Friday, August 10, 2007

Our Changing Culture

Bernie Miklasz' column yesterday in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch titled "Baseball Is Selling Its Soul Alongside Bonds Mementos" really struck me. The whole steriods-baseball-Bonds controversy has really been bothering me ever since it appeared a few years back. It's a sad statement really on the state of affairs in our culture.

I was just thinking driving to work about how I saw Barry Bonds play years ago. Giants v. Dodgers. My friend had gone to high school with Bonds. And I was a Dodgers fan. So we argued about who was better. Bonds or various others. I was still a George Brett fan, having grown up in KC and been in awe of Brett's 80s hitting streak, etc. It was amazing how a man could so consistently hit like that. I remember starting to feel the same way about Mark Maguire years later here in St. Louis. And Sammy Sosa was there too -- wow, two at one time. But then the word came out about steriods. Just a trickle at first.

There had always been rumors, of course, but this was starting to seem more substantial. And Maguire and others testified to Congress that they had never used them. Only, one could just look at the way Maguire had physically ballooned up over five or six years and suspect that maybe the rumors were true. Maybe his denials were not. And in Bonds' case, the evidence is even more disturbing. So why am I so ho-hum about a guy who has hit 757 home runs? It should be a monumental achievement. But somehow, it just seems so tainted. Bonds was, beyond a doubt, an admirable athlete when I saw him in Los Angeles in the early 90s. But somehow the thought that he and Maguire and Sosa and others accomplished what they did by artificial means just leaves one to wonder if there are any truly amazing athletes out there. A George Brett? A Nolan Ryan? A Hank Aaron?

Maybe we can never go back to the days when there weren't such questions. Maybe that's just the way things has changed. And maybe our society is so capital driven and warped that baseball has sold out. An event like this does bring press attention and sell memoribilia. And so they get richer. Maybe that is all they care about. Integrity seems overrated these days, doesn't it? But it sure is sad to think about. Maybe Barry Bonds deserves to lose his reputation. And then again, maybe enough people don't care how he did it -- just that he did -- that it will never matter in history books.

Perhaps it started with Bill Clinton's claim that he didn't have sex because he defined it differently. Or that the word "is" could be misinterpreted. He seemed to convince a lot of people that morality and integrity in leadership are not important, even from the leader of the free world whose influence stretches far and wide. It continued in many other instances since, and is perpetuated by Hollywood-types who argue that anything they do in the name of art is sacred. Who argue that they have no responsibility to screen themselves or worry about who might be watching. It's pervasive in our culture today: the attitude that personal freedom is more important than personal responsibility. The idea that it's more important that I have total freedom to do whatever I want, than it is that other people live with the freedom to not be offended or see what I do. This argument seems patently ridiculous to me. And it's led to a climate of irresponsibility. I have seen people take their kids to R-rated movies. I have seen people give their kids alcohol. All in the name of this attitude.

It's not the same world I grew up in, for sure. Somehow, I can't help feeling we've really lost something. And maybe we will never recover it.

For what it's worth...

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