[Marxism] Re Bonds Hits No. 756 to Break Hank Aaron's Record

Ralph Johansen 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 
related offense.

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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