Friday, October 28, 2005

Sports Commentary - Who's using performance enhancers?

Yes, I am a lazy-ass topical blogger. So what?

Actually, I feel pretty guilty for having neglected this thing as of late. If my blog was a plant, all its leaves would be brown and shrivelled. Come to think of it, that's pretty much exactly what's happened to every plant I've ever been "responsible" for.

Anyway, in the spirit of that laziness, here's the column I did for the Turret this week. It's a little stale, but there were some fun parts.

Who's using

By SPC. IAN BOUDREAU/Turret Sports Editor

Ever since I started seeing television commercials for things like milk, eggs, water, and pork, they've struck me as slightly weird. I mean, where's the competition for selling eggs?

The reason we see these advertisements, I suppose, is to "raise public awareness" of the nutritional benefits of eating or drinking these things. Recently, however, the famous "Got Milk?" advertising campaign crossed into a gray area.

California's Milk Processor Board, which is in charge of the advertisements for milk in the state, produced an ad in the series that depicted a baseball player being pulled out of a game for "testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance." In the locker room, his coach pulls a carton of milk out of the player's locker.

Since the World Series is on, it seems that Major League Baseball's business director Tim Brosnan has nothing better to do than get huffy about someone poking a bit of fun at MLB's unshakable bout of steroid abuse.

"There's nothing humorous about steroid abuse," Brosnan told the Associated Press.

Nothing humorous at all? I seriously doubt that. How many jokes have been told in the past year featuring Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, or Rafael Palmeiro as punch-lines? I'm sure I can think of at least 27 of them without too much effort.

Besides, at its core, the milk ad has a positive message -- that milk has the kind of nutritional benefits athletes strive for.

Whether it was consciously done or not, the real joke the milk advertisement made was about language and our collective refusal to use concrete terms when we talk about something that makes us uncomfortable.

Throughout MLB's steroid-abuse controversy, the phrase "performance-enhancing substances" has been tossed around as if it has some kind of specific meaning. It's used primarily to refer to anabolic steroids, the illegal kind players are using to boost muscle growth and, yes, enhance performance.

Consider, however, all the things that could fit into the Venn diagram of "performance enhancing substances." The list includes coffee, eggs, protein, caffeine tablets, sugar, carbohydrates, Wheaties, PowerAde, water, candy bars, corn dogs, legumes, peanuts, Cracker Jacks, ointments, light-weight running shoes, and soft drinks. Each of those things legitimately "enhances" athletic performance in its own way, right? [Ed: Maybe not corn dogs.]

When I was a kid, my mom would tell me to finish all my fish whenever we had that for dinner.

"It's brain-food," she'd say.

I'm sure glad I didn't get busted for that whenever I had a good score on a spelling test in grade school.

"Carrots will help you see in the dark," she'd say.

I don't know if that's true, but it's the only reason I ate carrots when I was little.

The trouble with steroids is they're not carrots or fish -- they're illegal drugs.

MLB should really take care of its own problem of self-parody before it criticizes any commentators on the outside for making light of its steroid issues. Sending Palmeiro (who had endorsed the pharmaceutical Viagra -- was that a red flag, or what?) before a congressional committee to testify that he'd never, ever, ever used a "performance enhancing substance," and then busting him for illegal steroid use, is going to have repercussions. It's a fact of life.

Got milk, Raffy?