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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cheating

Performance-enhancing drugs are a crisis in sports. The American 7-time consecutive champion of the Tour de France, Lance Armstrong, has admitted doping, and the Tour had previously stripped him of the honors. His fall has been spectacular, considering that he is a cancer survivor. And there has been an entire career of lying, intimidation, and legal action against those who spoke out against him. He will not be forgiven for this. One of the targets of his wrath was American cycling legend Greg LeMond, who legitimately won the Tour in 1986, '89, and '90. Armstrong said that LeMond was jealous of his dominance. For a time, the fans of the sport believed this story. But now we can say that LeMond is (again) the greatest American cyclist of all time.

Some people may be bothered by my absolutist stance, and to pretend that 1999-2005 did not happen. But the greatness of sports is precisely this: that men and women, on the fields of play, within the rules fight to see who is the best. If it didn't matter, why is there a rule? Most of the arguments to let the cheating (or the betting) go in baseball boil down to, "Everybody does it." Didn't your mother ever teach you anything? Why is this OK? And there is a pile of mess for an argument that says, "Well, this is the 'era' we lived in." Horse-puckey. Not everyone cheats. Not even close. So it's patent nonsense to blame a guy for coming along in the alleged Steroids Era. That's what you amoral morons did to Biggio and Bagwell for the Hall Of Fame, and you deserve everlasting shame. If you want to ask me in an accusatory fashion whether Whitey Ford should be axed for spit-balls, or Gibson, or whoever...YES. Whether you like it or not, sports is a microcosm of real life. We overstate it, and idolize those who play games well, true. Fine. But do you think God is going to say, "I don't care about what you did and said"? Do we really want to say, "They aren't saints" and follow that to its logical conclusion? Be honest: When you found out Tiger Woods had committed serial adulteries against his devoted wife, was it easier or harder to appreciate him and his ability? So why are all these commentators even more permissive about rules broken in the games themselves? Does that even come close to making sense? People make a living at these games. If we wax eloquent about the man who puts in "an honest day's work," is it all that much to ask those who play sports for a living to do the same? Especially because we know they become famous, fabulously wealthy, and admired.

But I can't believe that the ones the chattering classes want to mock are the "moralists" and "absolutists." Well, yes, I am both of those things, and I don't feel bad about it. The glory of anything consists in its goodness, so our games--and our heroes--are not glorious if they are not good. Bare minimum goodness that fans have a right to ask is to play by the rules. Anything less cheapens the joy of watching sports in the first place.

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