I have this thing about steroid use in professional sports: I don’t care. Sure, I think it is terrible that people do that to their bodies. They shouldn’t. But there is nothing very natural about professional sports. There is nothing natural about 330 pound tackles running 5 second 40-yard dashes. And then there is the whole question of drugs being a fairly vague category. Why not decide that professional athletes can’t eat more 2,000 calories per day? That makes sense to me. At least it would put an end to the physical freaks that now dominate the world of professional sports — especially football and basketball.
But what are we to make of David Frum’s accusations that Serena Williams’ unprecedented success as a tennis player is due to to steroid use? Well, that’s pretty clear: David Frum is a racist. I don’t mean that in the sense that he is likely to walk into a church and start murdering African Americans. But I also don’t mean it in the sense of everyone having racist impulses because we are human and thus tribal, and because we live in an incredibly racist society. I mean that David Frum is smart and worldly enough to check himself before publicly accusing the most iconic African American tennis player in history of cheating. And he decided not to.
This doesn’t exactly make Frum a bad person. It just makes him a clueless rich white guy. He’s so privileged that he has no clue about it. In one of his deleted tweets he brought up Mark McGwire and Lance Armstrong. I think he did that to convince himself that he isn’t a racist. That’s the thing: I’m sure that he doesn’t see himself as a racist. But the thing is that I can’t find Frum writing about McGwire and Armstrong before. I can’t even find him writing about steroids.
So what we have here is a guy who looks at Serena Williams; and it doesn’t seem quite right to him. So he jumps to steroids, rather than his own biased expectations of tennis — as understandable as they may have been. But having been caught, Frum isn’t backing down. He’s going back the McGwire and Armstrong hedge. Judd Legum explained in an update to his article:
It’s slippery. If called on the particular allegations (Frum doesn’t quite have his facts straight), he just goes to the “steroid use in tennis” narrative. But of course, his comment wasn’t about steroid use in tennis; it was about Serena Williams’ steroid use in tennis.
But apart from the racist content of the whole thing, I think Frum does himself no favor in trying to make it about steroid use in tennis. There is really only one more clear indication that one is a rich white guy without a clue than to be concerned about steroid use in professional tennis. And that is to be allowed to shift the conversation from a racist observation into a concern about the integrity of the game of tennis. That is ultimate proof that David Frum is a rich white guy.