Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Curse of Barry Bonds

John Mark Reynolds pens (types?) an encomium on Brett Farve and the tremendous season the Packers are having. I think what he says is true.

I also cannot help (literally) thinking, "How is Farve able to excel at this point in his career? Is he taking any drugs?"

This suspicion that taints our enjoyment of athletic performance is the curse of Barry Bonds and all athletes who have taken performance-enhancing drugs to extend their productive careers. It isn't only that Bonds harmed himself and broke the rules; the problem is also that his actions continue to make us suspicious, and such suspicion impinges upon my enjoyment of the performance.

Perhaps we should have been more suspicious of outstanding late-career performances in years past. That's not the main point. The main point is that now we are suspicious even in cases where we don't need to be. I think Farve's season is one of those cases. You cannot even avoid suspicion by saying that Farve is an all around good guy who wouldn't take performance-enhancing substances. These days that rings hollow; the sports pages are littered with stories of all around good guys and girls who have been found out.

This is like public preoccupation -- or at least the media's preoccupation -- with homosexuality. As Sheldon Vanauken pointed out, regardless of whether male homosex is right or wrong, one effect of it is to undermine our confidence in genuine male friendship. Today, it's difficult for people to think about a particular male friendship without also suspecting an aspect of homosexuality -- and if we do not suspect, I think that at least the idea intrudes where it should not. For inasmuch as nonsexual friendship is a good, and inasmuch as public preoccupation with homosexuality makes us liable to widespread suspicion about the genuineness of nonsexual friendship, and (almost finished here) inasmuch as suspicion about genuine nonsexual friendship undermines the enjoyment and stability of that friendship (both in particular and in general), to that extent I think public preoccupation with homosexuality is not obviously a good thing.

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