Friday, December 14, 2007

Mr. Speaker, end this discrimination against cyborgs!

I have never been a baseball fan (and not much of a sports fan generally). So maybe that's why, when I read about the findings of the Mitchell report yesterday detailing the pervasive use of performance-enhancing drugs among major league baseball players, I am nonplussed and kind of puzzled.

My reaction is to say, aren't we all pharmaceutically-enhanced, biomechanically assisted, technologically mediated cyborgs anymore? Do the distinctions made by the Powers that Be between certain kinds of medical performance interventions really hold up the the scrutiny of any kind of analytical rigor? If I can have all my joints replaced, and my pain tranquilized, why can't I pump up my hormone levels? Okay, sure, there's a legitimate difference between injury repair that never fully restores function that was once there, and artificial biochemical enhancement using drugs that can kill administered by underground physicians (you've got to admit, there's a kind of compelling narrative zing to the idea of the underground physician that performs medico-scientific sorcery for people outside the law). But at its heart, isn't this all a bunch of nostalgic Field of Dreams fantasy? Don't you suppose that athletes have *always* used whatever was available to help them win? Opportunity is not exculpation, and I'm glad to see a set of rules and ethical principles being enforced at last. But the pervasiveness of the violations shows the extent to which it was implicitly endorsed by the authorities.

And for a professional sport that has so completely whored itself to capital to express shock at the corrupting effect dangling obscene amounts of money in front of athletes has, and to indict the athletes while continuing to tolerate the moral debasement inherent in such a system? The essence of hypocrisy, in my view.

Interestingly, while today's headlines were incubating, I was working on a story for this weekend's Turkey City Writer's Workshop, which postulates in the backstory of one supporting character what I consider a more likely ultimate outcome:

"Crile scratched his silvery buzzcut, flexing a bicep that pulsed with the texture of manufactured tendons and polymerically enhanced blood vessels. He was one of the alpha generation of real celebrity cyborgs, a Texas star college quarterback who was among the first to go straight to the UFL. The Ultimate Football League was the first to abandon professional athletics’ anachronistic insistence on the prohibition of performance enhancements, be they pharmaceutical, bio-mechanical, or genetically engineered. It was a genius stroke by the founders. The audience was far more interested in superhuman performances than fidelity to nature, and the athletes were addicted to the potential of even greater power. Crile hadn’t played in a decade, but was still a public figure, famous for his stamina in withstanding fifteen-plus years of pounding on behalf of the Los Angeles fans, by defensive linemen morphed into raging anthropomorphic hippos and bipedal Mack trucks made of pink flesh and steel bones."

Now *that* might even get a nerd like me to turn on ESPN.

1 comment:

Jayme Lynn Blaschke said...

No Baggie or Biggio on the list. Yay! Until cruel revelations prove otherwise, I still have faith.

You do know that injectable nano enhancements will be the next big scandal, of course.