to make such a determination will arise any time soon. The popularity of the Circus Maximus doesn't seem to be diminishing.

Barry Dauphin said...


It is interesting that in order to maintain genuine freedoms, one has to have self control and be willing to risk letting the chips fall where they may or instead become a slave to hedonism. Or maybe I'm becoming a fuddy duddy.

Rick Ballard said...


Why did psychology adopt figurative speech derived from the Greek mythos to describe mental disorder? Does anyone have more personal freedom than a totally delusional schizophrenic? Shoot, he's not even lonely.

Do you have to be a fuddy duddy to see anomie as a logical outcome to the extension of personal freedom without regard to negative influences on the entire community? I'm very uninterested as to the manner in which isolates choose to spend their time and effort until they damage the innocent. At that point some relflection upon the reason that elevation of the isolate above and apart from the community on the basis of "personal freedom" is denigrated within the Greek mythos is in order. Not that the fiercely independent thinkers gathered so tightly together in defense of isolation will ever acknowledge that possibility.