Given that professional athletes seem intent on adding themselves to the continually growing litany of names associated with PED use, as if behooves them to do so, it seems redundant to state that professional sports has an issue with substance abuse. in fact, to say that professional sports has an "issue" with drug abuse is more or less similar to saying that R. Kelly had an "issue" with urinating in inappropriate places - in both cases, the circumstances seem to require a word less banal than "issue," and approach more the B.F.P (Big Fucking Problem) territory. But if that's the case, then why do we still care so much when athletes are exposed as having employed PEDs?
In four words: "the suspension of disbelief," a common exercise that most of us partake in on a daily basis. For the most part, we suspend our disbelief in relatively mundane moral situations, with relatively mundane moral consequences - like going to the movies, for example.
Long before we drive to the theater, buy our ticket and sit down, we manage our expectations of the experience we are about to have: we understand that the "people" on the screen are paid actors, that the situations unfolding in front of us are scripted, and that, at base, the scenes being depicted are probably not occurring where the movie would have us believe. Yet, we tuck these skeptical thoughts neatly in the back of our subconscious for the duration of the movie because it suits our preferences to do so. And rightfully so: nobody likes going to the movies with that jackass friend who invokes the Laws of Thermodynamics to describe why a certain scene in an action movie, "Totally couldn't happen, man."
On the other hand, there are certain circumstances, such as appreciating how widespread PED use is in mixed martial arts, where suspending our disbelief is a bit more consequential. Through a bitter war of attrition between unbridled optimism and a pantheon of sports heroes who never failed to crush their expectations, mainstream sports fans now largely seem to apprehend this message. These fans understand that they are no longer afforded the luxury of only accusing the obvious cases; they are forced to unpack all those neurotic insecurities about their idols each and every time they step onto the field, ice, court or wherever, and confront the very real possibility that what they are seeing is tainted.
Despite the constant declarations by MMA fans that we too are wise to the rampant abuse of performance enhancing substances in our sport, the widespread outrage at athletes like Chael Sonnen certainly seems to betray these deceptive acts of self-reassurance. Like the majority of the MMA community, the furthest thing from my mind while watching UFC 117 was the question of whether or not Anderson Silva, or Chael Sonnen, or both, were using illegal performance enhancers to put on one of the most memorable fights in recent memory.
But why was this accusation not lingering ominously on the border between my conscious and subconscious mind? Well, because, just like the movie, it suited my preferences at the time to have it safely stowed away - and, just like the movie, I was in a state of blissful denial. Such are the luxuries of naivety afforded to fans of a new sport, one who still has a few heroes who have not yet dragged themselves through the mud.
Unfortunately, news of Chael Sonnen's recent positive test "broke the fourth wall," and now here we sit, trying to determine whether or not we should still appreciate the movie knowing that it's 'just' a movie. But the real issue goes deeper still, past the single event at UFC 117. This controversy underscores the unfortunate reality that, as MMA fans, our time for basking in the idea that our sport is in some way different, some way separate from the PED problem plaguing the mainstream sports, is rapidly coming to an end.
Chael Sonnen was not some mid-card fighter in a sub-par promotion, or some aging legend who has long since been given up on, or some troubled repeat offender whose PED troubles are just one in a growing list of concerns - and he is therefore not some incidental casualty that we can sweep under the rugs of our collective consciousness, allowing ourselves to continue in deliberately ignorant euphoria. No, Chael Sonnen was in a main event with one of the sport's best fighters, in the sport's biggest promotion, and he failed a pre-fight screen for PEDs. Allegedly
Whether or not that "allegedly" becomes a "decidedly" is unfortunately completely secondary to the real issue: the actors have effectively winked at us, folks, and now we need to decide whether or not the movie is still worth watching.
The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.