The Occasional Tendown Nov 25-Dec 8 2012

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Dear Internet:

Have you read Gone Girl?  If you haven't read Gone Girl, don't even finish this week's Tendown; Gone Girl's so good you don't want it to stop.  You're wasting valuable Gone Girl time by continuing even to read this sentence.  If you make it past the picture I'm going to assume you've read Gone Girl.

145 is here. This is Tendown 146.

(At #11 is the winner of the Amazing Race.  If you don't want it spoiled, don't go that far)

1. Costas

Gun control has become the new third rail; Bob Costas has been gliding through professional broadcasting since the 1970s and now he's Hanoi Jane.

Two elements of this interest me (1) you haven't seen a major American sporting event since 9-11 that wasn't a sloppy kiss to the military industrial complex, so let's hold off on the "stick to football" images.  The only wall of separation between politics and sports that anyone ever wants is between sports and political views that you don't hold and (2) Bob Costas always makes political statements.  Costas has been on the front line of the declaration that union intransigence is largely to blame for the "steroid era" (which, he also argues, renders the accomplishments of the players suspected invalid) that the legacy of Marvin Miller, who passed away a week prior to the murder-suicide that prompted Costas's commentary, includes a labor/management hostility that harmed baseball and prevented union leadership from capitulating as quickly as should they have on drug testing.

That's not perceived as political, arguing that a monopolistic employer in an entertainment industry should have the power to conduct suspicionless bodily searches of its labor force and that a union which would balk at that is excessively confrontational. It's not perceived as political because its so ubiquitous - of course private employers should gather the urine (or blood - how can we find out about HGH without blood!) of their employees.  Since 1987, the percentage of private sector employers engaging in drug testing is up 140%; it's an area of what we previously thought of as private space, like employers requiring polygraphs or personality tests, that we've just ceded with very little fight to corporate power.

Your phone and computer use can be monitored; you can be told not to smoke when you're in your own home; cameras can be installed in every corner of your workplace; you can be fired for what you read, for your facebook posts; you can be, as we found out in the most recent election, told for whom you should vote if you'd like to remain employed.

Most of us don't have union protection - the decline in union membership is (I'd suggest) causally related not only to the increased encroachment in personal space taken by private employers but to our thirty year stagnation in real wages of the working class and unprecedented upward redistribution of wealth and accompanying political influence.  But baseball players do have a union- and because of Marvin Miller they had robust protection; too robust for the sports intelligentsia led by people like Bob Costas, who used Miller's death to criticize the degree to which the baseball union acted as impediment to drug testing.

No one noticed.  I have no image to accompany the line "stick to baseball Bob - and leave our bodily fluids alone".  That's because the political content of the pro drug test/anti union view offered in sports analysis is hidden in plain sight right along with the all of those Blue Angels flyovers.  Costas drew heat for saying "gosh, there sure are a lot of guns in the US" because any statement outside of the most rabidly right wing view on gun ownership is now considered outside of mainstream political thought.  The answer given by Democrats to the charge "Obama's trying to take away our guns" has been, "not in any way."  That answer's true.  It's not going to save any lives, but it's true.

Perhaps the value of drug testing those who operate nuclear power plants outweighs the loss of privacy enough to balance the equities in favor of that testing (although you'd probably still want union leadership to fight it; because if union leadership can't put your interests first, then who will?) but determining if a ball hit 400 feet would have been hit 390 feet without the benefit of steroids probably doesn't reach that level of national importance (and certainly shouldn't for union officials elected by the membership to assert the very rights that they were asserting).  The head of the Baseball Writers Association of America  is Susan Slusser; her argument that PED users should not be in the Hall of Fame is that the ballot instructs voters to consider:

                                         "integrity, sportsmanship, character"

and that PED use would appear to be disqualifying.  That's the Costas approach as well, "when in doubt, keep them out."

That's doubt over steroids, and presumably human growth hormone - which are politically chosen to be the "bad" performance enhancers, as opposed to amphetamines, a litany of painkillers, stem cell injections, beta blockers, Lasik, and a gaggle of lotions and potions that baseball players have been having applied to them since the 1800s.  All of those, deliberately selected to enhance performance, are given the label "good" performance enhancers and therefore fine - you can shoot a guy up with an epidural on the on deck circle but rubbing "the cream or the clear" is enough to mean someone's entire career effectively did not happen.

That seems a challenging distinction - but Slusser makes it:

There is something about hiding in a bathroom and injecting an illegal substance that alters body chemistry that seems so much more subversive and character warping. There is great secrecy and shame associated with steroid use, because it is so clearly wrong. Players know they are doing something dishonest and illegal. There was never, ever that sense with amphetamines.
Amphetamines, see, were illegal to take, and certainly enhanced performance, but it was done out in the open - so it's fine.  They could pop them right in the training room - they didn't have to do them in a (shudder) bathroom stall.  Politics isn't politics if its in plain sight.  Speed was out in the open, therefore it couldn't have been wrong.

Consider the results of the statutory construction Slusser gives to the language of the character clause in the Hall of Fame ballot: even if we accept that the good PED/bad PED distinction, we're left with the historical truth that confessed cheats like Gaylord Perry, known Klansmen and confessed murderers like Ty Cobb, and guardians of the segregated framework that warped baseball statistics far more than any drug ever taken like Cap Anson are all in the Hall of Fame - but Barry Bonds won't be, because he took a prescription drug without a prescription in the wrong part of the clubhouse.  You want to encapsulate a hundred thirty years of major league baseball in 3 words: Segregation, Speed, Steroids - and it's only a few names chosen to be tied to the last one whose careers are wiped out.

Finally, a thought I've yet to hear verbalized, meaning that it's by definition unreasonable.

If we were to accept the sports analysts argument that we must consider "integrity, sportsmanship, character" when making out the Hall of Fame ballot - why doesn't that ever work in someone's favor?  Where is the Slusser column that JT Snow, a mediocre ballplayer but a helluva good guy, deserves to be in the Hall of Fame?  Who showed more character than Curt Flood - standing alone to challenge a system in which baseball players were chattel?  If the character clause is really how we are judging the merits of who deserves Hall of Fame inclusion, as opposed to selecting the very best players who ever lived, then why is that not ever reflected in the voting in any way beyond sportswriters just enacting retribution or attempting to maintain professional relevance in a world that has passed them by?

2. 20 Years Ago Yesterday

20 years ago yesterday the greatest baseball player in the history of the National League saved baseball in the city of San Francisco by signing with the Giants. I wish I could say I wasn't going to financially support the Giants until the organization properly acknowledged Bonds's contributions with a statue like the one they did of Mays, but Christmas is coming and I've got World Series merch to buy.

46 years ago his dad was making 6 grand a year playing in our outfield, that was the year Marvin Miller became head of the players union.

The Hall of Fame without Bonds and Miller is just a room with plaques.

3. Don't Go Hunting with Robin Yount

Maybe we need a gun control commentary (or a review of his hall of fame membership) about Robin Yount.

4. Politics is Everywhere
A good piece about the ubiquity of micro-militarism.

To maintain support for militarism on a large scale, people must be propagandized.  They must be made afraid of alleged enemies abroad; they must be told, as often as possible, that the U.S. is, unlike all other empires in history, concerned only about promoting freedom and democracy when it uses military force; they must be led to see military service—of which the essence is obedience, not courageous independence—as noble and heroic.
Some of the cultural practices through which this management of consciousness occurs are easy to see.  The martial-spirited national anthem is sung en masse before sporting events.  Military jets are flown over crowded stadiums.  College basketball games are held on air force bases and aircraft carriers.  Films and TV shows (e.g., “Stars Earn Stripes”) celebrate the skill and virtue of U.S. soldiers.  G.I. Joes and other military toys fill whole aisles in big box stores.
Micro militarism is harder to see.  An individual instance can look like nothing more than an expression of support for people who have given several years of their lives, and perhaps their entire futures, for national service.  The intentions behind many acts of micro militarism are good.  But intentions do not determine consequences.
When militarism is squeezed into the small cultural spaces of everyday life, we are subtly reminded, again and again, that war and violence and soldiering are normal.  We are thus being taught that war and violence and soldiering are not political matters subject to contention or debate.  The message is that war and violence and soldiering are normal parts of who we are and what we do as a people, and anyone who questions this is beyond the pale—unpatriotic, a traitor.

5. But Don't Rub Christian Slater's Nose in It.
Because Florida rejected his ballot.

6. Half of Republicans Think ACORN Stole the Election for Obama.
To be fair, Republicans believe in lots of things that don't exist.

7. It's Time to Start Thinking About the Academy Awards
This Grantland piece gets you started.

8. Kobashi

The greatest professional wrestler who ever lived, Kenta Kobashi, announced his retirement yesterday.

I watched four star matches since last we spoke:

Elgin v. Richards: ROH TV, December 4
Nakajima v. Tanaka: Diamond Ring, September 4 1/2
Low Ki v. Devitt NJPW, November 4
Nakamura v. Anderson NJPW November 4

9. Have You Read?  Do You Know?

They had a Freaks and Geeks reunion.  Here's the oral history.  Here's what would have happened to the characters.

10.  Just 'cause...
Check out this new tumblr. It’s not ours, but glad to see others picking up teh bannorz!

WE ARE the 99%!

Special Bonus #11

Yay Beekmans!  

That's all for this time.  I'll be back next time.  If there is a next time...

Your pal,


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