Barry Bonds broke the all-time home run record last night, to celebration mixed in equal parts with indignation and indifference. Yes, it's the greatest record in sports -- American sports, at least -- and yes, it's tainted with the certainty that he enhanced his performance with steroids, as did a host of other hitters and pitchers.
I heard Peter Gammons (the celebrated baseball commentator) this morning discussing this era in baseball, often referred to as "the steroid era". He brilliantly took a longer and higher view, though.
He described this as the era of "whatever it takes". Yes, exactly so.
Hitters take steroids to improve their bat speed. Pitchers load the ball with illegal substances to change the curve of the ball. Basketball referees throw games, race drivers bump other drivers into the wall.
Politicians gleefully slander other politicians, turning elections into irrelevancy, turning campaigns into meaningless ambiguous platitude on the "vote for me" side, and irrelevant twisting falsehood on the "or, at least don't vote for him" side.
Walmart moves into a neighborhood and uses its size to undercut the prices of competing stores -- even (especially!) those smaller shops that have served their neighborhood for years -- until there is no competition. And, of course, those lower prices are supported on the backs of barely surviving foreign child labor and sweat shops.
You know, I've heard people commenting free agnecy, about when an athlete chases dollars, uprooting his family to move to a different city to mercenarily receive more more millions. The comment most often heard is "You can't blame them. No one would turn down more money if it was offered to them."
Well, I respectfully beg to differ.
Years ago, when I worked for a hospital, times were hard. The hospital was losing money, and probably wasn't going to survive for long. At the end of a year, all of us directors had to tell our employees that there not only would be no pay raises in the next year, but that there would be pay cuts across the board. Everyone employee had to take a small, but measurable, cut in pay (2%). Okay. I get that, as did most of the employees. Then the CEO, in one of our Executive Board meetings, told us directors that we would be receiving our raises in the next paycheck.
Excuse me? Raises? When our employees had to take cuts? Weren't those of us in the decision-making position at least
as culpable in the hospital's financial hardship as our employees?
I refused the raise. I wrote my reasons why and gave them directly to the CEO, who accepted it without comment, but he took action, because I didn't get the raise. I'm quite certain I was the only director to do so, but that's not the point. The point is, don't try to tell me that money drives everything, and that the end always justifies the means. I refuse to accept a world in which those are the unbendable tenets.