Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Seidman Math: Paris Hilton = Barry Bonds = We’re All a Bunch of Freaking Hypocrites

Except for my brother and his ilk. They don’t care about Paris, Barry, steroids or probably even baseball. So people like that: you are squeaky clean with me. Everyone else…

Everybody is using Paris, even me. Everyone is trying to get in front of the media. The judges, the lawyers, the Sherriff, the DA. Apparently she broke out in hives. As someone who had a chronic problem with hives for about 3 years, I think jail would do that to me too. So they sent her home. Home confinement. Of course she’ll start whining that it’s so unfair because the ankle bracelet they made her wear for her home confinement is giving her another rash. But now, they want to have a hearing to see if the judge who sent her home wasn’t smoking crack. Should Paris go back to jail? That’s really not the point to me, and I don’t care. The point is all of this is going on because all of these sorry ass fools, including Paris, want to be on TV.

Me? I don’t want to be on TV. I’ve had horrible skin for the last year and a half. My experiment was to see what generates more traffic through the blog search world over time, Paris, the NHL, or the iPhone. In that trio, unbelievably, the NHL was winning. In second place after the NHL was – and this just makes me sad “Pacific Catch”. There was a Pacific Catch ad in the iPhone commercial, and I wrote about it and got more hits on Pacific Catch than the iPhone for a couple of days.

Then I wrote Still Stinging Over Betamax (Why Sony Still Can’t Help But Suck Sometimes) and for reasons I still am not sure of that blew everything else away by 5x within a few hours of posting it.

Back to Paris. Everyone (other than the people like my brother) is playing a role and using Paris to their advantage, including Paris.

Then there’s Barry Bonds. I’m not going to opine here on his personality and likability. I’m here to talk about the steroids. I wish they would just legalize performance enhancers and be done with it. Ultimately it will come to that I think. We like seeing the ball hit far. Everyone loved Mark and Sammy chasing 61. There’s a lot of revisionist history going on now. Sometimes the media and baseball executives act like nobody was talking about steroids in ’98 when McGwire and Sosa were chasing the record. Once they were at 55, are you kidding me!? They talked about steroids EVERY DAY – at least a little. You can go to the ESPN and Sportsline archives and see the stories about performance enhancers during that time.

Barry Bonds may be the poster child for performance enhancers. If the books are true if it could be shot into you and metabolized and wouldn’t kill you, seems like he took it. But honestly, seeing him hit around 23 of the 40+ splash hits (home runs hit out of the stadium that land in the San Francisco Bay) in person was fun as hell. Those splash hits are the best. All those fools in kayaks clamoring to get the ball (more people capitalizing on Barry Bonds) and if Barry Bonds wasn’t in some 0 for 300 slump, I’d be hearing nothing but Barry Bonds on all my favorite ESPN shows. I’m thankful for the break. It’s going to hit me though right around my birthday in the middle of July. When he’s at 753 Time Magazine and Newsweek will probably have him on the cover to get in on the capitalizing.

We may not like Barry Bonds, but the system loves him because it can capitalize on him (to the tune of a lot of money), he doesn’t care because he’s so talented (and was even without the juice) that he can capitalize on the system, and of course that’s the case with Paris too. It really is exactly the same thing. I don't know if that's "talent" in Paris' case, but there is no doubt she is capitalizing on herself too.

We like steroids and we like Paris Hilton. Ok, you might hate her, but if you do, you LOVE to hate her. ESPN knows just about everyone who doesn’t live in a 94XXX zip code hates Bonds. But those folks LOVE to hate Bonds. Human psychology at the group level, sad as it is -- we’re much more prone to bond together over someone we dislike than over someone we think is the greatest thing since sliced bread. We love, love, love rallying around something to hate.

I’ll tell you what else we love. Performance enhancers. Steroids. Whatever. We love it. You say you don’t, and you want the game to be pure. I believe you and it’s a nice thought. I would like life to be fair, too. But it isn’t. I haven’t decided yet whether capitalism is self destructive, but I’m sure of one thing, Capitalism will produce Barry Bonds and Paris Hilton and steroids and cheating. And this isn’t something that can be eradicated by thinking you wish it wasn’t that way. That’s just denial. This isn’t something that can be fixed. It can be addressed and hopefully "dealt with" and coped with much better, but not fixed. While I was being facetious with the headline of this, it really is a mathematical equation. If you want Capitalism, you get steroids and Paris Hilton. You may not like that, but that’s like not liking your checking account balance or not liking that 1+1+1 = 3. You may not like it, but there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.

So my theory on that is "fine, let’s just start talking about the 1+1+1 = 3" stuff so people can begin to see it.

I’m not all the way through this thinking. I couldn’t tell you definitively that I am never OK with hypocrisy. Currently that is definitely not true. I’m OK with some hypocrisy. That too seems to be part of the unavoidable math of being human if one of the better quotes I’ve ever heard is true: hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue (according to Harvard B-School professor Richard Tedlow’s mother).

I’m OK with hypocrisy. What I am not OK with is being in denial about hypocrisy. I want to be aware of it at least so I can decide whether I am OK with it. I don’t love Paris Hilton’s behavior, just like I didn’t like the behavior of some B-team Lindsay Lohan from my neighborhood. But her and Paris? I'd still be ok seeing both of them naked. I can live with this hypocrisy.

I can live with Barry Bonds and legalized steroids too. As for the people who hate him, I do understand -- totally. But I also understand Barry Bonds a little bit too. Going back to around 2000 when it was clear to anyone who had eyes that Bonds had bulked up a LOT in the last couple of years, I always blamed that on “us”. We did that to him in a way, and the only way his psyche could respond to it was to do what he did. Throw out how he acts (and he acts like an idiot sometimes) he still is actually human and he saw us loving on Sosa and McGwire so much that summer and thought, “OMFG, if I cheated like those guys, I’d hit 70! At least!” In 1998, if you looked at the ‘90s, Bonds already was the player of the decade. He had to think, “Wow, America doesn’t really value any of that. They value the long ball. All right.”

I’ll tell you something else – there were people on every team in Major League Baseball that year who felt the same way and did the exact same thing. Bonds was just the person with the most natural talent to ever do that. With the world hating him, leaked grand jury testimony, a Federal Prosecutor (another schmuck trying to capitalize on Bonds) with no case, the eyes of a nation on him, fans throwing plastic syringes at him. With all that, he was still amazing. He could still step in the batter's box and display amazing focus and plate discipline. I’ve been watching baseball since I was a kid. I’ve never seen anything like it. He may have cheated, but he was still the most talented hitter I ever saw.

I think the important thing here is to accept that stuff like this happens in Capitalism. You can’t change cheating in professional sports any more than you can change cheating and lying in politics. You can’t. Whenever the stakes are that high, given human nature, it’s pure math. What people want to do is to deny (or worse, think they can change it) human nature. The desire to do this results in an awful lot of BS in this world. To quote Elvis Costello, "I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused."

What you could do, if it really mattered to you, is vote with your wallet. I unloaded all my Giants seasons tickets off on a friend. I don’t want to contribute financially to the hypocrisy with my wallet at least not to the tune of $5000 -- i'd rather by more ipods with it -- no hypocrisy with the iPod!

Would I prefer the owners and Bud Selig to just admit the truth: that they knew what the hell was going on and looked the other way because they were laughing all the way to the bank? I would prefer it, but I don’t expect to hear them say it. I don't need them to say it though, any more than I needed Clinton to tell me he had SOME KIND of sexual relations with...that woman. I didn't need him to tell me. I don't need the owners to tell me either. It's as obvious as Jason Giambi admitting he used steroids without actually using the word steroidsIt’s obvious it’s true. Independent of how I feel about Mr. Bonds’ personality, I don’t find how he handled himself any more offensive than how the Giants organization handled itself in this matter. They did what they did because it was worth a lot of money. Barry did what Barry did…I don’t think it was about the money, I think he wanted to be the greatest of all time. Plus, because of it, he made a lot more money. But if he would’ve been a likeable public persona – even as a cheater. I mean Sammy Sosa is a dual cheater AND a liar. Steroids, CORKED BAT, and when he was at Congress, all of the sudden his English wasn’t so good. But we LIKED Sammy. He has a nice smile. A nice smile can overcome dual cheating and being a liar with the American public. Barry Bonds doesn't smile anywhere near as much as Sammy did. Sammy's English was always very good on ESPN. And don’t even start me on Rafael “the finger wag” Palmiero.

I mean come on. Who the hell didn’t know this guy wouldn’t cheat his ass off for more money? The guy did the VIAGRA ad for money when he was in his 30s. What kind of man, who was already rich, who wasn’t just a complete whore for money would do the Viagra ad at that time? I hear Viagra is an in drug now with people who don’t really need it, but at the time a lot of people made fun of him. He laughed all the way to the bank because, you know, that’s the kind of “man” he is. But he can’t sell newspapers and so you won’t hear about him. Bonds you’ll be hearing a lot of when his bat gets back on track.

These things are just byproducts of the system we live in. Unless we vote with our wallets, nothing will change and on this kind of stuff (Paris Hilton, Barry Bonds, steroids) we just don’t really care all that much. I think the first step is to get out of denial that these things are natural byproducts of our particular system of doing things. When that happens some good conversation can begin, but right now there aren’t enough people who are aware of the hypocrisy.

Denial is a good defense and survival mechanism. I think if all you want is for your civilization to “survive”, it’s a great mechanism to keep around. But if you wish to progress, awareness is the path. It’s a math problem, but not enough folks are comfortable with the math yet.

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