14 August 2007

A Belated Congratulations to Barry Bonds

Despite being huge sports fans, we at Savage Justice recognize their chief value lies for the ruling order in their ability to distract and propagandize the masses, thereby making them easier to manipulate and control.

Lacking the patience of Dave Zirin (author of What's My Name, Fool? and Welcome to the Terrordome), who has entered full-boar into the lion's den and taken on the most reactionary elements of the Athletic Supporting Industry, we ordinarily opt for other issues and causes. But here, we make an exception.

Zirin's work has shown that just as sports can serve as a safe-haven for nationalistic barbarism, it can also act as a catalyst for revolutionary growth and education.

Which brings us to the instructive case of Mr. Bonds.

Bonds is unquestionably the best baseball player - and perhaps the best athlete - of the modern age. No player has parlayed his skill-set into results with Bonds's devastating success. His combination of power and speed, his selective eye, his defense, and his competitive fire - evidenced by both his longevity and his consistency - make him, without question, the best player anyone under 33 years old has ever witnessed.

So why, rather than lauding his accomplishments, has the Athletic Supporting Industry attacked Bonds with such vitriol?

The claim, of course, is that Bonds cheated... that he used steroids.

This is simply smoke & mirrors. The assertions of Bonds's guilt have no foundation in either fact or law. Rather they are based on grand jury testimony illegally leaked to reporters from the San Francisco Chronicle by attorneys for the steroid-maker BALCO.

The leaks, in other words, were a criminal conspiracy by Uncle Sam and steroid-makers primarily to indict Bonds, preventing him from breaking the record. Secondarily, they used the unsubstantiated accusations, treated as fact, to attack him in the media.

On the first count, they failed miserably. But their success in using steroid-lobby propaganda to taint Bonds's achievement is unquestionable. The failed conspiracy to prevent Bonds's run only heightened the rhetoric and exacerbated the degree to which the Athletic Supporting Industry disregards even the pretense of due process.

Vanilla Justice strikes again!

Ignoring facts, Vanilla Sam has opted to use the self-interested and self-righteous accusations of steroid-makers to justify their on-air lynching of Bonds. So much for the anti-steroid crusade!

But of course their assault on Bonds has nothing to do with racism

Of course!

I mean, some of Bud Selig & BALCO's best friends are Black!

Right?

Just as Uncle Sam's system of Vanilla Justice uses trumped-up chargers and baseless accusations to frame and lock-up the innocent every day, the Athletic Supporting Industry has use the fabricated steroid accusations against Bonds to delegitimize his historic accomplishment.

In other words, the 'steroids' canard provides cover for White Supremacy.

In a piece entitled "Home Runs, Heroes and Hypocrisy: Performance Enhancement in Black and White," well-known activist Tim Wise cuts to pieces the hypocrisy of an Athletic Supporting Industry that deifies the "Good Old Days" of Jim Crow Baseball, contrasting it with their sanctimonious crusade against Bonds.

Fundamentally, Wise asks, "how can white Americans call for Bonds to have his records marred by an asterisk, while continuing to revere the records and performances of their white baseball heroes of eras past - folks with names like DiMaggio, Williams, Ruth and Cobb - who benefited from a much greater 'performance enhancement' than that which steroids can provide: namely, the racist exclusion of black athletes from the major leagues?"

It's the perfect question. Wise continues:
From 1887, when blacks were run out of white-dominated professional baseball leagues, until 1947, when Jackie Robinson first stepped onto a field for the Brooklyn Dodgers, every white baseball player for six decades had been protected from black competition. And protection from competition is the most profound form of artificial performance enhancement imaginable...

All of the records set by white players prior to 1947 are tainted. Any time that someone is protected from competition (be that someone an athlete or a corporation), the one who is protected gets to shine, without having to prove themselves against the full range of possible talent. Barry Bonds, on the other hand, even if juiced by steroids, had to compete against the best (many of whom were no doubt also using such medicinal enhancements), and as such, enjoyed far less of a relative boost in his career than white players did for nearly half of the twentieth century.
After making this point with compelling clarity, Wise wisely anticipates the Vanilla Sam's time-tested caveat:
Confronted with the argument that maybe Williams, DiMaggio, and especially Babe Ruth wouldn't have been as good, had they been required to play against black players, most white folks fall back on what they consider their trump card, which, to them seems to differentiate the performance enhancement of steroids from the performance enhancement of white privilege and institutionalized favoritism. Namely, they suggest, Barry Bonds broke the rules, while Ruth and company merely played within the boundaries of the rules, as they existed at the time...

But there are several things about this argument that are wrong, illogical, or ethically indefensible. To begin with, during the period of Bonds' steroid use, there was actually no rule against steroids in major league baseball. So, in point of fact, Bonds - assuming he used steroids - did not break the rules of the game. Yes, using the substances without a prescription is illegal, but we don't take records away from players for breaking the law. If we did... what of Ruth, who once tried injecting himself with sheep hormones to get an edge on the competition, and who kept right on drinking, even in the age of prohibition when booze were outlawed?

Even worse, the argument that segregation was "just the way it was," implies that we are not under any obligation to challenge injustice, unless we ourselves created it, and that if we collaborate with it, we bear no moral responsibility for its perpetuation...

Had Gehrig ended his long-standing record of consecutive games played because of opposition to racism, it would have been one of the most important sports stories of all time....

In other words, whites, by knowingly protecting themselves from some of the game's greatest players, "cheated" every bit as much as Bonds may have, via the use of anabolics. That the method for cheating was institutionalized, so that the rules themselves amounted to fraud, and that racial cheating was given the imprimatur of law hardly provides moral cover for the practice's ethical failings, and the failings of those who took advantage.

Oh, and not to put too fine a point on it, but in parts of the country (including most of the Northeast) the laws of the local communities actually prohibited segregation by race... So perhaps we should erase the records of the Yankees, erase the Babe, erase Ted Williams' 1941 season in which he hit .406 for the Red Sox: another team in a Northern city, with laws against segregation, but which remained segregated anyway (and in Boston's case, they were the longest holdout against black players due to the legendary racism of their owner).
Wises's piece continues, relentlessly demolishing Vanilla Sam's sports mythology in systematic fashion.

I would strongly encourage reading the entire piece.

But the point is made. The Bonds case exposes the cowardice, hypocrisy, and ignorance of the Athletic Supporting Industry - their Whitewashing of history and their use of steroids as a convenient pretext for more Vanilla Justice.

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