Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Pro Sports Ethics and the Nature of Rules

Imagine a future where Terrans have genetic engineering a little better than now, but still have professional sports. How many bad movies, how many Mockingbirds and Philadelphias and Caitlyns, will have to be churned out to reconcile the muck?

Say that every year the U.S. Department of Education subsidizes the creation of five top tier wide receivers for the NFL. They're all 5'10" to 6'2", they weigh 200-230 lbs., they run the 40 in 4.2-4.8 seconds, they average 8.4 profitable league years, and they cost X dollars in feeding, divorces/hookers, supercars/hummer-limos, and lawsuits, while generating Y dollars in TV, ticket, jersey-mugs, and ad revenue. Their parent(s) and/or (more likely) society bears the invisible costs of creating them, then of treating them when they're older, and the Department of Education subsidizes their professional training at a cost of Z dollars (disregarding the astronomically larger cost of a feigned educational regime for non-top-tier athletes and non-athlete non-professionals that disguises the robbing of the actual capital investors).

Now imagine the future where Amgen can generate its own top-tier wide receiver. Maybe the parents take out a loan and buy it specially, maybe Amgen clones and/or adopts the child and owns it directly, maybe the university or the team or the league or the DoE gives the loan and/or owns/adopts the child as security. Either way, for a cost of (Z - $100K) + X, Amgen produces the same crop of wide receivers. Consistent drafts, reliable insurance, the same excitement, etc.

Go to the next step and imagine (Z) + (X - $60M): Amgen engineers, yearly, grow five custom wide receivers. They're all 7'3", they weigh 375 lbs., they run the 40 in 3.1-3.6 seconds, they average 20 profitable league years, and off the field they're mild-mannered ascetics who contribute their earnings to "helping the disadvantaged" (probably through the furtherance of genen, but let's not go into that now). How interesting is any sport, at this point? Amgen's aging linesmen can outrun the best organic 22YO wide receivers, and Amgen's most accidentally sissified quarterbacks can knock down three farmboys at once. There's no incentive to do anything else, financially, so to maintain the dumbass illusion that professional sports offers, you have to bring in NASCAR-like restrictions, where the horsepower and torque are strictly regulated.

You'd start out by saying, "Naturally born only," but transsexuality has already destroyed that. If a man can take estrogen and compete as a woman, it's bigoted to deny a woman the right to take testosterone and compete as a man, so why can't an infant engineered to generate its own internal HGH, without supplements of any kind beyond insemination, also compete? If any given league bans "engineering," they'll have to define engineering in such a way as to allow transsexuals to still compete, so all Amgen has to do is create a 7'4" 400 lb. musclebound sprinter with XX chromosomes (or with a cosmetic vagina, just enough to pass the initial and/or yearly tests) and it's in. Un-women goliaths with chromosomes that just barely pass league tests would dominate at all sports, until engineering "for purposes other than post-birth reassignment of one's sexual identity based upon a genuine psychiatrist verified desire for the player to become a member of the opposite sex" becomes illegal. And there are innumerable ways to cheat that sort of requirement, but assume pro sports settles into some kind of stasis where everyone knows the year's big star isn't really a woman, but s/he is still allowed to compete because (A) money, and (B) enough yahoos believe the teevee that it's actually a woman.

The latter is arguably not futurism in 2016 anyway, but let's return to expressly avowed futurism: why shouldn't men-women and/or Amgen goliaths be able to compete in the same leagues? How many people love football/soccer but can't play it because they don't have the lungs, the legs, etc.? If someone always wanted to be a pilot but lacked the eyes, and can get eyes put in to help meet the challenges of the dangerous pilot shortage of 2040, why can't someone who always wanted to be an NBA center go in for resequencing and come out 6'10" with a great vertical and improved reach? We don't believe in God, so why do we have to accept that some people will never have a 2K deadlift which unfairly prejudices them from defensive line? It would be heartless not to give the Champ stem-cell-grown gray matter to overcome his early dementia caused from blows to the head, and after his heroic recovery, it would be equally heartless and fiscally traumatic to not let him return to the ring--and once he does that, why can't a less-able younger boxer purchase pre-trained white matter to help him climb through the professional ranks?

Like this one said above, can you imagine all the heart-rending bad movies and TV shows they'll put out about the trials of How Gary Got His Game Back or how Rudy managed to be the only non-genhanced player on the team, or about a minor league player who reconnects with his son after the divorce by finally overcoming his currently-minor social substance problem and then scoring the winning play? How many movies, how many dissertations, how many multi-billion-dollar (in 2016 dollars) government initiatives, how many congressional hearings examining the legal percentage limit of code modifications and their sportsmanship implications? If Amgen gave you more than God would've otherwise given you, how is God not acting through Amgen, and how is that not what He gave you, when you weren't the one operating the sequencer when you were designed? How many lives have to be ruined by prejudice against the 8'1" titans who dominate the UFC and who are unemployable once rules are introduced to prevent them making a living by fighting? What's the difference between my competitor's steel alloy pistons and your competitor's genetically engineered biceps, and why does it matter who wins when the guy who hacked into the league's computer system and named himself the winner, even though he didn't actually "compete" or "show up" in the traditional sense, is titled champion of the world?

What we should come to realize at some point during all those things is that the winner of sporting events is the enactor of the event itself, the setter of rules and regulations, with the power to encourage and/or trick and/or disillusion enough people into caring. "The house always wins" holds true here. The games were a celebration of the gods, not the athletes, and the ways in which athletes were chosen, groomed, and permitted to perform, were an exaltation of the force that had summoned and permitted it all. People who organize and agree-upon and play and witness exalt themselves are being as territorial (and as satisfied) as songbirds, whereas people who build the casino and let others play inside are exercising a higher level of dominion. This isn't meant to enter into the trite, "fans are stupid, play yourself," territory, but rather to recognize the true nature of a ruled competition. Merely holding it signifies the ability to control territory; establishing rules for arbitrating disputes, then arbitrating them, when people really care and are paying attention, is an expression of authority via lesser jurisprudence.

The nature of who plays and how they play, then, tells us something of significance about the hosting powers. Not so much that "violence is exalted" because sports can be violent, or "winner takes all" because there is a strictly twofold competition (win/lose), but in the technological sense. We've seen how already-hypocritical rules become more hypocritical, more absurdly irrational, the more technology makes the arbitrariness of simplistic decisions increasingly obvious even to the more distorted points of light among us.

We get a higher utility from this than thinking of "pro sports" as mere bread and circuses. They're like technological exhibitions, a World's Fair of our primitive biotech, where we present the clumsy results of prior eugenics and rulecrafting and collectively marvel at them.

And what do they teach us, these sports? Analyze the inmate's drawings at the asylum after "art hour." In our sports, our hypocrisy of "competition" is atrocious. We prohibit certain kinds and quantities of steroids for certain kinds and quantities of purposes, and we take weight limits as necessary to boxing but irrelevant to rugby. NASCAR limits engines, concurrently with Terrans limiting their true technological advancement in favor of entertaining trinkets. In our power-reducing regulations, we see mirrored Terran abstinence with regards technology. The rise of professional sports occurs with the fall of true technology: our space programs and disease-curing, so to speak, die out alongside our more restrictive competition. No one wants to watch women's baseball, because they're not really the best in the world--the men are--yet we're shocked when some savvy ballplayers rig games mentally, either through "cheating" or "drugs." We're delighted at a player who can obviously outrun or out-pass another player, but indignant at the thought that a 5'5" goaltender might become viable if he got to load up on drugs for a few years of effective professional play. It's a strange form of worship, where we revere a combination of God-given and man-given nature, reflecting our mass agnosticism; our collective uncertainty over whether or not anything has a purpose. We don't know whether our achievements are our own or God's. We're ragingly bored with what God made alone, and we invest vast resources in the nuances of creating professional competitions that maintain the illusion of "natural ability" via intensive medicines and interventions and knee replacements. Yet we stop ourselves, trembling with fear, at the thought of going beyond some arbitrary boundary, as though we're aware that we're not yet the gods we want to be. We empower ourselves by denying some of our abilities and exalting others, lying all the while that some unspoken consensus creates a fairness that is entirely different from the state of nature, yet also the purest possible representation of it, vicariously through our living totems of sport.

Our collective fright at technology is disturbing, and our sports show that we're not actually the technophiles we pretend to be. We're afraid of generating better energy, traveling farther and faster, and living longer, and we confuse our timid forays into the ramshackle predecessors of more advanced technologies with excessive, not defective, passion for greater things. Clamoring for "smaller" smartphones and "cleaner" energy disguises the truth: that we're not really the selfish idealists we pretend to be, but self-limiting cowards combing our dolly's hair at thirty, bereft of an emotional framework that tells us why we compete or what we're competing for. And so we don't actually try: we mime playing, as we mime regulating or cheering or caring or ignoring, pretending to invent by refining alone.

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