Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Big Mac and Roids - II

Yeah, I was in the show. I was in the show for 21 days once - the 21 greatest days of my life. You know, you never handle your luggage in the show, somebody else carries your bags. It was great. You hit white balls for batting practice, the ballparks are like cathedrals, the hotels all have room service, and the women all have long legs and brains.

That quote is fiction -- it comes from the most perceptive baseball movie I've seen, Bull Durham. The character who speaks the words is Crash Davis, as played by Kevin Costner. Davis is a very good ballplayer, but he's a career minor leaguer. The "show" is the major leagues.

In the merciless world of baseball, if you are a career minor leaguer you are a failure. You have failed even though you were likely the best player on every team you've played on, whether in Little League, Babe Ruth, American Legion, high school or college. You are likely capable of hitting a baseball 400 feet or more, or throwing a fastball that travels 85 miles an hour. Chances are you are an outstanding fielder. You are, by any reasonable standard, an elite athlete. In most cases, your work ethic is outstanding. And yet you are not good enough.

If you could find a way to get better, to gain the extra edge that takes you from the elite failure to the exalted success, would you pursue it? If the answer came in a syringe or a topical cream, would you let it go and accept your fate? Or would you pursue better living through chemistry?

I never had to answer that question. Have you?


Night Writer said...

When I was working for an insurance company in St. Paul they had what was essentially a business ethics class for new employees and prospective agents. One of the scenarios posited that you had just sold a life insurance policy that was going to just make your quota for the period. The client had purchased the policy as a non-smoker. Later that evening, however, and before submitting the policy, you happened to drive by the client's house and saw him on his porch, smoking a cigarette. If you confront him and/or rewrite the policy as a smoker you likely loose the sale. What do you do?

I raised my hand and said one way to look at it is to decide whether you view your job as a long-term career or not. If you value it and your reputation long-term you make decisions based on that rather than short-term gain. The instructor liked that answer and later told me he was going to use that in the future.

With baseball players, there really isn't a long-term consideration (though McGwire has certainly - even irreparably - damaged himself and his reputation long-term. Careers are short and relatively few are remarkable, but the money is very, very good. Even a nominal player can make enough in a couple of seasons to set himself up for life (not opulently, but comfortably if managed well). The rewards are there, within reach, if you can just be a little faster, a little stronger than the next guy (who might be using steroids himself to edge you out). You don't want or need to be record-setting, just "professional", and who's going to know?

That last question is always the trap, isn't it? Baseball player or insurance agent, there will always be two who know: you and God. You can lie to yourself and ignore the other and think you can keep it from everyone else but there's no predicting when or how something might come to light I can't remember right now who said it, but "character is what you do when noone is looking."

Wouldn't it be interesting if when Mr. McGwire was first considering steroids and supplements he could have simultaneously seen a list of all his future accomplishments ... and a photo of himself at this week's press conference. What would he have chosen?

Gino said...

why do some athletes make that money?
answer that, first, and then maybe you can see where i'm going to take this comment...

Mr. D said...

Great comment, NW.

why do some athletes make that money?

Because there is interest in watching elite athletes perform and people are willing to pay sometimes significant amounts of money to sate that interest. That's the obvious answer. My guess is that you'll have a less-obvious answer, though. :)

Gino said...

right you are.
but we are forgetting their status, their real job, as entertainers.

and entertainers do all kinds of things to their bodies in an effort to draw/keep an audience, and increase the size of their rice bowl.

we accept that demi moore got fake tits, tom cruise wears shoe lifts... or... whatever else they do... with themselves.
and keep buying those movie tickets, dont we?

Mr. D said...

or... whatever else they do... with themselves.
and keep buying those movie tickets, dont we?

Yes, sir. We certainly do.