I guess I am turning to this a little late, but that seems to be the main argument Sally Jenkins made on the 20th.  Her argument is that the sports doping debate has been occluded by the powers-that-be to conflate therapy and enhancement and that we need to be sophisticated in our analysis.  I’ll say meh to that conclusion, even though this article reads as a support for my politics in this matter.

Disclosure.  Professional athletes are freaks.  There is nothing normal nor average about them.  Even the mental abilities of the best ones are truly astounding.  This whole doping is bad debate seems to begin by neglecting this.  Selling sports as some sort of Horatio Algers bootstraps story is ludicrous and I would contend harmful.  How many millions of people have slighted their education and opportunities all in the name of the glory and riches of the never-to-be-attained ranks of professional sports?  It’s infuriating.   I support enhancements.  I can fall back on some “free choice” grounds and sound like Rand Paul.  But I prefer a more cyborged explanation: their is no natural, no pristine, no level playing field.

The very ground the anti-dopers are trying to reclaim/preserve is a fiction.  A dangerous one.  We should move beyond it.  Jenkins’ article actually sets back this movement.  First, her distinction between therapy and enhancement is not at all rigorous.  Muscles grow simply by being destroyed and needing to heal, therapy.  All enhancement is therapy.  Soft-pitching a scientific rational to the other side is not a worthwhile endeavor.

Second, a focus on this distinction does not advance where the debate really needs to be.  The debate should not be about what is a fair treatment for athletes (fair only within a circle of athletes).  Rather, we should see sports as a vehicle for propelling medicine and science about the body.  There is so much money involved, not to mention emotional attachments, that this is the cultural referent most publicly accessing the intersections of body, science, and values.  Why then would we proscribe the cutting-edge?  These advances trickle down to civilians.  A more direct method of infusion would be ideal, but this is what we have to work with.

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It’s not that I am bored, there is no shortage of stuff I need to be doing.  I can afford to do those things to-morrow and ESPN Classic may not be showing a marathon of Ali and Tyson fights under the heading Ali vs. Tyson.  While interesting to watch, it’s amazing to see how much we have changed in 20 years, I think ESPN Classic has the wrong marathon going on.  We should not be watching a bunch of Ali and Tyson fights, we should be watching fights of their opponents and then their fights with Ali and Tyson.

We can spend a lot of time seeing how Ali was able to duck and dodge and wear out his opponents.  We can spend a lot of time watching Tyson walk into the opponents and lay them out with a single hit.  That does little to provide good arguments for the ultimate hypothetical matchup.  What would help however is to see how they would have affected the other in the matchup.

What most people don’t see about Tyson was how he forced opponents into a weak game.  He wasn’t particularly fast.  He wasn’t particularly tough.  What he had was an abnormal strength and the fear of being hit by the punch forced his opponents to close up ranks and assume a defensive posture from the get go.  Ali just beat his opponents without forcing them into an uncomfortable position.  ESPN Classics contest is too limited, looking at the wrong transcripts for evaluation.

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I will be watchign to-morrow’s game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Buffalo Sabres, but not because I care about either team (whom to root for: the Pittsburgh Crosby’s or the 1999-Hull-was-in-the-crease-whining Sabres), in fact, because I care nothing for either team is the reason I will be watching.  The last time the NHL tried this stunt it was a circus.  Scott Burnside has a good article explaining why it is an idea that was shelved, for good reason, for 5 years.

If there is no sun then it might be so cold that the players are at risk, the problem experienced last time.  If there is sun then there is a glare issue which may also put players at risk.  The control of the ice quality is also an issue, an issue Buffalo is very good at whining about by the way. In short, there seems no way this event does not turn into a circus.  But, that may be what the NHL is secretly desiring.  The few people that do not consider themselves hockey fans yet do watch hockey watch it for its circus-like events: the fights.  This gimmick may be just what the NHL needs, and for that reason I will watch it and try to recruit as many people that are not still recovering from to-night’s festivities to watch it.