Friday, December 14, 2007

Baseball Scandal May Be Metaphor For A Dark Side Of The American Dream

By Manifesto Joe

It was explained to me long ago by a Republican lawyer ex-friend. This was an old-time high school bud whom I was taking to task for, during private political discussions, not adhering to standards of formal logic or straight-line reasoned discourse. He even admitted to me, under one-to-one "questioning," that he resorted quite regularly to logical fallacies (such as the old "either/or") while at work in the courtroom.

If you wish to be a gentleman, to play by the rules, that's your prerogative, he explained to me further. The important thing, he went on, IS TO WIN.

A subculture of jocks juicing up on steroids may at first seem to have little to do with this inclination in American culture. And I'm sure the tendency to cheat is not exclusive to ours. But this man, competing on a very different playing field, summed up what was, and is, wrong in terms of values. Many among us are competitive types who love to win. I am no exception. But shouldn't it be a meaningless, hollow victory if you've cheated to do it?

By now Americans have pretty much heard from the MSM on former Sen. George Mitchell's report about past steroid abuse in Major League Baseball. The findings were far-reaching, and should be enough to sour a lot of formerly ingenuous hero-worshipping kids on this sport for a generation, since we now know that many of the records, Cy Young Awards and MVPs of the past 20 years were likely dope-fueled.

The names include Bonds, Clemens, Giambi, Justice, Pettitte, Vaughn, and on and on. It reads like the roster for a couple of All-Star teams.

What struck me is that this seems to reflect only one dark aspect of the greater American Dream, as if a metaphor for a seamy bigger side of it.

This seemed to start happening about the same time in politics. Politics in America, admittedly, has always been a full-contact sport. In the 1988 presidential campaign, the late Lee Atwater (He of the malignant brain -- I always thought that tumor was probably benign) set a new standard of slime with the Willie Horton smears against Michael Dukakis. Then the Clinton administration wasn't spotless by any means, but it was subjected to eight years of constant harassment by people alleging everything from "the Vince Foster murder" to Clinton supposedly holding up air traffic while getting a haircut. (That turned out to be an astounding urban legend, yet many still believe it.)

Corporate behavior started growing more malefic around that time, too, and got much worse. The names on that report would include Enron, Arthur Andersen, Tyco International, Deloitte & Touche, Ernst & Young, HealthSouth, Siemens AG, etc. In other words, the All-Stars of Corporate America, caught cheating.

Then, we have American politics, Part II: a president who was essentially appointed to the job by the Supreme Court. An administration that lied our way into a war, for purposes that executives at Halliburton might be able to explain better than Bush's mouthpieces can. An administration that is robbing middle-income people while giving rich individuals lavish breaks. An administration that is covering up for torture methods and is rolling back constitutional rights. An administration that collectively smiled like a Cheshire cat while right-wing kooks "swift-boated" men like John Kerry and Max Cleland. An administration that feels quite justified in saying anything, anytime, without respect for the truth, because the important thing IS TO WIN.

The tainted baseball jocks may seem to some a metaphorical stretch, but I don't think they are. They personify a loss of basic honor, a thing that has gone tragically wrong with the American character, on all sorts of playing fields.

It is great to win. But it matters HOW, and it is of fundamental importance that America rediscovers this. Ask Barry Bonds in about 20 years -- or for that matter, Hank Aaron right now -- if they believe that the ends truly justify the means.

Postscript: I noticed that John Rocker was on the list of implicated baseball players. What Rocker needed was a performance-enhancing drug for his brain. That would have been far more valuable to him.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.


Anonymous said...

Ah, Bill Clinton's infamous haircut. I recall all the hours and hours of coverage the MSM devoted to that "story."
Meanwhile, how many people have ever heard of Laura Bush's $700 haircut?


"Meanwhile, our favorite TV nugget of the day so far came courtesy of Barbara Walters, who matter-of-factly informed viewers that Laura Bush recently had her hair done by famed New York City stylist Sally Hershberger, who charges $700 for a haircut. Just take a moment to think back to the go-go '90s, and try to imagine what the press' hysterical reaction would have been if word ever leaked out that Hillary Clinton had sat down for a $700 trim."

Unknown said...

The MSM is devoting far too much time on this. Cheating in sports, which affects a small percentage of people, is hyped up; while the shredding of our Constitution and the blatant criminality of the Bush Administration, which affects everyone, goes on without a word said.

When is enough, enough? Where is the outrage?

Manifesto Joe said...

Good point, Brother Tim. But I think the ethics problem in sports is just a microcosm of a moral problem that seems to pervade the whole of American society now. Once in a while I can't help but play Jeremiah, and this seemed like a good opportunity.

cwilcox said...

Great comment on the Hair-do, I cross posted that...She should have called John Edwards, he knows where she could have got it cut for about half the price...and we all recall how the media "wigged out" about that.
Great post Manifesto. Honor is an endangered species in our society. I never saw it coming from our generation. What ever happened to our 60's idealism?

Cranky Daze said...

Not being very interested in sports, I haven't paid a lot of attention to the steroid scandal, although I did make the connection related to cheating at baseball and the cheating in politics. I have been rather bitterly amused at the fact that rank and file Republicans think they actually won something when Bush was appointed president by the Supremes. We all lose when the country is cheated, and Junior's administration has proven that over and over.

The tragedy of this administration is that we have traded our integrity, our pride and our values for the shame of tolerating a liar as our leader.