Tonight Neil DeGrasse Tyson mentioned that our bodies are nothing but chemicals (physically speaking) and that every single thing we do is performance enhancing. Naturally people got upset with him and said that steroids is cheating and hurts the balance of sports. It hurts the fairness which is the entire point of the social contract sports stars get into. This bothered me because there are few things in life that are more unfair than sports. Professional sports in particular are the paragon example of a bad system [praising an inherently unfair competition as though it is fair]. I have literally nothing against people who like sports or people who participate in sports. That’s not the point of this post. What I want to try and express with the aid of Pokémon is why sports are unfair and why I don’t think people should trick themselves into thinking otherwise.
Biology and your life are dictated by two major forces (gross simplification but roll with me please). You have the nature side of your life which is dictated by your genetics and there is currently no way for you to accurately and safely alter these things. They are set in stone the moment a particular sperm meets a particular egg. This is your range in life. Lets say that 0 is a genetically defunct person where nothing works. Organs barely function, body parts don’t grow, they are blind, mute, deaf, and dumb. A 100 would effectively be a Greek god or the paragon of human physical prowess.
Your genetics can give you a range between 20 and 40 or it could give you a range between 60 and 90. These things are entirely out of your control and a big part of why sports are inherently unfair. There is literally nothing most people could do that would ever put them on par with the small group of people who win the genetic lottery. I could run every day of my life up until today and the odds that I’d be as fast as Usain Bolt are slim and none. Heck I am as skinny as a rail and I literally do nothing physical. I work in a sit down job and I’m mostly sedentary. By all accounts I should be obese but I am not. This is the power of genetics.
The second part is what people misunderstand and that is nurture. Nurture is the positive and negative influences on you outside of your genetics. Good or poor nutrition, education, economic stability, all these things play a part in the where on that genetic bar you will end up. Children born of parents who grew up during the great depression were on average taller than their parents. This is because they had a better supply of food and resources than their parents did. This same thing happens in all countries and all time periods where the previous generation was less well fed than the one after it. This is not guesswork and is easily demonstrated.
People who think sports are fair are generally presuming that the genetics bar is 0 to 100 for everyone and that nurture will get you to the stars. I think this is the same reason people defend capitalism. They don’t want to believe the harsh truth that they won’t be that guy or girl. They won’t be rich and they won’t be strong. I don’t see the previous statement as negative mind you. I don’t dwell on those facts nor do I let them drag me down. Similar to how I don’t dwell on the fact that I’m not Kryptonian. But seriously…why not? Come on man…just a little flying and super strength. Just a little!
Where do we come in?! You said Pokémon earlier!
Right… so in Pokémon there are two major factors hiding behind the scenes that dictate the overall performance of your Pokémon. These are their IVs (Individual Values) and their EVs (Effort Values). These two factors are some of the most loved (EVs) and most hated (IVs) features in Pokémon. I’m going to briefly explain what they are and how they beautifully express just how slanted sports are. So prepare yourself.
When a Pokémon is born (or caught) it is given a set of IVs which can never be changed. These range between 1 and 32 between all their stats. This means that a Pokémon with base stats of say – 0 – could either be all 1s or they could be all 32s.
Through training a Pokémon can earn a set amount of points depending on how they train through EVs. These values are a bit more complicated and the gist of it is that if you fight a bunch of Pokémon that improve your Hit Point fitness your Pokémon will have higher Hit Points. Just like in real life if you do a lot of a certain kind of exercise (weight lifting vs. cardio) you will improve different aspects of your fitness.
Lets consider then those two Pokémon. The 1 and the 32. If you put them both on a maximum training regimen and work them up to level 100 there are a few things you will know for certain. The most important of these certainties is that no matter what you do. No matter how hard you try. If both of these Pokémon try their best to get fit the 32 will always be better. Always and forever.
It might be relevant then that IVs are so hated and EVs are so loved. EVs connect more with the common belief of what is true with our biology. That anyone can become anything and be the greatest if they really want to. IVs represent the harsh truth that no amount of effort will ever turn a defunct Pokémon into a glorious Mewtwo like godling.
The people already in these sports are not on an even playing field either. They might all be “better than average” but some of them were blessed with better genetics which means they will always be better as long as they keep training. Always and forever. Especially when their competition is likely just as old as them and will feel the effects of aging at the same rate (if not faster because of their improved genes).
I don’t believe that people should dwell on this sort of stuff. Embracing our limitations and trying our best even though they exist is the true path to joy and success (I think). But in sports there is a pressure put upon competitors that is based almost entirely out of ignorance and I think that’s a major driving force in people using drugs. In the end are they really cheating? The notion that they could have done what they did without those tools is patently false and the alternative is just a game of roulette. People watching a bunch of random balls roll and thinking there is a pattern.
It can land on Red or Black a million times. That doesn’t mean that the next is likely to be the other.