[Marxism] Re Bonds Hits No. 756 to Break Hank Aaron's Record
mdriscoll at earthlink.net
Wed Aug 8 16:03:20 MDT 2007
Walter Lippmann wrote:
When news of Barry Bonds having reached Hank Aaron's record was posted,
Richard and Sayan wrote me offlist asking me what that had to do with
Marxism. I meant to respond in more detail, but wasn't able to til now.
We'll see tomorrow what the spin is, but up until now, everything points
to more of the same attacks on Barry Bonds, a man who hasn't been
legally convicted, nor even legally charged, with any drug or sports
It's pleasing to note, however, that two groups who usually don't see
eye-to-eye on many issues, understand that the racism which is one of
the main cultural building blocks of the United States is at the heart
of the hostility toward Barry Bonds. Socialists who want to win friends
and influence people in the United States need a clear under- standing
of the centrality of racism in this country's culture.
I don't know how much race had to do with the awkwardness of this whole
episode, but certainly performance-enhancing substances are put at the
center of it. I have read and viewed the comment in the media, all of
which reflects the trained incapacity in the system to confront sui
generis causation - - and I'm moved to respond, to name the poison.
Here's this guy who has fantastic ability, doing what no one has ever
done before, take a thin bat and, midst the spectacle of hundreds of
thousands of onlookers across baseball land, hit a ball that is
delivered to him in devious and often to others unfathomable fashion,
over four hundred feet time after incredible goddamned time - in a
fascinating homegrown pastime whose pageantry and intricacies were
ingeniously designed, and which I used to watch with delight before I
became sickened at the patent corruption and excrescences of
commercialized sports -- and the commissioner, the previous champion,
the fans elsewhere than in his home town, fed by the victimization
imposed by the hostile atmosphere of guilt before formal charge or
conviction and all fed by the puerile pundits, and where perforce use of
these physique-altering substances has become virtually endemic, all of
these fans and other participants evince no notion of any larger
picture. Yet it's so plain if we think about it.
Since awareness of this issue of steroids in sports erupted sometime
within maybe the past ten years, I have been curious that it is
unremarked anywhere how patently, directly relevant it is to the nature
of sports under capitalism. I know little of the details, but since no
one else to my knowledge has related it to the present scandals in
sports, here's the random gist of what must be perfectly obvious on
The political relevance of this to me is that success by any means, in a
viciously competitive and mega-profit-oriented environment, with all the
hoopla, perks, commercial advantage, opulence and cynicism that goes
with this success, is part and parcel of a corporate athletic world.
This world of course places a premium on exploitation of every
opportunity to realize profit - especially from diversionary popular
culture of every sort.
This has been evident recently in the appearance of muscle-bound,
steroid-fed stars in baseball, football, cycling, golf, basketball, you
name it, and the resulting relationship to growing puzzled
disillusionment among fans, who produce the profitability in the
enterprise - all of which is a problem for the investors, financiers,
promoters, speculators, advertisers, college coaches and administrators,
owners, managers, political opportunists, and participants in all sport.
As a result it's labeled awkward, and there may be further tightening of
the regulations in this one area, but not any more than is deemed
appropriate to continued profitability or political advantage.
And that of course ties in with what Marx said about capital seeping
into and demeaning every nook and cranny of existence - from art to
music to literature to health care to education to religious
institutions - to all aspects of culture, society and the environment
where profit on alienation can be made.
Who is to judge the cyclists, ball players and other participants in
present-day activity dependent on physical prowess and strength - where
if you don't enhance your performance by all available means, when
others are certainly doing so, your brief and agonizingly wrought life
chances are correspondingly diminished?
So, I spell it out. Barry Bonds, son of the legendary Bobby Bonds, grew
up in this intensely competitive and corrupt sports environment - as did
so many others from ghettos and blighted areas on the planet - aware
that it is one of the few available avenues for those in the working
class, especially for the poor and minorities, through which to move up
in this system by dint of excellence in performance. He realized this,
as do countless others whose class and race position tends to a unique
insight into the mechanisms of survival, and he had no illusions about
employing the talent with which he was endowed on that available route
to individual attainment, wealth and fame. He started early, under his
famed father's tutelage, and he accomplished a miracle. And
incidentally, he gives the media its contemptible due.
This system, in its exploitation of athletic talent as well as of the
initiative and energy of those who appreciate it as onlookers, co-opts
all this energy and initiative which could otherwise be involved in
insight into, rebellion against and transformation of this pernicious
system, all the pleasures of excelling through endless, agonizing,
brutal, mind-numbing, repetitive training and effort, it takes even the
attributes of cooperation and teamwork, and all the enthusiasm entailed,
turns them into an advertisement for the glories of competition and
adversarial survival under capital accumulation and expansion. It takes
all these and vaporizes them into a celebration of the specious
spectacle and primitive brutalization of competitive capitalism.
So no wonder there's dampened joy and forlorn, confused misgivings in
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