Recent examination of how athletes are lengthening sports careers, achieving new records and victories have got me thinking about what is fair on the playing field. At the elementary school playground where I grew up, the games were not fun unless the teams were fairly matched. Picking sides often resulted in “the best and the worst against the 2 middle” or other forms of equitable selection. But what happens when “natural selection” and its attendant mutations give one athlete a huge advantage at birth ? I am reminded of the famous Shakespeare quote, “some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.”
The author of Outliers, The Tipping Point, and Blink, Malcom Gladwell, wrote about “Man and Superman: In athletic competitions, what qualifies as a sporting chance?” in this week’s New Yorker magazine. In this excellent piece, he explores athletes with unusual genetic advantages, advances in surgical techniques to extend and improve athletic performance (i.e., the Tommy John surgery), and drugs, blood banking, altitude training, etc. I commend this article to anyone interested in the current state of athletics, the health of professional sports and its participants. There is also an interesting podcast at NewYorker.com/Go/Outloud Both article and podcast are thought provoking.