Tuesday, March 02, 2004

One subject we had no plans to comment on was the Mel Gibson Jesus movie. (Full disclosure: I am an agnostic from a Protestant family.) Here, however, is an article from National Review on the Jesus movie and the novel The Da Vinci Code. You might want to check it out.

Here's one for you sports fans. Sports Illustrated has on their site (I can't figure how to link it--click here for SI and then look at the lower left part of your screen where it says "MLB Photo Gallery: Sizing up the sluggers from SI photos, then and now." Viewers are then treated to "before and after" photos of power hitters Bret Boone, Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, and Sammy Sosa, one from several years ago early in their careers and one recent. Now, SI doesn't say they're on steroids. They just post the photos. And, to my knowledge, taking steroids is not now against the rules of baseball, though I have a feeling that it's going to be very soon.

However, the breaking baseball news is that Bonds, Giambi, and Sheffield have just been nailed. Federal investigators have announced that these three players bought steroids. Does this matter? Not in the global scheme of things, but sports are one of the most popular forms of mass entertainment, and the main illusion that fans have is that it really DOES matter whether Barca or Real Madrid comes in first when, of course, it doesn't.

Do players take drugs? Sure they do. It's the market at work. If you make the fans happy by hitting lots of home runs and helping your team win, then the fans love you, every team wants you, and you can sign a multimillion-dollar contract. If you take steroids, your muscles are much bigger, you're much stronger, and you can hit the ball much harder. Now, you have to know how to hit in the first place; steroids aren't going to help you if you can't hit the curveball. but steroids can be the difference between a guy who earns a million bucks a year and a guy who earns eight million.

Health problems? Forget it. These guys are young men with a young men's attitude about their health--party now and don't even think about later. Steroids don't seem to have done these guys any damage yet, as far as we know, and the immediate payoff--take roids, and fame and fortune can be yours now--is enormous compared to the cost--you might die five or ten years earlier, we don't know.

How do you stop it? Very simple. Random mandatory drug testing. If the players don't like it, they can look for a job somewhere else. Part of the payback for those enormous salaries, and I do mean enormous--the highest-paid baseball player, Alex Rodriguez, earns more than $25 million a year, star players get $5-10 million, and in my little town, Kansas City, there are several players (Beltran, Sweeney, Gonzalez, Santiago, maybe Randa) making well more than $2 million a year--is that you have to give up this part of your privacy in order to maintain the fans' illusions. See, if we pretend that sports are really important, then we have to treat them like they are, and one thing we don't allow is any sort of cheating or unfair advantage.

How about Spain? Well, in the last Winter Olympics Spain bought itself a German cross-country skier, Johann Muehlegg, to win us some medals. Muehlegg came through; he won golds in all three cross-country races. Then it hit the fan. He tested positive after the third victory and was disqualified; they've just gotten around to stripping him of the other two medals.

Soccer? Yeah, almost certainly. The Barca admits using creatine as a "nutritional supplement" for its players. That's probably better than what Maradona used to take before games (and at most other times) when he was playing here.

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