Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Is Capitalism Self-Destructive: Barry Bonds & Bud Selig Edition

Almost everything can be self-destructive, and that's just the truth of the way the world works. It applies even to good things. For example, I am curious about a great many things and I love to learn, and right now I'm highly motivated for the first time in years. All of that has coupled together in a way that has been very enjoyable and that I have been very enthusiastic about.

However, there is a downside, and that is I have gotten on average about 4 hours of sleep a night for the last 2 weeks. I need to rein it in to make sure I'm getting a good 7 hours or so at least 5 times a week. Is being curious self-destructive? Is a desire to learn self-destructive? Is being highly motivated self-destructive? You wouldn't think so and you'd think it's a preposterous notion to suggest such a thing probably. But it isn't completely preposterous.

If I keep on my current path and then wind up developing some illness as a result of wearing myself out: it's self-destructive. It's definitely on me to rein it in and balance very good attributes (curiosity, desire to learn and motivation) against my overall health. When you don't balance something against "overall health", it's self-destructive, no matter what it is.

It is the same for capitalism. Is capitalism in and of itself self-destructive? I don't think it is, not any more than I think being curious is. But when it runs unbalanced and unchecked against things we really value – say "overall health", it's problematic.

We don't love our nature. Human nature that is, and I think Oscar Wilde said it best when he said, "If you want to tell the truth make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you". Please don't kill me though: our nature is, that sometimes when the stakes are very high, or perceived to be so, there is a very strong propensity to lie.

That we don't LIKE that this is the way that it is seems to be as much of a problem as the lying itself. Because that it's hard for us to say, "yeah, the base condition is that in situations like that, people lie, whether it's the president, Barry Bonds or Bud Selig." That we can't easily admit (and me either by the way) this is the way it is produces much of the hypocrisy. Sometimes I think it's our lack of fortitude for dealing with, accepting and talking about our human nature that can produce situations like what has happened with performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball.

Because we don't want to deal with the truth:

  1. We loved the home runs and the ticket sales show that
  2. The incentive to cheat by the players was very high because better performance means a much bigger contract. Can you say Jason Giambi?
  3. The incentive by management to look the other way was very high (see #1)

The truth, the real truth – and I couldn't find a way to make it funny, so please don't shoot me is that almost everyone has a role. The fans, the players and the ownership/management, we all participated in this. That most of the fans don't want to admit that is as big of a part of the problem as anything else.

I believe that if you could blood test any random sample of 10 players, 5 position players, and 5 pitchers, at least half would test positive for Human Growth Hormone. If what Bud Selig is REALLY doing is trying to press the union (MLBPA) to allow blood tests into the collective bargaining agreement: this I would support strongly and I would give such testing the benefit of the doubt. But the problem is: my eyes. The MLBPA's resitance to just saying "we hate cheating and we want to fix it, so bloood tests!", is real resistance. I'm not imagining it or making this up. They are in fact resisting just that.

The NFL for example had a problem with steroids. They implemented testing, they did NOT do any witch hunt to find past sinners, but perhaps with the NFL the players and management were always more in unison (this seems to be the case based on observations over my lifetime). But then again, there are players in the NFL, even the size of their heads, who make Barry Bonds look like a petite ballerina. The stakes are very high in the NFL too. All the same "human nature" aspects apply.

Do I believe the NFL doesn't have an issue with performance enhancers? Not really. I believe for a variety of reasons, we give them a pass. I believe if Barry Bonds only had 500 home runs right now, baseball might have gotten a pass too. I'm not sure about that, but it seems football didn't have the same "sanctity of the game" issues baseball is plagued with.

What I do believe in is fixing problems. I'm not sure we really want this problem fixed. These issues come out as polarizing issues where human nature is…we want to pick a side. In the case of cheating in baseball, I don't think there really is a side. Players cheated because it was lucrative, the fans seemed to enjoy it and the owners looked the other way because no matter how loud we were crying about Bonds, we were still buying millions of tickets and spending more money on baseball.

To fix cheating in baseball without legalizing the cheating (that's certainly the easiest solution and the path of least resistance) all sides need to take accountability. The players don't want to take accountability, the ownership doesn't want to take accountability and in the mainstream, neither do the fans.

You can't test for human growth hormone and the positive impact on HGH for these guys is enough that sure as heck, if they can't get caught, they'll take it. Giambi got caught taken amphetamines when it was possible he COULD get caught (and he did). So what do you think his stance is on stuff he can't actually be tested and caught for?
If it were up to me to fix, I'd just have the President of the United States have Donald Fehr and Bud Selig over to the White House for a little Tony Soprano style sit down that goes like: "Invoke some kind of full-on blood testing right now, or my last act in office will be to see that the antitrust exemption for MLB is removed. I don't think either one of you wants that."

But see, here's the thing, Mr. Bush himself started this by being very vocal about usage of steroids and other performance enhancers in his 2003 "State of the Union Address" (on the heels of 73 home runs by Mr. Bonds). I'm beginning to think, like most people, Mr. Bush just wants to see Barry Bonds nailed and doesn't want to fix the problem.

I'm actually more concerned about fixing the problem, and am surprised to wind up in the minority on this one. This is further complicated because of the issues of race which also concern me. Giambi gets a pass, Bonds doesn't? That doesn't play out well over time and I hate to see it.

I am OK with taking the blame for this problem, but I'd actually like to FIX it or decide we just don't care and move on. It shouldn't just be about a witch hunt, and that is all it seems to be.

Is capitalism self-destructive? I don't think so. But human nature sure can be.

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