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Bill Simmons and Malcolm Gladwell exchange e-mails about football and drugs - Grantland


Stashed in: Football, @gladwell, Ethics, Drugs!, Grantland!

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These were all smart people who LIKE football. None believed football is even close to being clean. You tell me — is it funny or tragic that the League of Denial spent so much time over these past two seasons policing head-hunting and dangerous hits, yet never stops to wonder if these injuries happen because everyone is way too big and way too fast? And why did I agree with the last two guesses in the previous paragraph even though they're in open conflict? I'd say 65% are using something to help them heal faster, which feels morally acceptable on just about every human level and I would say 80 percent, roughly — I just don't think people are supposed to look like that. Yes and yes. Isn't that the basic issue right there? People aren't supposed to look like that … but you can't really blame them.

GLADWELL: All of which brings me back to the point you were making about Bird and Kobe. What you are saying is that a big part of the pleasure of sports lies in watching great athletes apply their genius to physical and psychological constraints. Watching Bird, and the rest of the Celtics, adapt so brilliantly to a bad back is an unforgettable experience. So here is a second, completely different argument against PEDs. They rob the game of that kind of drama. Cyclists take EPO in the Tour de France to prevent themselves from physically breaking down in the last week of the race. But what if we want to see cyclists cope with the physical breakdown that comes in the last week of one of the world's most grueling races? From a fan's perspective, maybe there is as much pleasure from watching athletes cope with physical imperfection as there is from watching the kind of perfection that comes from medical assistance.

I like that argument a lot. But it doesn't make the task of figuring out what to allow and what not to allow any easier. It just turns the PED debates in sports into an even more complicated argument about aesthetics. And is there anything about the owners of professional sports teams in the United States that makes you think them capable of adjudicating complicated aesthetic questions? When was the last time you saw James Dolan reading Aristotle's Ethics?

Fascinating discussion.

Do you think Simmons and Gladwell are okay with the mind-numbing number of injuries in football?

doubt it...

Perhaps it is time to replace human athletes with robots. Bring on the videogames!

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