Rose-Coloured Binoculars

Many baseball enthusiasts in America have decried the use of performance-enhancing substances by players and created a public uproar over the issue, which ultimately led Major League Baseball to commission the Mitchell Report and spurred Congress to respond to its constituency and become involved for political gain. Meanwhile, many of these same individuals remain willfully blind to the same (or greater) abuses taking place in the National Football League, what Chuck Klosterman has referred to as the sport's Evolved Reality.

One might suppose that this is due to the more prominent visibility of the baseball body: given the fairly snug uniforms and lack of a helmet or body padding, an observer is continually confronted with the true size of the contemporary baseball athlete. With football players, on the other hand, a mental allowance for equipment subconsciously places the true size of the football athlete into some question; and further, television distorts the speeds at which these football masses displace and collide. Hence, the American sports fan is more directly forced to confront the reality of the baseball body's achievements.

But this supposition is debatable at best. A more probable explanation to resolve this paradox is that the American sports fan constitutes a hybrid form of subjectivity. When baseball and football are both considered the American pastime, it is because we are speaking of two Americas.

The first is the America of romance and history. It is the America of primitive accumulation, industrial production and mechanical reproduction. It is post-Civil War America, a time of healing for a fractured nation-state still emerging from its embryonic local formations. This America continues to live to this day through baseball and its eternal enactment of nostalgia.

The second is the America of empire. It is the America of spectacularized consumption, digital replication, mediated simulation and recombinant culture. It is post-Second World War America, a time when the nuclear bomb has shaped the global order forever to come. It is an America of sex and kinetics and technology, of immaterial markets and material violence. This is the America of football.

Can we suggest that it is in this first America that the cultural subconscious of the second America locates its ethics and finds its redemptory moment?

If this is the case, then it becomes imperative that baseball's romanticized past — one that has been archivable and translatable for over the past century only through the reductive mediation of Henry Chadwick's quantitative offspring, the boxscore and baseball statistic — is preserved in alignment with the nostalgic context from which it has emerged. In other words, it is less the question of doping that is at stake for the troubled fan in the bleachers with his rose-coloured binoculars, but rather the retrospective contamination of the archive and thus its possibility as an ethical alibi for the present.

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  1. sportsBabel » a stitch in time says:

    [...] upon a time baseball was speed. to the industrial working class of an emerging america, with its long hours on the farm, in the shop, or at the factory, baseball was the perfect [...]