Thursday, July 27, 2006

WHY I WANT SPORTS TO BE CLEAN
The positive drug test on Tour de France winner Floyd landis have caused some to echo the oft-heard question of why we care if sports are clean.

The answer isn't out of some paternalistic concern for Barry Bonds or Floyd Landis. I agree that they are old enought to make decisions for themselves.

The problem is that if steroid use is widespread, then it will be seen as a requirement for entry into competitve athletics, much like year-round physical training is now. That Barry Bonds takes steroids to hit 73 home runs rather than 45 isn't a great concern to me. What is a concern is 100 major league back-ups using steroids to crack the starting line-up, and exponential increases in those numbers as we work our way down the pyramid.

What did Crash Davis say?

Know what the difference between hitting .250 and .300 is? It's 25 hits. 25 hits in 500 at bats is 50 points, okay? There's 6 months in a season, that's about 25 weeks. That means if you get just one extra flare a week - just one - a gorp... you get a groundball, you get a groundball with eyes... you get a dying quail, just one more dying quail a week... and you're in Yankee Stadium.

The difference between a .250 hitter and a .300 hitter in the major leagues is several million dollars a year. The difference between a .250 hitter and a .300 hitter in AAA is the difference between travelling in buses and motels through third-tier cities and flying in chartered jets and staying in the nicest hotels in the biggest cities in the country. Think some .250 hitter who might have a family to support might want to take that risk if they think it will get them that extra hit a week? Especially if the best major leaguers are doing it and not suffering effects?

And someone like Barry Bonds or even Floyd Landis has the resources to use steroids carefully and limit his risk. The scrappy AAA utility player wouldn't have access to these resources, and would be more desperate to take risks.

Think this is only risky because steroids are illegal? If you were the scrappy minor leaguer who got better using steroids, even if steroids were legal, would you want the organization to know that's why you've suddenly improved? Wouldn't you still want to hide your use so that the organization thought you were simply reaching your own potential?

To put things slightly darker, what's the lifestlye difference between being a high school assistant coach, head coach, or college coach? If steroids are an acceptable part of the game, might he not pressure his players to use them, to get that edge, to propel him to the next level?

I don't care so much if Barry Bonds wants to use steroids to put up historic rather than merely superstar numbers. I don't even buy the "role model" argument, since that's what parents are for. And while I probably have a vague preference for athletic competition that is not based on chemicals, that's a business problem for the league and unions.

But I don't want to get to the point where steroids are perceive as part of the price of competing in athletics at the highest level. And if steroids were legalized and de-stigmatized, I don't see how it could be otherwise.

UPDATE: Here is an example of what I'm talking about. Do you think stroids might have helped Trev Faulk recover from his surgery faster? If so, it could have been the difference between having a job in the NFL and being out of work.

The problem isn't people at the top setting ridiculous records. I'd rather they didn't, but don't feel moved to stop it. The problem is those at the margins who've devoted their life to their sport, don't know how to do anything else, but end up just short.

And there's a lot more of them than there are Barry Bondses.

Monday, July 17, 2006

RUN TO THE CATACOMBS? NOT SO FAST
Disputations and Zippy have engaged Kathy Shaidle on the question of whether it's proper for third parties to cut material from movies that they found objectionable.

I'm on the bus to prevent people from presenting edited versions of movies as the original, or not compensating the original artists, but this is where I get off the bus...


Ned Flanders type Christians have to choose. Do they want their own counterculture, with its Veggie Tales and end times video games, or do they want to be able to sample "what normal people are watching" as well? Because they can't have it both ways. Then again, I doubt they are quite clever enough to even be bothered by the contradiction.

I'm guessing most of the clientele for these bowlderized films are a certain species of anti-intellectual Protestant, whose big concerns are swearing and nudity and whose idea of high culture is Friday night football.

My objection to Titanic, on the other hand, was the morbid romanticization of the drowning deaths of 2,000 people. Probably too "deep" a concern for the average CleanFlick's customer. They should stick to their Left Behind sequels and Davey & Goliath, and leave the making of and thinking about film to the Catholics and Jews who've been at it since the beginning.

and this:

Hollywood is a leftwing cesspool of gays and crazies, interested in just one thing: making millions of dollars. They undermine my values at every opportunity and 99% of what they produce is derivative, unwatchable dross.

But -- I want to watch Titanic just like everyone else! Waaaah!

Look: you have to pick one or the other.

At this point, it would be tempting to conclude that, yes, we ought to just build our own culture and make ourselves happy with that.

But then...

Looking more at Ms. Shaidle's blog, she also has a post linking to this post about a pro-lifer who didn't know that The Onion is a parody site, and has been piled on since.

There's some current political developments that are bad news for Catholics, and it is our job to witness against them. But if we isolate ourselves and our childresn to a subculture of Veggie Tales and Left Behind, then when we go out to the larger world and debate embryonic research or marriage, the story won't be about how we defend life, it will be about how we don't even know who Tom Hanks is!

We live in a society that is eager to distract itself from the hard truths that we have to tell. If people can talk about how stupid that pro-lifer is for not catching the Seinfeld reference rather than whether abortion is killing, they'll do it. With the world as it is, having some familiarity with popular culture is part of being an effective witness.

So, I don't think our call is back to the catacombs. And if we do go back there, it damn well better be for a better reason than that we don't want to offend the artistic integrity of millionare Hollywood directors.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

WHAT DOES PRO-LIFE MEAN?
Interesting pair of posts over on MOJ discussing the proposals from Kristen Day, head Democrats for Life.

I really liked Prof. Sith's post -- it's a reminder of what we who call ourselves pro-life stand for, and why we do. We're not about maximizing the total number of living humans in the world -- we're for respecting the lives of those that are here, and building a culture (and legal structure) that shares that respect.

Which is why I side with Prof. Sith that these proposals, and other things like the 95-10 initiative are admirable, but not a reasonable (or superior) alternative to pursuing an outright ban on abortion.

The legal situation established by Roe v. Wade is bad for two reasons. One is the direct impact of a million abortions a year, the impact of which would be difficult to overstate.

But, in my opinion, more importantly, it enshrined the process of disposing of inconvenient human life as a Constitutional right. This is a major part of the Culture of Death, which continues to bear the bitter fruit of the current debates about torture, euthanasia, and embryonic research.

Things like the 95-10 initiative address the first problem, but not the second. Which is the more just society? One with current levels of abortion, but all of which were regarded as criminal acts, or one with 95% fewer abortions, but all of which were considered valid exercises of a constitutional right?

To think of it another way, what is the more just society -- one in which many acts of torture are committed, and the perpetrators are prosecuted, or one in which fewer are committed, but they are accepted?

I submit that the more just society is the one in which more affronts to human dignity are punished, but are punished and seen as violations of the society's value system.

I see how this current Administration is difficult to support for someone who takes the Gospels seriously, and I appreciate the work that Democrats for Life are doing to make the Democratic Party a viable alternative for those who respect unborn life.

But so long as the Democratic Party stands for maintaining abortion as an absolute right, regardless of how rare they would like and are working to make it become, they will not win my vote if I have the alternative of someone who would not have it so.

UPDATE: Prf. Stith has posted a reply making similar points.
ALL-STAR BREAK THOUGHTS

After taking three out of four from the Astros over the weekend, it now seems likely that the Cardinals will win the NL Central this year, or more accurately, no other team is going to seize the opportunity to win it that has been presented to them.

This matches what most commenters were saying during the Cardinals' recent tailspin, that it had exposed some flaws that would manifest themselves in the postseason if not addressed before then, but they were in no real danger of missing the playoffs.

I has inititally disagreed with this assessment, first because the Cardinals' starting pitching was falling apart, and the last two seasons' success was built on solid starting pitching. Bad starting pitching has a ripple effect on the rest of the team -- relievers have to throw more innings, get tired and more innings get pitched by the ninth, tenth and eleventh pitchers on the staff. In fact, without performing all the neccesary math, I would hypothesize that there is a very high correlation between innings pitched by a team's top three or four pitchers and winning.

I also thought that the management of teams like the Reds and the Brewers would recognize this as the one opportunity they have to win a pennant. It won't be every year that the Cardinals will not improve themselves in the off-season and their starting rotation will turn into a pumpkin. I thought their management would seize the opportunity to improve their teams and make a run at the title they haven't.

And it's curious to me why they haven't. There's been a lot of digital and wet ink spilled about the superiority of the American League this year. Several American Leagues teams (the Twins, Yankees, Blue Jays) are well behind other teams for a playoff berth, but would be leading two of the National League divisions. American League teams, particularly the Yankees and Red Sox, joined sometimes by the Orioles and last off-season by the Blue Jays, have been engaged in an arms race, while it seems like teams in the NL Central has collectively decided to give peace a chance.

It seems like this is a situtation ripe for some trades. Why should the Blue Jays spend $80 million to finish in third place without a realistic hope for first, while the Reds spend $40 million for second place when they're probably a player or two away from first? Seems to me like an inefficient value of resources -- incremental wins right now are more valuable to the Reds or Brewers than they are to the Blue Jays or Twins. So why shouldn't the AL teams trade some of their veteran talent to the NL teams on the cusp of contending for some prospects and salary space?