Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mr. Z talks SPORTS ...doping, big money.....you agree?

A Short History of Sports

A not so politically correct and not so serious guide through the sports movement

In the earlier days of humankind, humans did what the animals still do today: fight each other. The change came when in 490 BC when Pheidippides ran 42 km from Marathon to Athens to announce the victory of the Athenians over the Persians. The Greeks realized that it was better to compete with each other in running and throwing with all the abilities given to humans by the Gods than to fight each other, and the Olympic Games were born.

So they started to celebrate regular sports games in Olympia on the Peloponnisian Peninsula. Since the normal togas turned out to be impractical for these competitions, they started naked just as the gods had created them, much to the delight of the other gender! And since their diet was entirely natural, their well trained bodies were so well built that they served as models for many marble statues which can still today be admired in many museums.

Things changed after the Greeks invented centrifugal force. They used this knowledge to introduce hammer throwing. When turning around rather quickly, these centrifugal forces had their effect not only on the hammer, but also on "items" much (much)closer to the body. This led to the invention of trunks, and, over time, to many more inventions covering the body for special purposes – but that's another conversation!

After a good start, people started to fight each other again, and the sports movement temporarily died. To be more precise, it was pretty much dead until the end of the 19th century AD. Since the French Revolution had rendered nobility useless (at least in France – but that message hasn’t gotten to Green Prince Charlie in England yet), a French nobleman, Baron de Coubertin, remembered the old Olympic Games. He thought he needed to do something useful for humanity – noblesse oblige – and re-create the Olympic Games, and he succeeded by organizing the first New Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens in the motherland of sports – Greece.

This sparked a completely new development in sports, and moved it from an activity which happened basically outside of society to one of the center points of society. People started to recognize that sports activities are not only good for the body but can also achieve societal and political goals. On one hand, it helped recognition of the existence and capabilities of minority groups; For example, there was the marvelous Jim Thorpe, an amazingly talented Native American won gold medals in decathlon and pentathlon at the Olympic Games in 1912, and was a great football and baseball player. He got into a quarrel, however, with the Olympic Committee, since he had been paid for doing sports before his start at the Olympics. An other remarkable achievement was that of Jesse Owens at Hitler’s propaganda Olympic Games in 1936, where he earned four gold medals, much to the dismay of Hitler who had described the black people as inferior to the Aryan race.

It was during this time that sports was discovered as a means of political will. That had good sides, and bad sides. The old Romans said already “Mens sana in corpore sano” (Latin for a “healthy spirit in a healthy body”), but under the motto by the Nazis, “Kraft durch Freude” (force through joy) the sports movement became a center point of propaganda. Yet, for people engaged in sports, the advantages outweighed the disadvantages. That is, until the 1960’s. Slowly but steadily, attributes foreign to the original objective of sports crept into sports so that it developed into the partially pitiful state it is in today.

But before we analyze that statement further, we need to recognize that there are indeed two sports movements: One which develops publicly right in front of our eyes, and the other much larger one which is extremely widespread and healthy for young and older people alike: sports in the private sphere, in the many, many schools, clubs and, yes, streets, supported by enthusiastic parents and friends and volunteer coaches. These are the true heroes, following the Olympic traditions of the Greek, using the body as it was created by God (the only difference being that the Greeks thought that were several gods…..) and eating and drinking what is provided to us, and doing all of this with the mentality that the most important issue is participation – but still being happy if they win a price in a healthy competition.

Now we arrive at the ugly side of sports. The aspect of sport which is exposed in public, where the most important thing is not participation, but winning – the latter only because if you win, you get money, and recognition, and thus, more money. Everything in public sports today is subjugated to money. And since that is so, it destroys everything which was once good – and since the end justifies the means, everything appears to be allowed. This can be divided into two categories: the equipment, and nutrition/medication. Gone are the days when competition meant that everybody has the same chance...the level playing field.

In terms of equipment, the newest example relates to the swimsuits of swimmers. For the recent World Championships in swimming, some of the equipment suppliers developed a new fabric and a new full-body shape (which took the athletes a good half hour to get into), resulting in some sort of floating on the water, and thus, several dozen (!!) new world records. Under pressure, the corresponding association, to their credit, acted, and the new fabrics are not allowed any longer as of beginning of 2010. But they have also not said what is allowed. Generally, the days that everybody could afford to do sports are gone – except if you join a sports club, or just simply play soccer on the streets of Sao Paolo or Kinshasa or Hoboken.

Here is the even much bigger problem: Nutrition/medication, aka doping. These days, doping has become a hi-tech industry which operates in Mafia-like manner. It is operated underground, in the obscurity of hotel rooms, labs in obscure and less obscure countries, involving obscure or less obscure doctors – and that is the frightening part of it. Sophisticated labs are involved, and the newest achievements of blood doping are years ahead of any method of detection.

A lot of money is flowing under the table and that money needs to be earned. In other words, it would not be possible, if huge amounts weren't at stake for wins in certain competitions. So, there are the interests of the individuals and their advisors (middlemen). But to make things more complicated, the interests of whole countries are at stake. How could the following situation have possibly develop?: The medal ranking of the countries participating in the Track & Field World Championships currently happening in Berlin/Germany was the following on 8/20/2009: 1. Jamaica, 2. USA, 3. Kenya, 4. Germany. Now, if you put this in relation to the population of these countries, the only conclusion can be that there are other influences driving the performance other than inherent capabilities, such as …..doping. Theories are floating that only certain people are suited for certain activities. You will, for instance, see black people run faster than others, but you won’t see them on the ski slopes, just to make one point. And the Scandinavians used to dominate cross country skiing, and so on. There may be truth to that, but how does one explain where these huge time differences are coming from which occurred in Berlin? The 100 m dash had everybody who is white at 10.00+ seconds, and the winner, Ursain Bolt from Jamaica at 42/100 below 10 seconds, and more than 0.2 seconds (that is an eternity for 100 m dash) ahead of everybody else. If that is combined with the fact that several Jamaican athletes had been banned from competition recently because of doping, the picture becomes clearer.

Numerous incidents in any sports known to man, even in disciplines where one would never suspect any doping, such as shooting, lead us to believe that the “time of innocence” is over. The Tour de France has become the “Tour de Farce”, everybody knows that. The big sports in the U.S. are equally infested everywhere, and nobody does anything serious about it. Track and Field has been infested for many years, and only bits and pieces see the daylight, and Marion Jones is just one example of many detected by accident. There is just too much at stake – the temptation is high, very high. And the athletes think they can't be caught because they know that the officials of the different associations have their own (financial) interests that the doping is not detected. The dope is so sophisticated that the doctors cannot detect it in the body anymore!

The unfortunate persons caught in the middle are those who play by the rules, participating in sports because they love it, work very hard, and still don’t make it because their colleagues are cheating, or those athletes who participate in some obscure, but very challenging, types of sport, who never make it into the limelight because the media are only supporting those sports where there is something in it for them (money from advertisers).

Here is what I think: We need to try to turn the clock back, back to the times of the old Greeks or the first part of the 20th century. This would involve no more prize money for “real sport”, and fair competition under the same conditions for all athletes.

But this is not all: To demonstrate how complex this whole matter has become, let’s finish the sports outlook with the very sad story of this young lady (if you can call her that) who won the gold medal for running 800 m in Berlin in a fabulous time. It turns out that she might possess Y chromosomes and that she is somewhere between man and woman (see picture), but should certainly not have run as a woman. The primary guilt for her entry as a woman lies with the South African T&F Association – they should not have brought her forward since the problem was known, but instead now they are crying foul and claiming racism. The poor woman, by the way, is upset that she was even asked to run and then had this happen; she wants to go home where she's loved as a daughter and forget all of this. The idea of running men as women is not new. During the old communist times, many athletes from the Warsaw Pact states were physically men, but the states had them appear in the women category. That is what I mean when talking about using sports for political purposes, very often on the back of the athletes. This is what has become of this wonderful Olympic idea created by the Greeks. Fortunately, the original higher ideals are still followed by millions of people worldwide who do what is right and play by the rules, quietly and without money. With doping and commercialism and all else I've discussed here, it's sad to say that those higher ideals seem to no longer exist in professional competitive sports.












This illustration says it all....a Samoan woman competing at the Berlin Track and Field event which just took place, heavy and seemingly unfit but TRYING HER BEST, no dope, no nothing but her training and grit. That's the true nature of sports, right? Or should be?

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting points there. There was some talk years ago to hold the Olympic Games every four years as usual but in one place, the place where they originated. Facilities would be built there to hold them I thought that made a lot of sense. Today the country that "wins" the so-called competition to hold the games is required to erect facilities that become useless after they are used for their original purpose, and at great expense to the taxpayers of the winning country.

Waylon

It Just Doesn't Make Any Sense said...

I root for 2 teams, the NY Yankees and any them that beats the Boston Red Sox.

Steve Harkonnen said...

I watched a part of the Tour De France while over in Europe. It seems to be a big pastime of my former father in law. During the procedure of my daughter's wedding, especially at the reception, Alan disappeared for awhile and I found him sitting alone in a back room watching it. He can't speak English but when I came in he asked me to sit down. After watching him a few minutes I realized how important the TDF really was to most Europeans.

Z said...

Thanks, Waylon....what a good idea that is.

It Just... Thanks for coming by. Good luck with your new blog. your comment cracked me up!

Steve...it is HUGE over there. Mr Z, too, watched closely while we lived there and, twice, we walked up to the Arc d'Triomphe to see the end of the Tour de France and saw Lance Armstrong come in the winner...they go up and down the Champs Elysee at the end, it's just a fabulous thing to see. But the doping, as you read, has turned Mr. Z off...i hate to see that.

Ducky's here said...

everybody knows that. The big sports in the U.S. are equally infested everywhere, and nobody does anything serious about it.

----------------------------

Baseball has taken significant steps to clean itself up even though people were pretty negative about the time spent on the steroid hearings.

Now that the New York Spankees have been exposed as nothing but a big chemistry class we may be moving closer to appreciating the real game and not just the home run.

FJ said...

C'mon Mr. Z... you're just up for watchin' some good ole fashioned nakid wrasslin', admit it!

Andy Kaufman was the inter-gender champ!

FJ said...

If you want to re-connect with the old Olympic spirit, there's always the Special Olympics.

Chuck said...

Good post. To be honest, I don't think professional sports can be cleaned up. This is not cynical, I am a big sprts fan. I think one of the main reasons it cannot is because a lot of the problems from the pros have infested college sports. We are even seeing high school kids doping.

Personally I like high school sports. I'm a big college football and basketball fan but don't attend games.

I love though to watch high school sports and we attend a lot, football, basketball, and my new love, track and field. (my sons run track)

High school sports are what was intended when the greeks started doing the gsames. Winning is important, and it should be, but it is still about the sport. Plus, we live in a small town so there is a real sense of community at the events.

The picture you posted about the Samoan, I see this at every track meet, girls and boys.

There is always one or two runners that are clearly not the best. They bring up the rear, huffing and panting. They often get as much applause as the winners. Parents and players from all teams clapping and cheering them on. Coaches from opposing teams yelling out, telling them "good job, finnish strong".

I told my kids early on that these were the kids that deserved the most respect. It's easy to get out there and run in front of everyone if your good. To do it when you know that you have no chance of winning. To go to practice everyday when you know you have no chance of scoring for the team. That is character. The fun part of high school sports is that they are accepted. They may get some good natured ribbing afterwards but they are still part of the team and are treated as such.

In my mind, this is what sports gives us.

christian soldier said...

to my CA friends---Taxes--Z-hope you don't mind...you've got many CA readers...borrowing'(withholding) from our estimated earnings for 2010!!!
http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/2009/08/californians-lawmakers-are-borrowing.html

heidianne jackson said...

nothing to add here, mr. z, i couldn't agree more!

Anonymous said...

Chuck: You speak out of my heart. Sports activities at school is really what this all about. I was very athletic when I was young, and very good at many different sports, particularly T&F and gymnastics (I was even a voluntary coach). I still remember what pleasure it gave me to take my spikes shoes and go out to the big oval and compete in T&F....

My point is that such sport is an extremely healthy activity...but unfortunately has been partially destroyed by introducing money (and politics) into the equation - and, as we all know, where is money to be had, there are crooks....and that is the reason why professional sports doesn't work, doping just being one of the aberrations. And I am of the radical opinion that there is practically nobody in professional sports these days who is not doped one way or the other. And since sports is about fairness and doping takes that away (in addition to being dangerous to the health of the athlete), IMHO, professional sports cannot be called sports anymore.

I might remind everybody that the famous runner Marion Jones passed probably 100 doping tests, before she was finally caught, and then admitted that she had been doped all the time, and consequently got stripped of her medals and sits in prison today. That makes clear how we are losing the battle. It doesn't give me any pleasure to write this, I am an athlete at heart, and I am extremely sorry about this situation.

But since it involves only the area where money is involved, there are fortunately millions and millions of people who still enjoy the fair competition.

Mr.Z

FJ said...

Pelops was the original $6 million dollar man.... rebuilt with an ivory shoulder. The original purpose of sport was to rebuild the man in the image of the gods... but in modern time Plutus, not Zeus, seems ascendant. Must be a part of the curse of the pelopidae.

;-)

I.H.S. said...

Mr. Z, I really enjoyed your post and I too love sports. I have participated in pretty much everything from little league baseball to basketball, football and of course the Creme de la Creme, Track & Field. I have said for too long that if we were to take away the money and the endorsements how many would still be involved in their respected sport.


Blessings.

Debbie said...

What a great article. In a way, sports has always been a business and has always had some political aspects to it.

This man/woman? thing is very disturbing. I've never heard of this type chromosome situation, ever. Sounds a little fishy to me.

Deborah F. Hamilton
Right Truth
http://www.righttruth.typepad.com

shoprat said...

Professional sports definitely has a downside, such as young people with millions and not a clue of what to do with it so they party forever (kind of like Hollywood).

But . . .

Before Babe Ruth Italians were considered inferior people.

And that's just for starters.

Professional sports have done a lot to elevate all ethnic groups by making heroes for all in most ethnic groups and races.

FrogBurger said...

I personally don't mind money in sport. It usually means better quality. Look at the soccer champions league or the Premiere League vs. the French championship where clubs can't afford great players b/c of heavy taxes.

WomanHonorThyself said...

wowza..great piece..I lovvvvvvvvvvvvve sports hun..so interesting!

BB-Idaho said...

Well, "We need to try to turn the clock back, back to the times of the old Greeks.." has much merit.
But we need recall that the Greeks
competed nude (as in stark naked).
I'm trying to figure out the TV ratings....:)

beamish said...

I'm having trouble replying to this post because I don't think the words "baseball" and "sport" belong in the same category.

Players get all 'roided out to... not play if its raining.

Get the F outta here.

Football, now there's a sport.

beamish said...

George Carlin says it best

Anonymous said...

The Olympics lost me when they allowed professional athletes to compete. I know someone will tell me that some countries' athletes were in essence professional because they were financed by their governments, etc.

Well that was unfortunate, but, no one will ever convince me that a professional hockey team can compare to the kids that beat the Russians in what was a thrilling victory, before professionals were allowed to compete. I'm not even a hockey fan.

I seldom watch the Olympics anymore. It's no longer what it was meant to be.

I do take issue with the notion that participation rather than winning is most important. In a sense winning is a positive, not a negative goal. One sharpens his skills and improves with dedication and drive. Life itself is a contest with a goal of being a winner at whatever one chooses to do.

Sports is a reflection of that same goal. It's winning at all costs that's wrong IMO, but honest competition is a good thing, and winning is the prize. As with everything, it's corruption which destroys the game, no matter what the game is.

Cheating by it's very nature is not winning, and it's a fool's folly.

Beamish said:
"I'm having trouble replying to this post because I don't think the words "baseball" and "sport" belong in the same category."

Please Beamish, them's fightin' words.

Baseball's a game of inches, football is a game of yards. You try pitching a ball over home plate in the pouring rain.


Pris

beamish said...

Pris,

Baseball's a game of inches, football is a game of yards. You try pitching a ball over home plate in the pouring rain.

Try throwing an oblong ball in the snow well more than 16 yards with up to eleven angry men in battle armor trying to knock you down.

;)

Ducky's here said...

Hey beamish, stand in on a good 95+ inside fastball and see how fast you jelly leg.

I think about guys like you when I remember George "Boomer" Scott being asked about the composition of an unusual necklace he wore - "Second baseman's teeth".

It's a man's game Beamish, you are wise to stay away from it.

Jen aka Pinky said...

I'm a track and field fan, myself. But I'm bored with the 100m and 200m sprints. I say nothing less than 400m. And put some hurdles along the way!

I had a conversation with someone in his 40's who has gone back to skateboarding, for the fun and joy of it. That's the beauty of sport.

Anonymous said...

Ok Beamish, here's the deal. I didn't say football wasn't a sport, you said baseball wasn't.

If you think men in head to foot padding, knocking each other down, to prevent a guy from reaching the goal line is the best sport it's fine with me. It's a sport, ok?

But, who says you have to kill each other in order for it to qualify as a sport?

It's all in the eye of the beholder I guess. However, football requires little finesse, and less precision than baseball.

You'te not a student of the game and that's OK.

Besides, baseball players are athletes who play nearly everyday for 162 games. The some go on to playoffs and the World Series.
Football players play once a week for, how long, a few weeks?

Now, aren't you sorry you started this?

In this, I agree with Ducky. Yikes!! He's also right when he says there's more to baseball than homeruns. You just have to love the game or you'll never understand. And that's OK too.

Pris

beamish said...

Ducky,

Hey beamish, stand in on a good 95+ inside fastball and see how fast you jelly leg.

That's the one that lets you skip your three tries to make a play and walk to the 1st base with a boo-boo bruise, right?

I think about guys like you when I remember George "Boomer" Scott being asked about the composition of an unusual necklace he wore - "Second baseman's teeth".

Chewing tobacco is rough on the gumlines.

It's a man's game Beamish, you are wise to stay away from it.

Do you actually butch up and suppress your lisp when you say that?

Got cheerleader in skimpy uniform?

Pris,

It's all in the eye of the beholder I guess. However, football requires little finesse, and less precision than baseball.

Huh?

Baseball playbook:

1. Hit ball, run counter-clockwise touching each base.

Football playbook:

Hundreds of pages of formations and adaptive options for running and passing plays and defensive coverage schemes, and each team has their own individualized tactics.

Besides, baseball players are athletes who play nearly everyday for 162 games. The some go on to playoffs and the World Series.
Football players play once a week for, how long, a few weeks?


Baseball players will play 162 games if it doesn't rain or they don't have a hangnail. Most don't really even have to wash their uniform after a game.

Football players will play through injuries until forced to stop by doctors through 16 weekly games of constant motion and struggle.

Anonymous said...

I'm laughing now!

Football playbook:

Four tries to pass or run the football to a first down. Then four more tries to make another first down and so on until they either make a touchdown, or kick the ball between two widely set posts or punt(give up)!

Baseball playbook:

Batter has to hit a rather small hardball thrown by the pitcher which could be a fastball, change-up, curveball, knuckleball, slider, at any speed from about 70mph to 100 mph. Yeah he runs base to base, sort of like in football running down to down. Ahem.

I could go into every defensive positioning depending on the batter, and the way he'll be pitched to, but, I'll spare you that.

It's 162 games, no matter what. If football players had to play 162 games, they'd miss a game here and there too! If they lived that long.

One more thing, when your down to talking about dirty laundry, you've about run out of argument.

Give up yet?

Pris

beamish said...

Pris,

I can't top George Carlin (see link above)

;)

Anonymous said...

Beamish, I'm familiar with Carlin's routine on baseball and football, and have seen it more than once. Carlin was funny, but he wasn't right about everything.

To be a good sport about this I'll just say, truce?

Pris
PS. You do have a way of making debate fun!

Average American said...

I don't watch televised sports except when I'm at the bar. Money has completely destroyed them, and I just can not legitimize any of the salaries.

Second point, the female???? runner sure is one butt-fugly chick, if she really is one!