Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Driftglass on Mark McGwire's steroid use


The blogger Driftglass is capable of drawing amazing, well-written insights out of any aspect of American life. Here he is on Mark McGwire's admission that he was using steroids when he racked up his amazing home run records (in Major League Baseball, for those who don't know). The emphasis is mine:

Baseball is a business in which thousands of people have tens of billions of dollars at stake.

It provides a service which is entirely voluntary -- no one is forced to attend a game, watch one on teevee, listen on the radio, or read about on dead trees -- and yet, as we saw with the case of Tiger Woods, the revenues generated by this utterly unnecessary activity keep hundreds of media companies and secondary businesses solvent.

These businesses dance always on the edge of disaster -- trafficking in fickle, wispy products like yearning and nostalgia, with a public that could so very easily wake up one day and find the whole ritual too ridiculous and ridiculously expensive to play along anymore.

Like every other bubble of the last 30 years, the Home Run Bubble was a perverse outcome created by incentive structures which rewarded bad behavior, punished ethical behavior and placed a premium on secrecy and protecting corrupt institutions.

It is a lesson that we are obviously incapable of learning.
File this one under "bubbles as a general historical phenomenon."

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