a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Performance Enhancers

So Barry Bonds broke the all-time home run record last night, beating me to my milestone.

I'm not really sure what the ambiguity here is. I have friends who will say a variation of "Well, there's no proof that he used steroids, and even if he did, they weren't specifically banned by baseball".

Come on. It's pretty clear that:

-- He used steroids, whether he knew he was or not. Personally, I believe that he knew fully well what he was putting into his body; he seems like exactly the kind of guy who would always be sure what he was putting into his body.

-- It doesn't matter if baseball banned them. They were illegal.

It does raise some interesting ethical questions though. What if they were legal? Would the record be as tainted?

Or, spinning it toward screenwriting, what if there was a pill that could make you a better writer? That could open up the pathways of your mind, and enable you to write richer dialogue, as well as write longer every day without getting tired or burned out?

You'd still have to be a good writer. The pill doesn't give you that. Just like the steroids didn't make Bonds the great hitter that he is -- they just made his hits fly harder and further.

Would you take the writer pill, if it was legal?

What if it had side effects? What if it made your testicles smaller or your vagina bigger, or threatened to take years off your life?

What if so many other writers were taking it, that the only way to succeed in the business was to take it yourself?

Would a screenwriter's Oscar be tainted if it was revealed that he'd been taking a pill like this?

What if it wasn't legal? What if you had to score some on a street corner, or go to Mexico?

And who's to say that a pill like this doesn't already exist, that we are just out of the loop?

Would you take the pill?


At 9:37 AM, Blogger Christian M. Howell said...

That's a good question. I guess if everyone was doing it and I couldn't get to the level without it yes, definitely.

But as a way to better writing without hard work, probably not.

As the old saying goes - apropos as it is as it comes from a baseball movie.

It's the hard that makes it great.

At 10:41 AM, Blogger shecanfilmit said...

I take the pill. It's called caffeine.

At 11:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The analogy is somewhat out to lunch, because Barry Bonds is involved in setting a record for homeruns that will go into the record book.

But a writer on the magic writing mushroom is only trying to get a project written and sold, and the box office record book probably isn't much of a consideration at the beginning writing stage, and actually, once a picture is grossing in the billions, maybe second place in the glittering panoply of show business superstars is okay, anyway.

At 11:53 AM, Blogger wcdixon said...

Nice musing...though I think it's called weed/coke/speed/meth - just pick your poison.

At 1:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, the substances didn't make Bonds the hitter he is, but they did a little more than just help the hits fly farther and harder. The guy who worked at the lab that created some of the illegal substances Bonds claims he didn't use was on HBO, on Costas Now, where he claimed that the substances were proven to enhance power along with hand-eye coordination. As far as writing greatness being unlocked, I gotta go with wcdixon on the speed, coke, mary-j tip. At least that keep your balls intact.

At 6:14 PM, Blogger E.C. Henry said...

Scott, I'm with shecanfilmit -- if the drug of choice is caffine/coffee. (I'm from Seattle, ya know)

But if you venture down the path of "illegal" perfomance inhancers, I will respectfully decline, even if everyone's doing it. It comes down to personal intergrity, and that's something I'm trying to improve on.

Wish Bonds didn't take steroids. Would have been interesting to see how many home runs he would have ended up with if he just relied on his natural talent to carry him. Now they'll always be an asterick associated with his achievements, and it didn't have to be that way. Had Barry displayed some intergity early on, and avoided the performance enhansing pratfall, then all of his achievements would be pure and above reproach. Even if that meant coming short of the record, there's something to be said for going to bed every night with a clear consious.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

At 6:50 PM, Blogger Brett said...

I don't see it as a workable analogy. Bonds took illegal substances, labored hard to deny and obscure this fact, surely enjoyed demonstrable benefit as a direct result, and then claimed one of the most special and hallowed records in all of sports as a result.

If I, meanwhile, take a pill that makes me think or write faster, that doesn't mean I am any more likely to get the resulting project in front of the right producer, nor does it get the right director and stars attached, nor does it get me the right editor and the right release weekend and the right dfistribution model and the right marketing program.

Then even if i *did* manage all of those it's not like the nation and movie fans everywhere will be fascinated as I close in on some sort of numerical record (box office receipts? three-day non-holiday opening? spec sale price?).

USA today will not have a tracker box showing how I/my project are closing in on that number, counting down the near inevitable days until I break that record and go into some sort of record book (where, outside of a few lonely corners of Hollywood, would anyone ever care what a screenwriter did?).

The national news will not lead with the story of "Brett Finally Did It" and have a three minute feature detailing the many challenges I overcame en route to the record of "all-time biggest single movie payday when all bonuses and monkey points and secondary market tie-ins are tallied up."

Screenwriting is a business.

Baseball is a sport.

Bonds cheated.

There ends the debate, IMO.

At 7:18 PM, Anonymous Matt said...

Bonds may have cheated, but so what? We only focus so hard on him because he is the best player who has supposedly cheated. Do we take away the records of Mark Mcgwire, Sammy Sosa, Jose Canseco, Gary Sheffield, Rafael Palmeiro? Not to mention all the dozens of other players of medium to high status that have been caught?
The fact is, you can't. Because we let them get away with it for over a decade, when it was obvious to anybody with a brain that these players were too big, and too strong.
Bonds still sees a small percentage of the amount of quality pitches of most hitters. You still have to see the ball, swing the bat, make good contact, and do it consistently.
Not to mention, more pitchers have been caught using banned substances than hitters. We have no idea how many juiced pitchers Bonds has faced.
Sorry for the rant, but the hypocricy surrounding this issue drives me up the wall

At 7:44 PM, Blogger Allen said...

Steroids has been around for over 20 years...who knows how many players have taken it. Selig had no problem enjoying the nice ride baseball was on at the height of the steroid era, turning a blind eye to players like mcgwire, sosa,and a little earlier, brady anderson, caminiti, canseco, etc. But now, all of a sudden he's reluctant to go to Bonds' games. PLEASE. As well who knows how many pitchers barry faced were taking enhancers? Yes, he did something illegal, but you can't convict the guy in hindsight. Not to mention that he's 44 and has over 20 dingers this many players have those kinds of numbers. He's an ass, but he's the home run king. No asterix for me.

At 7:47 PM, Blogger Allen said...

ps, Matt, I agree completely.

also, EC. i'd love to see that quote where he said it enhances hand eye coordination.

At 8:29 PM, Blogger suzbays said...

I wouldn't take the pill, Scott. As annoying as it sounds, I've never been one to cheat.

Bonds' personal tainting will gradually blend with the overall tainting that is smearing MLB. There was, hopefully not is, a Steroid Era of the sport and those who played during that time will all have their records questioned. Even the ones who may not have cheated will.

And I'm not sure that all steroids are or have been illegal. There are plenty of "natural" body building products out there. Many of the protein shakes or powders have stuff that's suspect.


At 9:00 PM, Blogger Brett said...


I never said take away any records, nor did I even play the "asterisk card" as many seem wont to do these days. Personally, I don't give a damn what records Bonds owns, claims to own, doesn't own, or never even knows about.

The question as I read it was about cheating, and if the ends might somehow justify the means. I'll happily accept that I have quaint old-fashioned notions on the subject, but that doesn't mean they are wrong, or that I am alone or even rare in having them.

Let Bonds have his tainted record. I'll stand patient and wait my chance to cheer for whatever cleaner more deserving (IMO) player eventually comes along to knock him off his throne.

(deleted and edited to correct a bevy of extra-clumsy typos)

At 9:32 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

Give A-Rod a few years, he'll shatter the record anyhow. Then possibly Ryan Howard after that.

Also against Bonds is that he's a jackass. If he was more fan-friendly, people wouldn't have so much anger/venom toward him.

Oh, and I WOULD TAKE THE PILL IN A HEARTBEAT. I have a family to feed.

At 9:54 PM, Blogger glassblowerscat said...

All things being legal, the only thing that matters is the effect. If it makes me a better writer, and doesn't do things to my body that I dislike, then I will take the magic writer pill. You do anything you can to be better at your work.

Years ago, we didn't have those magic boxes called computers to help us become more productive. Am I unethical for using one?

At 10:15 PM, Anonymous Matt said...


It may have seemed like it, but I wasn't replying to you. I've just been fed up with the whole issue, and my rant ended up here.
I don't like the idea of cheating either. But imagine this, there is a special pill that can help you become a better writer. It may be unhealthy, it may be banned by the WGA or whoever. But you see all these other writers taking it, and getting away with it, because their scripts are making money. Everybody is getting rich but you.
It'd be tough to stand on the sidelines, watching the success of others.
If MLB had stepped in ten years ago, Bonds may not have had the chance to cheat. I was only a teenager and in my early twenties when Canseco, Caminiti, Brady Anderson, Sosa, and McGwire began the home run explosion. I made the connection between steroids and baseball. So you can't tell me Bud Selig and his cronies didn't.
Sorry, this issue gets me all riled up.


At 10:38 PM, Blogger Brett said...

My bad, then.
litella B

At 10:56 PM, Anonymous Matt said...

I just have to say one more thing. Why haven't more people publicly speculated that Roger Clemens is juiced. He has continued to improve, and throw high heat, well into his 40's when most pitchers have broken down.

At 11:17 PM, Blogger Brett said...

There *have* been longstanding rumblings that Rocket is juiced, but then Rocket has also been one of teh hardest working guys out there in terms of taking care of his gear-- like Nolan (whom NOBODY ever accused to doping up) Clemens does an insane amount of work to build and maintain his lower body in order to preserve and protect the "drive" on his pitches. And if you study Clemens's mechanics, you see an amazingly efficient power transmission delivery-- he has less wasted and extraneous motion in his delivery than just about any pitcher I have ever seen.

Rocket might be juicing.

Or he might just be that freakin good.

Hard to tell in the absence of any evidence or testimony.

At 11:20 PM, Blogger Brett said...

Last thought--

The Clemens question demonstrates the *real* harm done by the cheaters: they have created an environment where our first thought is not "wow, what an amazing athlete!" but rather "oh, anyone that good has clearly got to be doping."

Cynicism is both lazy and corrosive.

At 12:01 AM, Anonymous Matt said...

I don't think it's overly cynical. Think about it, look at the home run rise in the nineties. It was insane. The fact that nobody has sued Canseco for his allegations says so much. I think pitchers (Rocket included) have gotten a free pass because most people associate steroids with home runs. But when you look at it, more pitchers have tested positive than anybody. I'm not saying Rocket cheated, but it wouldn't surprise me.
Cynical thinking is far from lazy. Lazy was letting it go for fifteen years for whatever reason (greed, excitement, whatever). If we had been more cynical and less greedy then most of this damage would never have been done.

At 5:24 AM, Blogger Tom said...

Looks like PJ and I are the only ones who'd take that pill. My reasoning, aside from the family to feed, is that such a pill would be a great equalizer (as only a non-LA resident could want). Whatever disadvantages I've got against me for not being in LA and not being 24 would be erased.

Just how much bigger would my vagina get?

At 7:22 AM, Blogger Brett said...

Hey, *I* didn't "let it go" for fifteen years! ;-)

If I'd been commissioner of baseball, we would have been out in front of this the whole way so as to cut off the possibility of another Black Sox style scandal-cum-witchhunt where we wind up throwing the baby out with the bathwater in order to make a grand show of "doing something."

Wht we need is some bud-nipping. Nip it in the bud. That's what ya gotta do. Nip it in the bud.

As for my claim that cynicism is lazy, I mean that it's easier to paint everyone with the same brush and just be done with it than it is to consider that there might be different situations and forces and explanations in different specific cases. To suggest (as some seem to, and I'm not referring to any one person here) that any player who maintains or (gasp!) even elevates their game past age forty is therefore and indisputably doping up seems dangerously cavalier and lazy to me.

But Rocket does seem much thicker than he did ten years ago.

As I said-- "corrosive."
Kenesaw Mountain B

At 7:26 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

I think the big difference between the baseball/steroid scenario and the writer pill scenario is that baseball is really a string of one-on-one confrontations between pitcher and hitter.

And if either side improves themselves, they are automatically hurting the numbers of the player they playing against. It's a selfish act.

Writing, of course, is different. A world in which suddenly there's a lot of better writing out there would be a good thing. So the "cheating" aspect would be lessened, I think.

Though Tom would have a really big vagina to deal with.

At 7:43 AM, Blogger Brett said...

"Though Tom would have a really big vagina to deal with."

But he'd never be alone. A man with a really big vagina is a man with a whole bunch of friends.
skating past a bad pun B

At 9:30 AM, Anonymous Matt said...

Geez Brett, relax. I wasn't saying you let it go. Obviously you had no say in the debate.
I don't think that every player over 40 who is playing well used steroids. But when you look at Rocket's career, he was really almost done in his early 30's. Then, suddenly, his career was rejuvenated and he's a much better pitcher at 42 then he was at 32. That's odd.
And yes, I agree, he is much thicker than he used to be.

At 10:03 AM, Blogger Brett said...

B ("I'm more relaxed than you are, Dude...")

[note-- file this post under "snarky"]

At 10:10 AM, Anonymous Matt said...

Ha ha...well played.

At 1:04 PM, Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

Sorry, but the everybody else is doing it argument just won't hold for me.

If I were King of the U.S. I'd strip all records from obvious users.

Steroids have been banned for a long time in baseball, but there haven't been any punishment for using it.

The players association is too strong and blocks sanctions at every stop. This is odd to me because eliminating performance enhancing drugs is better for the players since they typically ruin the player's body. If they aren't against the rules and there are no sanctions then players HAVE to use them in order to keep up with the others who do.

I saw a stat that Bonds' stats really spike at around age 37. He'd be the only player in history to do such a thing.

It is so obvious he's been cheating just by looking at a "then and now" picture of him.

It's a shame that HGH is still not tested for in baseball. The whole league is a friggin' joke.

At 1:21 PM, Anonymous Matt said...

I don't think anybody has insinuated that Bonds hasn't cheated. I just find it impossible to figure out a way to strip the records when just about anybody with good stats in that era should be under suspicion, including pitchers.
Also, you can't take the records from OBVIOUS USERS. Because by who's definition are we going by? It is possible to bulk yourself up legally.
Obvious users? Steve Sax (a singles hitter with speed) was one of my favorite players. Throughout most of his career he was a skinny dude. I have a baseball card of him from the early nineties, and that dude is huge. Huge arms! Is he an obvious user?
In my opinion, you have to wipe the slate clean except for on those players who have tested positive and/or admitted to using.

At 4:31 PM, Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

As King of the U.S.A. my decisions would be binding.

I understand that many players used, but what records were affected. This record is the grandaddy of all records. The fact that it probably can't be broken by natural means will ensure that Mr. Bonds' gargantuan cranium be perched atop of the baseball tree for every year forever more.

You know they aren't going to take Bonds' record away now that they've celebrated it.

The commissioner of baseball is a figurehead in an era where they desperately needed someone to take charge of the situation.

At 6:08 PM, Anonymous darrell said...

USA don't have kings! Silly.

At 7:55 PM, Blogger Allen said...

thomas, faulty logic...plenty of players get progressively bigger throughout their careers...look at guerrero.

At 6:37 AM, Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

"plenty of players get progressively bigger throughout their careers"

I don't know where you get that idea. Hat-sizes, for the most part, don't change.

I heard a doctor speaking. He said that the type of change Bonds exhibits is typical of HGH use.

At 7:27 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

I was listening to an LA sports radio station yesterday, and they said that his shoe size, which was 10 1/2 in his mid-30s, is now 13.

That ain't normal.

At 11:07 AM, Anonymous Matt said...

Yeah, it's obvious Bonds has cheated. But at this point, the whole era is suspicious. They need to focus on the game in general, and not just on one specific player who happens to be the most talented of the bunch, and the most hated.


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