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« A Slippery Slope (Sujatha) | Main | What Would You Give Up? »

January 25, 2010


Actually, the more I think about it, the more I don't like the Vick example. Dog-fighting maybe isn't so much about winning as the other examples, and while he was a good NFL player, he never appeared to work or be driven to win like Kobe and Tiger, who have clearly established themselves as all-time greats in their sports and who are known to have ridiculous work ethics with respect to getting better at their sports.

Sounds like a pact with the devil.

I don't care much for sports, but have very little trouble with the underlying attitude to longevity vis-a-vis glory, fame, popularity etc.

1. Sure, only 2 out of 250 said they'd risk early death for great success. I'll wager vastly more than that number eat too much, drive drunk or too fast, skip medical check-ups, smoke, screw recklessly or go rock-climbing and there's not even much fame or popularity to be earned those ways.

2. Elite athletes are used to examining these trade-offs explicitly, at least the doping ones. What we only implicitly consider they evaluate consciously.

3. Maybe ordinary people don't know what they're missing - we've not known universal acclaim, though we can try to imagine it.

4. Someone should poll elite astronauts, artists, inventors, writers and scientists. I suspect the numbers will be closer to 50% than to 0.8% - what a miserable life one must lead to find nothing worth buying with time!

point zero, which I forgot to make - viewing the poll question as about norms and violating them is dodgy. Rape and dog-killing impose costs upon others. When a sportsman poisons himself, it's principally paternalism to impose a norm against it. Apparently these athletes themselves are fine with the risks - to say fully half are willing to contemplate death in five years is pretty much to say they're probably all at least tempted by EPO, whose costs are much lower.

I don't get it. Either Gretchen Reynolds is a muddled reporter, or James Connor a bogus researcher; they cannot both be exempt from ridicule.
"Asking nonathletes ... whether they would take a drug that guaranteed them a gold medal but would also kill them", is clearly a absurd course of empirical enquiry into human behavior. Since non-athletes (other than the Walter Mittys amonst us) don't normally contemplate winning a gold medal in athletics, why should their responses to such a question be taken seriously as indicative of anything? The offer almost amounts to a Hobson's choice.
Connors conclusion, as reported by Reynolds, is neither unassailable nor responsible - more idiotic than inexplicable. One might as well ask a group of women how they'd like a body like Schwarzenegger's (without the "I'll be baaak" accent of course), affect surprise at the responses, and then draw conclusions about differences between housewives and male body-builders.

I guess, at least Joe knows that my first comment was tongue in cheek because I have made my opinion known on this matter more than once. For example:

Prasad's point #4 pretty much sums it up as also Narayan's about the apples and oranges.

I would also add to Prasad's list a few Walter Mittys. It all depends on what the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow means for someone.

And, uh Joe, Kobe Bryant was cleared of the rape charges. Turned out there was sex but no rape. The charges were meant to frame an athlete with deep, deep pockets. Which why Tiger may be out of the woods in a way. With all the publicity about his tomcatting, even if his wife divorces him and takes him to the cleaners, he is not very likely open to blackmail and extortion at this stage.

Ruchira: I know the charges against Kobe were dismissed and, I believe, they settled the civil suit. Was there actually evidence -- other than his attorney's defense theory -- that it was consensual? If so, I missed that.

Joe, it is sometimes difficult to establish the veracity of rape charges. The Wikipedia account (as also the news reports at the time) seems to indicate several inconsistencies in the accuser's testimony. In the end, she was not believed. Who knows what actually happened. The dismissal of rape charges does not prove that Kobe Bryant is not an arrogant narcissist who believes that all women find him irresistable. Yet, he may have been innocent in this particular instance.

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