Marolt: I don’t care about drugs in sports
If I didn’t care, it wouldn’t matter. Obviously, the problem is that this is easy to see when you don’t care but almost impossible to observe when you do.
The cure to the problem of performance-enhancing drug use in sports is me not caring. I don’t care what the rest of you do. Get worked up about it if you like. It only makes the problem worse.
Ironically, the more we care about stopping drug use in sports, the more advanced methods we develop in order to catch cheats, the stiffer the penalties we dole out to those who are proved guilty of trying to one-up the competition by illicit means, and the more it demonstrates exactly how incredibly important sports are to us, which, in turn, leads to even more cheating as the rewards for success increase proportionately to what we have invested in the games.
I am not naive enough to believe that I can change the world by not caring. We could all care less, and athletes still would try to get an edge on the competition any way they can, legally or illegally, even if there was no money or fame to be gained by doing it. It is the nature of games. Anybody who has played Monopoly on Family Night knows this is true.
Sometimes cheating is amusing, as when Gaylord Perry invented way after way to get away with throwing his spit balls, all the while frustrating opposing players and taunting umpires, or appalling, as when Lance Armstrong lied about his serial drug use while malignantly ruining the reputations and careers of those inside his sport who knew and told the truth about him. It’s all cheating, and I no longer care.
But many would say that the problem of cheating in sports is more important than simply how I perceive it. After all, drug abuse for athletic improvement sets a terrible example for kids. We have their health to worry about. Sports heroes need to accept the responsibility of their positions and lead everyone in the right direction. I agree with this. But when they don’t, as they most often won’t, there are heroes within the children’s own families who can step up to the plate, so to speak. How do parents override the incredible influence of star power on their kids? By not succumbing to it themselves. I’m telling you, it’s time to stop caring.
This doesn’t mean that I’m going to turn of the flat screen, delete the SportsCenter app or quit looking forward to the few nights every summer when I pack up the troops and head to Denver to take in a game at Coors Field. It doesn’t even mean that I’m going to stop comparing statistics or keeping track of who’s on first. What it means is that I am committed to keeping in mind that sports are solely for entertainment value at the professional level and entirely for health and happiness for the amateurs. And, since we amateurs comprise a far larger and, for the most part, are a more honest group than the pros, this is where I will place my emphasis.
Ryan Braun hitting a home run that travels more than 400 feet is an incredible thing. The fact that he can do this more than 30 times a season makes it more incredible. Yet incredible does not equal important, or at least it shouldn’t. Making the two terms synonymous is our greatest mistake as sports fans. The entertainment value in following sports is observing the process of outcomes that cannot be predicted consistently. It’s fun. That’s all it should be.
We know that major league shortstops are not better people than we are. We know that NFL quarterbacks are not happier. We are convinced that top prospects entering the NBA after their junior years of college do not live lives without problems. The evidence is overwhelming that young, immensely talented, suddenly wealthy and famous young athletes more often than not end up being citizens that nobody would respect if it weren’t for their frequent appearances on highlight reels and the world-championship rings they display so gaudily on their fingers. This should be embarrassing — not because of the foolishness, arrogance and greed it brings out in the athletes but because it is the incontrovertible evidence of what we care about.
We have to get back to the mindset that sports can be an incredibly positive thing in our lives the less we care about them. Labor disputes and lockouts — who cares? Arbitration and training camp holdouts — who cares? World championships — they are fun for a moment, but who really cares? Performance-enhancing drugs — who cares?
Roger Marolt thinks sports performances have become too unbelievable to be incredible. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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