rough notes

A posthuman Barry Bonds

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Too many people have blogged about Barry Bonds and The Record already.Barry Bonds' 756 HR

Since I am hardly a baseball fan, I gave little time to following the run-up to Barry’s 756th home run early in August 2007. I kept up appearances with the family (all sportive types), and spoke once or twice with a close friend who is far more sportive, and slightly more eloquent than I, on the issue. I read a couple blogs about the record; one in particular caught my attention by making light of our society’s postmodern condition and its collapsing histories through Bond’s home runs. I agreed with that author on a number of things, and felt at the time that there was little need to further clog the pipe with more bits of data than necessary on this subject.

But my mind keeps turning back to the subject of Bonds and his juice, and Bonds and his record, because I haven’t seen much discussion on the subject of Barry Bonds as a fair representation of our additive-addicted society, or the possible scapegoating of the athlete regarding performance-enhancing drugs.

Whether you came to this blog because you agree or disagree that our society should have cheered on Bonds, or because you have a penchant for contemporary theory, there is at least one thing that we can likely agree on, and that is the fact that Bonds was not the first, and certainly will not be the last athlete to have taken steroids and to have profited from them. Barry Bonds’ use of PEDs in not in question here. Nor am I asking the general public to consider the other side of the issue from their own on this one. I am simply asking that the public consider Bond’s use of PEDs relative to our culture’s predominant use of enhancement drugs and additives in everyday life as it is.

Granted, Barry Bonds’ new record did not hit the news because of the ball player’s dependency on caffeine to meet the mark and break Hank Aaron’s former mark. Bonds was, and is, in the news because he continually injected a serum into his body to build muscle mass (or something to that effect – clarifications and edifications are always welcome at derivative) in order to enhance his ability to excel at his game/sport/profession. Yet, before I go running, I tend to eat half a bagel for carbs and a banana or two for potassium. And during my long runs, I will be happy to take down some gels or an “energy drink” like Gatorade or Powerade to bring my electrolytes back in order toward the end.

Of course, in these instances, I am working to either cache that which I am about to lose, or simply replenish that which I have lost – I am not taking an additive, as Bonds has done for years now. Bonds was looking for a way to enhance his body and its output. He was looking for a way to meet his limits and thrash his way through them toward a new, unknown quotient. If Bonds was not so intent to break Hank Aaron’s record, if he was a little more modest perhaps, then maybe he would have been content to know his own human limits. Instead (and questions of modesty aside), Bonds wanted to, needed to enhance his own human frame to beat a long-standing American record of human physical skill. Bonds moved past the limit of physical human skill and marked a new one. This new limit, defined as much by muscle mass as it is by PEDs is curiously both human and post-human. Previous records are meaningless, or at the very least, are diminished, in the light of the new record. Whether or not you agree with the manner in which the athlete made a new home runs record, it is the new mark, and it is a post-human mark.

Just as Hank Aaron swung past Babe Ruth’s record on the strength of fortified loaves of Wonder Bread, vitamins, fresh vegetables and better milk (it does a body good), so too did Barry Bonds swing past Aaron on his own generation’s equivalent of fortified dairy, vegetables and grains. In all likelihood, some one in the future (Alex Rodriguez, I’m sure) will swing past Bonds, and will have his own PEDs at his own disposal to work with. Barry Bonds should not be condemned for his use of performance enhancing drugs in the age of Viagra. Bonds and Bonds’ record stand together as a bellwether of our own culture’s propensity to find new ways to enhance itself and enhance the definition of “human”.

You are commodified.

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Written by mitchellirons

August 30, 2007 at 10:00 pm

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